Should priests be made to report child abuse revealed in confession?

The Conversation

September 26, 2018

By Hadeel Al-Alosi

Last December, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse made public its final report, containing 409 recommendations. The inquiry revealed that there were numerous instances where senior officials in churches failed to report allegations of child sexual abuse while in their care.

Since then, there have been steps forward. For example, on July 1, the National Redress Scheme was established to support people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse.

What has been particularly controversial is recommendation 7.4, which states:

Laws concerning mandatory reporting to child protection authorities should not exempt persons in religious ministry from being required to report knowledge or suspicions formed, in whole or in part, on the basis of information disclosed in or in connection with a religious confession.

The conflict between the rules of the Catholic Church on the confidentiality of confessions and mandatory reporting laws is not a new issue. These laws require people from selected professions (known as “mandatory reporters”) to report suspected child abuse to government authorities. However, recommendation 7.4 has recently reignited the debate.

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