Breaking the Seal of the Confessional Will Not Save Children

By Frank Brennan
Weekend Australian
December 3, 2016

I was accurately quoted in The Australian (“Catholic Row over probe into confession”, Wednesday) saying, “If a law is introduced to say that a priest should reveal a confession, I’m one of those priests who will disobey the law.” Being also a lawyer, let me explain.

Like most Australians, I have been appalled and distressed by the revelations before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

I hope this five-year royal commission is able to provide solutions so that institutions are made safe places for children. I am one of those Catholics who has been rocked by the disproportionate number of victims whose assailants have been members of my church in positions of trust. Of course, the Catholic Church ran more schools and orphanages than most other organisations. But that provides no excuse or justification for what went on. Nor does it provide a complete explanation for the horrific statistics.

It’s now clear that before 1996, most institutions, including churches, police forces and state child welfare agencies, were insufficiently attentive to the signs of predatory behaviour by pedophiles. Before 1996, the Catholic Church was a closed, hierarchical, opaque organisation administered by bishops who were more like feudal princes than modern accountable managers. The clericalist mindset of a celibate male clergy compounded the vulnerability of children preyed on by church personnel.








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