Australian states pass law requiring priests to report abuse disclosed in confession

Catholic News Service

September 26, 2019

By Michael Sainsbury

The Australian states of Victoria and Tasmania have become the latest in the country to pass legislation criminalizing priests who fail to report the abuse of children disclosed during confession. The country’s six states and two territories are all expected have such laws in place in coming months.

But some clerics, including Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli, one of Australia’s most senior and vocal bishops, have vowed to ignore the laws in an effort to uphold the seal of the confessional.

Archbishop Comensoli told Australian public radio that he would urge anyone who confessed to child sexual abuse to tell police. But he added that he, personally, would not break the seal, preferring to go to jail.

The laws broadly make it a crime if members of the clergy do report abuse or suspected abuse to police. Penalties for breaching the new laws range from fines to decades in prison, and the laws underscore the rollback of special concessions for the church in Australia following the country’s landmark Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

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