Sydney, Australia, Sep 25, 2019 / 17:40 pm
In the wake of a major clergy sex abuse scandal and the high-profile, controversial trial and conviction of sex abuse of Cardinal George Pell, government and Church officials in Australia are scrambling for solutions.
Among these proposed or enacted interventions are those that would break with teachings or traditions of the Catholic Church.
One such oft-proposed intervention is the scrapping of the seal of confession, a proposed solution included in the Australian Royal Commission’s report on clergy abuse published last year.
Earlier this month, the Australian states of Victoria and Tasmania passed a law requiring priests to violate the seal of confession if anything in the confession indicated or implicated someone in a case of child sex abuse. The laws add religious leaders to the existing list of mandatory reporters, and failure to report abuse is punishable by time in prison.
Unlike in other countries with similar laws and policies, reports of child abuse made in a sacramental context are no longer exempt and must be reported.
A similar bill is being considered in Queensland, ABC in Australia reported.
If priests were to follow this law, they would be in serious violation of the teachings of the Catholic Church. According to the Code of Canon Law: “The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church also states that priests are bound to keep confessions secret without exceptions: “Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons, the Church declares that every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him. He can make no use of knowledge that confession gives him about penitents' lives. This secret, which admits of no exceptions, is called the ‘sacramental seal,’ because what the penitent has made known to the priest remains ‘sealed’ by the sacrament.”