Australia: Priests Facing Jail for Refusing to Break Seal of Confession…

From Lifesitenews

CANBERRA, Australia, June 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A new law in Australia requires Catholic priests in Canberra to break the sacred seal of confession to report a child-sex abuser. The law, which has drawn fierce opposition from Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra, could result in faithful priests being jailed who refuse to comply.                             

                                                                                                                                                                   A bill passed on June 7 by the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) extends mandatory reporting of child abuse to cover churches and church activities, including the Catholic confessional. All the political parties in the Assembly supported the measure.

A  Catholic priest cannot violate the seal of the confessional, which means that he cannot repeat what he is told by a penitent confessing his or her sins, without incurring automatic excommunication. The Catholic Church teaches that confession is a sacrament, a place of encounter between the Christian and Jesus Christ. The priest who hears the confession is merely Christ’s instrument of forgiveness.

Hitherto the confessional was exempt from ACT’s reporting laws; from March 31, 2019, priests who do not report confessions regarding child abuse to the police risk prosecution.

Archbishop Prowse slammed the new law, saying “priests are bound by a sacred vow to maintain the seal of the confession. Without that vow, who would be willing to unburden themselves of their sins, seek the wise counsel of a priest and receive the merciful forgiveness of God?”

Prowse, the archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, wrote an essay in the Canberra Times last week explaining why legislating against the seal of confession will do much harm and no good.

“First, what sexual abuser would confess to a priest if they thought they would be reported?” he asked.

Prouse explained that it is the common experience of pastors that child abusers don’t confess their crimes to either priests or police. If the seal was removed, the theoretical possibility abusers might confess and be counselled to turn themselves in would be lost.

“Second, the government itself has acknowledged [with] the [Catholic] church’s ‘Truth, Justice and Healing Council… that […] it [was] difficult to see systematic abuse of the seal of confession,” Prowse wrote. “People who attend confession are sorry for their sins, indicate resolve not to sin again and seek God’s mercy. Pedophiles carry out evil and unspeakable criminal acts. They hide their crimes; they do not self-report.”

Third, he pointed out that priests do not necessarily know the identities of people who confess to them.

Fourth, he said that such a law attacks the inviolate seal of the confessional.
Originally the ACT government invited the archbishop to meet with the Attorney General to discuss the importance of both the protection of children and the seal of the confessional. However, the legislature began to debate the new bill before this meeting could take place. The archbishop decried this loss of opportunity for dialogue, pointing out that the proposed new law threatened religious freedom.

“Religious freedom is the freedom to hold a belief and, secondly, the freedom to manifest belief in community and in public, privately and individually in worship, observance, practice and teaching,” he explained.

“The government threatens religious freedom by appointing itself an expert on religious practises and by attempting to change the sacrament of confession while delivering not improvement in the safety of children,” he continued.

The new reporting laws will require priests to report allegations or offenses related to children to the ACT Ombudsman within 30 days.

Two members of the ACT Legislative Assembly thought forcing priests to break the seal of the confessional was a step in the wrong direction.

Andrew Wall, a former student of Marist College, a school notorious in Australia for child sex abuse allegations, said that while some of the child protection measures in the new law were “overdue”, he objected to its extension to the confessional.

According to the Canberra Times, Wall said forcing priests to break the confessional seal “significantly impinges on an individual’s freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of individual rights.”

Vicki Dunne, the second member, pointed out that a priest who breaks the seal of confession incurs an excommunication that can be lifted only by the pope. In addition, it would undermine Catholics’ trust in the “sacred, sacramental and sacrosanct” rite.

“We need to stop and think twice before we pass legislation that requires Catholic priest to break the seal of the confession,” she had warned.

Comment: 

I have to admit, golden beaches, beautiful homes and sunny climate notwithstanding, I’ve never felt the slightest desire to visit Australia, let alone live there. Now it’s on my list of countries in which I will never set foot.  I mean, the sheer nerve of the  grand-sounding numpties at the ‘Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory’ to threaten  jail for Catholic priests who adhere to a law of the Church which is entirely rooted in and bound up in divine law, as expressed in the above image, is breathtaking.

Would Australia dare to interfere with – and legislate against – any other religion, as it has outlawed a sacrosanct tenet of Catholicism?  It is, of course, a stupid and unworkable law, as outlined in the Church’s response above but it is revealing of the bigotry and nastiness of the Australian lawmakers that they would even think of passing such an evil law … the weather may be sunny over there in Aussie-land but they can keep it.   I’ll not be visiting Australia – ever.  What about you?  

61 responses

  1. The answer to the questions, is no in both cases – no, Australia wouldn’t dare to legislate against any other religion and no, I won’t be visiting Australia either, not that it’s ever been on my bucket list, LOL!

    This is a very serious matter. I can’t help wondering if Australia has breached international law on human rights by passing this evil law against Catholics. It says it all when, in the UK, we can be arrested and charged with “hate crime” for speaking out against the politically correct received wisdom, and in Australia a priest can be jailed for hearing something! It’s ludicrous.

  2. This is truly scandalous.

    I see only one bishop is named as objecting – surely ALL the bishops object?

    And what are the voters saying to their politicians? Surely no Catholic will vote for any politician again until this law is repealed? Or are they all Catholics in name only?

  3. I wouldn’t visit Australia anyway because they have huge spiders. I wonder if psychologists, psychiatrists and lawyers are obliged to break their clients’ confidentiality in such cases? Would be interesting to find out. Does anyone know?

    • Therese,

      You raise a crucial point – I would love to know if doctors and the others on your list are also required to break client confidentiality as priests are being forced to do. I think there would be an outcry from their professional bodies – not just one lone voice expressing concerns.

        • Client privilege it may be called, but no lawyer can defend anyone on a murder charge, If they have admitted the crime to that lawyer. If they did, the lawyer could well end up in Jail. They may well believe (99%),that their client is guilty, but if this became 100%, by the client admitting it, then he cannot defend him,or her

          • Dano,

            A lawyer looking at defending a murderer whom he know is guilty, with a view to getting him off is very different from a priest faced with a repentant sinner in confession.

            The last time we had a discussion about this subject, one thing stuck in my head and it was this. That the confessional/priest is not an arm of the State. The priest is there as the dispenser of God’s grace and mercy to the sinner who is sorry. He can encourage someone who has confessed child abuse to go to the authorities, but he is not obliged to do so and he can’t make it part of the penance or a condition for absolution. That’s a separate matter.

          • Yes and in tv world…Law and Order etc…it seems a ‘deal’ can be worked out.

            In films the Mafia always seem to have a lawyer to fight for them LOL!

  4. This is truly shocking news. I remember it being touted at one time but never dreamt it would become law. It’s a disgrace.

    The fact that it really is unworkable makes me wonder what the underlying motive is for this law, and evil law it truly is. From where I’m observing, it looks like the Australian government hates the Catholic Church, the way they’ve gone after Cardinal Pell and now this. It’s a disgrace.

    I’m curious about how Australian Catholic laity is reacting to this, though. Does anyone know?

  5. This gives “the land down under” an entirely new meaning…..

    Same country that is prosecuting Cardinal Pell for trumped-up crimes, I believe.

  6. I am shocked at this news – and I agree with RCA Victor that they are prosecuting Cardinal Pell on trumped up crimes. I’ve been convinced of that for a while and this new only confirms it. The Australian government is anti-Catholic.

  7. The secret of confession is sacred. Nobody has the right to legislate on this.

    The legislators legislate on a strictly religious subject and about which they indeed know absolutely nothing…

    This is an extremely serious and unacceptable interference in the affairs of the Church.

    • All the Pope has to do is issue a Summorum Pontificum to the effect that this law is to be ignored and any priest breaking the seal of confession will be excommunicated/defrocked etc.

      End of !

  8. Irish Government Seeks To Compel Priests To Break The Seal Of Confession

    This was the headline of The Catholic Herald on 11 July 2011. There was talk of a 5 years prison sentence.

    The Irish Children`s Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, stated that if there is a law in the land it has to be followed by everybody. There are no exceptions, there are no exemptions.

    Surely if there is a law that demands that priests have to break the seal of confession it would hardly apply to everybody.

    At that rate, why not tell everything that is confessed. If the seal is broken then everything is up for grabs, including any extra-marital activities and thieving that some of these politicians get up to themselves.

    I remember not long after this one of their own (high ranking) TDs was caught interfering with young boys. I wonder if this was why it suddenly disappeared from view.

  9. This is an idiotic law, but its surely unworkable in practice and is thus just posturing from the govt?

    It must count as an impingement on religious freedom and so should be fought through the courts.

    But the modern episcopate is so weak and malleable, it seems there will be little comment.

    Its dangerous to allow anti-catholic laws to stack up unchallenged.

    • RCA Victor,

      Insane. This is a man who describes himself as a Catholic and so the clergyman standing by is presumably a priest.

      Truly, those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad. And “mad” is the understatement of the century here. Crazed craziness. Crackers. You name it!

    • Elizabeth,

      Madness indeed! Insanity abounds no ends. This man says he is Catholic, if he is at university majoring in education, I would seriously worry about what he will be teaching children in the future. Diabolical disorientation is all I can say about it.

      • Diabolical disorientation is spot on! What better way to decrease the number of priests by making them excommunicate themselves? (Sarcasm)

        St. John Nepomucene, pray for our clergy!

  10. I would like to clear up the matter of Australian lawmakers. Each State in Australia has laws which pertain only to that State. The law which has been passed in the ACT demanding that priests break the seal of the Confessional applies ONLY to the Australian Capital Territory (i.e. The ACT). It is NOT an Australian Law and no State has actually passed any such Law! The ACT is Not a State!
    However there are accounts that the Prime Minister (Malcolm Turnbull) is thinking of introducing such a Law for Australia. Now he is a Convert to Catholicism..but not a very well instructed one it would seem. The stupid law was one of the recommendations made by the Enquiry into Sexual Abuse which has been sitting for about the last year or so. This recommendation is one of 18 recommendations which have NOT been implemented from the 100+ recommendations to come out of the Enquiry.
    At the moment I would say “Don’t panic” but it is clear that such a law is simply unworkable. I ask you all, how do you think that it can be proven that Fr. X has heard the sin of pedophilia being confessed by a pedophile? Is the priest going to say that he has? Is the pedophile going to confess to the police that he confessed that sin when he went to Confession?
    The whole thing is simply unworkable and nothing more than window dressing to placate the ignorant pagans who know nothing about Confession!
    Another thing which has not been thought out is that every priest who hears confession does not know the identity of all his penitents.
    For all of you who say that you will never come and visit my country of Australia because it has such a stupid law, I have to say “Don’t be so Childish”. Australia is not perfect but then neither is Scotland or England or Ireland. Take a look at yourselves!

    • John,

      Thank you for that information – I did wonder about the singling out of a particular territory for mention in the Lifesitenews report and I’ve noted before that Australia seems to be divided up a bit differently from most countries.

      As for being “childish” to decide not to visit a land where they discriminate so blatantly against my religion (as I decided years ago against visiting a certain Muslim country where even reading the bible is banned) – no more so than deciding not to purchase goods from a business which funds other immoralities; and for the record (because you are right about the countries of the UK being less than perfect) I spoil my vote at every election, writing on the slip that once we restore Christ the King to His rightful place and repeal all the scandalous immoral laws set in place by current legislators, then and only then will I vote.

      Maybe some think that’s childish, but there is a limit to what any individual can do to register protest at the way God’s law and His Church are being persecuted by secular lawmakers (and accepted by weak churchmen including this dreadful pope) so, apologies for offending your adult sensibilities but Australia can keep its sunny beaches and Ireland can keep its leprechauns, I’ll not be funding their respective tourist industries by travelling to either country any time soon – and that includes when I win the lottery! Who knows, maybe if they thought Catholics in sufficient numbers would act similarly, or, in some other way, those already IN these nations refused to roll over and accept such evil law, they might think twice before enforcing such bad laws in the future.

      • Dear Editor,
        I find it rather strange that you declare that you spoil your vote when you go to vote. As far as I am aware you do not have a law which requires you to vote, so why do you bother to go and spoil your vote when the time comes round. Now we, here in Australia DO have a law which requires us to go and vote when it is a Federal Election but not for local State elections or local Council elections. The penalty for not voting at a Federal Election is a fine…which used to be $10 but it may be more now. Hence we do have people who go and vote and spoil their ballot paper because they do not wish to cast a vote!
        By the way, a Federal Election is for the election of a new Australian Government. As far as laws go we have Federal Laws which apply to ALL Australians and State laws which only apply within the individual States. By the way, we have 6 States and one Australian Capital Territory which is not a State. The ACT is centered around Darwin in the very North of Australia and the Federal Government can, and has, cancelled ACT law. It did so when the ACT brought in a law allowing doctors to practice Euthanasia. It was Catholic members of the Federal Government who brought about the cancellation of that law!
        It is often argued that we, in Australia , have far too many levels of government. I rather tend to agree with that sentiment.

        • John Rayner,

          It’s quite the thing to spoil a vote – you don’t have to be legally bound to vote to want to make your choice and vote or to state that you can’t make your choice because there are no candidates who oppose immoral laws. If you don’t go to the polling station then you can be accused of being lazy or not caring. It’s good to be able to say that you went to the poll but didn’t vote for anyone, instead spoilt your ballot paper, with a message.

          I know a couple of people who spoil their votes by making short statements on them, and it is worth doing because the candidates have to check all the spoilt votes to agree they are spoilt – so that means they read the comments.

          Australia seems to have a very complicated system of government, doesn’t appeal to me one bit.

          • Well Michaela you have a strange business in having the candidates examine a vote to see if it is spoiled. That does not happen here. I have been a Scrutineer at one of our elections and all that happens here is that the Counters put such a vote aside and when the count has been done the spoiled votes are just put at the end of the pile and ignored.

    • Margaret Mary,

      That’s excellent news. As you say, any Catholic should know that the churches won’t go along with such a bad law but it’s good to send that message out to the politicians and public.

    • Well, how can a reporting system be “mandatory” if it’s anonymous? It can’t be both.

      I think we would all agree that anyone in a public position would report serious child abuse. My issue is that a culture of fear has been created by the liberals who want to take authority away from parents.

      Nowadays, anyone who deviates from the liberal, godless party line is deemed to be a risk, so much so that those who pose a REAL danger to children are often left unchecked. Those of us who protect our children from the liberal establishment by Home schooling are viewed suspiciously, whilst those desperate to teach children graphic sex education, including normalising homosexual behaviour, are invited into schools and allowed to spread their bile, corrupting the minds of children.

  11. I think people are overreacting you guys need to set up something that’s an anonymous agency like we have here in the states. That anonymous agency checks out the abuse. Actually the anonymous agency is the child protective services but they get all kinds of calls in all the time. But people can make allegations and they have to by law check it out.

    • Theresa Rose,

      Will they lock up every politician who hushed up (or caused) a scandal of one kind or another? I doubt it – they’d have to build many more prisons. This is an open assault on the Catholic Church.

      Nobody would defend the deliberate concealment of child abuse, if “deliberate” it was, but – given that the motivation was often a misguided attempt to avoid causing scandal – punishable by imprisonment?

    • Theresa Rose,

      When I made my previous comment on this case, I hadn’t read the Gloria TV report, bit of a hurry when I paid that flying visit earlier.

      Now that I’ve read it, however, I can say that it is nothing short of – as the headline indicates – a Kangaroo Court. The whole thing is horrifying! He was not a bishop at the time of this alleged abuse, but an assistant priest and we have only the word of one person that the conversation took place, where he was allegedly made aware of the abuse. The other alleged conversation took place in Confession. This is sheer persecution, no question about it. A Kangaroo Court that would make any self-respecting Kangaroo hang his head in shame.

      And as for those cowardly “fellow bishops” – they are a total disgrace.

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