Australia Must Realise: Priests Will Never Break the Seal of the Confessional

By Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith
Catholic Herald
June 18, 2018

If the Australian state wants to make martyrs over the seal, it will find plenty of candidates

The saga about mandatory reporting of child abuse in Australia, where it seems that the law will now compel priests to break the seal of confession, carries on.

It must give the virtue-signalers amongst Australia’s legislators great pleasure to say that the Catholic Church is not above the law, but this legislation will hardly help the protection of children. It will simply mean that no one who has abused anyone, or been tempted to do so, will ever dare to discuss the matter with a priest, still less confess to the sin in the sacrament of reconciliation.

Moreover, one Australian priest has a very good point: “The only way they [the states] would be able to see whether the law was being observed or not is to try and entrap priests.”

Quite so. Will the agents of law enforcement in Australia now pose as penitents and enter confessionals with tape recorders in the hope that of finding a priest who does not report child abuse? Such things have been done before, though in a different context. It is by no means impossible that this might happen, as it is hard to see otherwise how any arrests could ever be made.

If a child abuser reveals that he has confessed his crime to a priest, who did not report it, how can this be proved in court? It is merely his word against that of the priest, if indeed the priest were to deny it. One assumes that in such a case the priest would simply refuse to give evidence one way or another, which could lead to a charge of contempt of court.

One thing is for sure. Priests feel strongly about this, and are prepared to go to jail for it. If the Australian state is so foolish as to want to make martyrs, then there will be plenty of candidates. One can picture the scene in one of Oz’s very rough prisons where some gentle bloke has to explain to his fellow inmates that he is doing time for refusing to break the seal. There is definitely a film or a television series in that.

But there is serious point here. Whoever you are, whatever your sins, you can approach a Catholic priest, and whatever you tell him will go no further. Because even sinners have rights and deserve that assurance of confidentiality. It is one of the things that God guarantees them, and the State has no right to take that away from them.








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