CNA Staff, Sep 8, 2020 / 19:01 pm
The legislature of the Australian state of Queensland on Tuesday passed a law requiring priests to violate the seal of confession to report known or suspected child sex abuse.
Failure to do so will be punished with three years in prison.
The law passed the Legislative Assembly of Queensland Sept. 8, with the support of the opposition Liberal National Party of Queensland.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane has said such a reporting requirement would “not make a difference to the safety of young people,” and that the bill was based on a “poor knowledge of how the sacrament actually works in practice”.
Last week the Australian bishops provided the federal government with the Holy See’s observations on 12 recommendations of a 2017 report on child sex abuse in the country's institutions. In response to a recommendation regarding the seal of confession and absolution, the Holy See reiterated the inviolability of the seal and that absolution cannot be conditioned on future actions in the external forum.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse had recommended that it be clarified whether “information received from a child during the sacrament of reconciliation that they have been sexually abused is covered by the seal of confession,” and “if a person confesses during the sacrament of reconciliation to perpetrating child sexual abuse, absolution can and should be withheld until they report themselves to civil authorities.”
The royal commission, a five-year Australian government inquiry, concluded in 2017 with more than 100 recommendations.
Mark Ryan, the Queensland police minister and a member of the Australian Labor Party, said that “the requirement and quite frankly the moral obligation to report concerning behaviours towards children applies to everyone everyone in this community” and that “no one group or occupation is being singled out.”