Catholic News - Catholic Telecommunications, a devision of Catholic Resources





New threat to confessional seal

Adelaide's Archbishop Philip Wilson will seek a meeting with Independent No Pokies MP Nick Xenophon to discuss legislation introduced into South Australian Parliament yesterday.

Archbishop Wilson said the privilege of confession has been enshrined in the Common Law system and has been an area of the utmost sanctity for the Catholic Church from its very beginning.

Under current legislation, priests, church workers and volunteers for non-governmental organisations such as sport and recreational groups are not covered by mandatory reporting requirements relating to child sex abuse.

The proposed law puts into practice the principle what's deemed to be in the interests of child protection should override confidentiality principles such as the seal of the confessional. The proposals follow the release of the SA Government's child protection review this year.

The review recommended church workers be required to notify authorities of suspected child abuse but stopped short of including information obtained in confessions.

Under Canon Law, the Catholic Church's legal code, the sacramental seal is inviolable. The penalty for a direct violation of the sacramental seal is excommunication.

"Every priest knows they can say nothing - even in the face of threat or punishment or jail," Archbishop Wilson said.

However, he said any person who came for confession with an issue regarding a crime would be strenuously encouraged to give themselves up to police and to receive appropriate treatment.

"It's a very difficult and complex issue and I look forward to discussions with Mr Xenophon," he said.

Catholic Communications (Adelaide)

Churches to work with state government on child protection (SA DEpt of Human Services)
Parliament to discuss confessional confidentiality (ABC)
Priests to dob on child sex abuse (Daily Telegraph)
Editorial: Custody battles and the welfare of children (The Advertiser)
Bill could crack total sanctity of confessional (The Advertiser)
MP wants confessionals to open up (The Age)
Oz priests resist exposing sex abuse (AFP/iAfrica)

Churches reject confession report call (ABC)
Archdiocese of Adelaide

Polish priest charged for confession confidence (22/7/03)
Confessional seal under attack in United States (11/3/03)
Cardinal defends confessional seal against proposed violation (25/2/03)
Church in France worried about threat to secrecy of confessional (8/11/01)

18 Sep 2003