Priests 'Not Obliged' to Report Criminal Confessions
January 15, 2004
A Queensland civil libertarian says priests are not legally obliged to report an admission of a criminal offence made in a confessional.
It has been revealed in an affidavit that a jailed Catholic priest confessed to up to 30 priests over 25 years that he was sexually abusing young boys.
Michael McArdle, who is serving a six-year jail term in Queensland on more than 60 charges, says he was told to pray more.
Australian Council of Civil Liberties president Terry O'Gorman 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."
Hetty Johnston from child protection group Bravehearts says it is barbaric that any organisation could know of sexual assault and not report it.
"You'd hope that the church would do this by itself, that it would have done this a long, long time ago," she said.
"It hasn't and it is sticking true to its age old archaic policy."
The Rockhampton Diocese of the Catholic Church has not commented at this stage.
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