Catholic News - Catholic Telecommunications, a devision of Catholic Resources





Bishop Brian Heenan defends seal of the confessional

The Bishop of Rockhampton, Brian Heenan, has defended the seal of the confessional in a news report this morning amidst claims from a child protection advocacy group for the Church to change policy.

The comment by Bishop Heenan in The Courier Mail and other Murdoch newspapers has been triggered because a leading child protection advocacy group in Queensland "has called for the mandatory reporting of child abuse by clergy after a priest revealed he went to confession more than 1,500 times to admit sexually abusing children.

Former Catholic priest Michael Joseph McArdle claims he confessed his sins of paedophilia, sometimes weekly, to 30 fellow priests for more than 20 years.

In an affidavit, McArdle said after each confession he felt "like a magic wand had been waved over me".

He was sentenced to six years' jail last year after pleading guilty to molesting 14 boys and two girls, over a 22-year period in several Queensland country towns. The Rockhampton diocese of the Catholic Church paid $500,000 to nine of his male victims last month.

Bishop of Rockhampton Brian Heenan said the protection of children was a priority and the church would continue to refine its protocol and procedures.

He refused to comment on McArdle's affidavit but said the church would not change the confidentiality of the confessional.

"The Catholic Church upholds, to this day, the absolute inviolability of the seal of confession and no priest has the authority to reveal what he hears in confession," Bishop Heenan said in a statement.

"The sanctity of the confessional is a longstanding practice that enables a person to lay themselves open before God through the ministry of the priest.

"That person must have complete assurance that whatever they reveal will not be passed on.

"Through that encounter an opportunity exists to encourage the penitent to seek help or for the penitent to alert the appropriate authorities to their action."

Courier Mail – Church to keep veil over child molesters

13 Jan 2004