Archbishop against laws to report sex abuse confessions
A MOVE to break the seal of the confessional was poorly considered and demonstrated a lack of understanding of the nature of sacrament of confession, according to Queensland's leading Catholic Prelate.
With both South Australia and the ACT moving towards legislatively compelling priests to report any paedophile who confesses their sins, including the reporting of any "suspicion'' of paedophilia, Queensland's Archbishop Mark Coleridge remains firm in his opposition.
The Queensland Government has accepted, in-principle, the recommendations relating to the removal of the confessional seal.
But Archbishop Coleridge, in his capacity as President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, last week issued a formal statement last week rejecting the move.
His views have also been expanded upon in the newspaper The Catholic Leader where he is reported to have publicly voiced clear opposition to any move to interfere in the confessional.
Archbishop Coleridge said the proposed new law was based upon a "purely hypothetical construction of the sacrament of Penance which did not understand the reality of what happened between priest and penitent in the sacrament".
"It's the sort of legislation that could be drawn up and passed only by people who know little or nothing of the way the sacrament works in practice.''
Archbishop Coleridge echoed Canberra and Goulburn Archbishop Christopher Prowse who said the proposed law threatened religious freedom but delivered no improvement in the safety of children.
"What sexual abuser would confess to a priest if they thought they would be reported?'' Archbishop Prowse said.
"If the seal is removed, the remote possibility that they would confess and so could be counselled to report is gone.''
Psychiatrist Carolyn Quadrio, who provided expert opinion to the Royal Commission, told the ABC it would be extremely rare for a child molester to reveal their crime either to a Priest or a Psychiatrist.
But the Royal Commission found evidence that a Priest had confessed his crime, then went on to commit more crimes.
The Commission reports recommended there be "no exemption, excuse, protection or privilege from the offence granted to clergy for failing to report information disclosed in connection with a religious confession''.