Against the new law

Against the new law

Symbolic image: confessional secret © Harald Oppitz (KNA)

A Catholic bishop in the Australian state of Queensland has announced opposition to a new law requiring priests to break the seal of confession in the event of confessions of sexual abuse.

The priests of his diocese are obliged to preserve the secrecy of confession even if the confessor talks about acts of abuse, the Bishop of Rockhampton, Michael McCarthy, told the ABC station (Saturday).

The Queensland parliament this week passed legislation making it mandatory to report sexual abuse to police. The MPs were following a recommendation from the final report of the Abuse Commission set up by the Australian government.

Abolition of the seal of confession not approved in August

In its official response to the commission's final report, published in August 2018, the Australian Bishops' Conference had strongly rejected the recommendations to abolish the seal of confession.

"We do not reject the breach of the seal of confession because we believe we are above the law or because we do not place the highest importance on the safety of children," Archbishop Mark Coleridge stressed at the time.

Argumentation: Most confessions are anonymous

Rather, this is "not practical," said the president of the bishops' conference and archbishop of Brisbane. "This misses the reality of confession because most confessions are anonymous. So if someone confessed to abusing a child, they would certainly do it anonymously," Coleridge said.

Queensland is the fourth state, after Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and the city-state of Canberra, that requires priests by law to break the seal of confession in cases of sexual abuse. The states of New South Wales and Western Australia, on the other hand, have rejected a legal requirement for priests to break the seal of confession.

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