Archbishop Mark Coleridge. Pic: Annette Dew
Archbishop Mark Coleridge. Pic: Annette Dew

Archbishop: Reporting confessions won’t help

PROPOSED laws that would force priests to report the confessions of child abusers will not make a difference to the safety of young people, Queensland's leading Catholic Prelate has claimed.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge says the legislation would make a priest during a confession, "less a servant of God than an agent of the state".

"Clergy have died because they have refused to submit to the claims of the state and preferred to defend the rights of the penitent before God and the rights of God before the penitent," he wrote.

Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

Archbishop Coleridge made the comments in his submission regarding the State Government's proposed legislation that implements recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

He also referred to medical practitioners who maintain a confidentiality, the confidentiality recognised by legal privilege and when journalists protect sources.

"In the end, the proposed legislation would be unworkable, based as it is upon a poor knowledge of how the sacrament actually works in practice," he wrote. 

"Many penitents choose to remain anonymous, as is their right. 

"What would it mean for a priest to report an anonymous abuser to authorities?"

If introduced, Archbishop Coleridge said the State Government would effectively be saying "there is some sin that cannot be forgiven, that God has no part to play in this, that clergy should be agents of the state, that the sacrament of penance is outlawed."

He also said it raised major questions about religious freedom.

"Indeed, removing legal protections around the seal of confession would not only be ineffective, it would be counter-productive, because it would remove the very small chance that a perpetrator might seek out confession as a first step to taking responsibility for their actions," he wrote.