Australian Report Urges Vatican to Reject Celibacy, Rethink Secret Confessions
By Robb M. Stewart
Wall Street Journal
December 15, 2017
Child sex abuse inquiry found tens of thousands of victims across many Australian institutions; the Catholic Church the worst offender
SYDNEY—An Australian investigation into decades of child sexual abuse, involving tens of thousands of victims, called for sweeping changes in the Catholic Church and other organizations, including making celibacy voluntary for clergy and forcing ministers to report abuse concerns that come to light through confession.
The broad-ranging probe urged Australia’s Catholic Church to request the Vatican make changes to canon law, including removing limits on the time in which the church can take action on child sexual abuse cases, as well as removing a requirement to destroy documents relating to criminal cases in matters of morals.
It recommended the government make it a criminal offense to fail to report knowledge or suspicions of abuse disclosed in a religious confession.
The report said confession had “contributed to both the occurrence of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and to inadequate institutional responses to abuse.”
“Church leaders have viewed child sexual abuse as a sin to be dealt with through private absolution and penance rather than as a crime to be reported to police. The sacrament of reconciliation enabled perpetrators to resolve their sense of guilt without fear of being reported,” it said.
In response, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher warned against making changes to confession. He said focusing “on something like confession is a distraction.”