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Seal of Confession: Terry O'Gorman backs Bishop

Prominent Australian civil liberties advocate, Terry O'Gorman, has backed the comments of Bishop Brian Heenan regarding the wisdom behind the seal of the confessional.

O'Gorman is president of the Australian Council of Civil Liberties. In a report carried on the ABC he argues "priests are not legally obliged to report an admission of a criminal offence made in a confessional". He says only professionals such as teachers are required to pass on confessions of child abuse to authorities.

"Now the legal position has to be distinguished from the moral position, but the legal position is, with the exception of some positions that are mandated to report, in particular teachers, the rest of society does not have an obligation," he said.

"And for those who say the law should be changed to make it an obligation, well we would say think that through very carefully, because there are some pretty significant consequences that flow from it."

The full report – see link below – also carries further comments from Hetty Johnston from child protection group Bravehearts who have called for priests to disclose information about child abuse that is disclosed to them in the privacy of the confessional.

ABC News – Priests 'not obliged' to report criminal confessions

CathNews – Bishop Brian Heenan defends seal of the confessional

16 Jan 2004