Seal of confessional vital for some survivors of sexual abuse

Catholic Leader – Archdiocese of Brisbane

July 10, 2020

By Mark Bowling

A group of survivors of sexual abuse have defended the Seal of Confession as a vital lifeline and aided their recovery.

Their testimonies paints the confession box as a safe place to speak and ease their trauma, and contradicts the intent of new laws across Australia aimed at compelling priests to report child sexual abuse offences disclosed during confessions.

South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have already enacted laws that make it a criminal offence for a priest to withhold abuse disclosures.

Western Australia and Queensland are moving towards similar laws.

New South Wales has deferred any action.

A spokesman for a survivor group in Western Australia said few people realised that victims and survivors – Catholic and non-Catholic – often visited the confessional precisely because of the Seal of Confession.

“The Seal offers victims a safe, secure and watertight place where they can be listened to without cost, where they can remain anonymous, and can decide what they’re ready, and not ready, to share – and all of this in complete confidence,” spokesman James Parker said.

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