Priest in the confessional © Harald Oppitz (KNA)
In Australia, a bill is being debated that would require priests to report every case of sexual abuse – even if they learn about it in confession. Melbourne archbishop would rather go to prison.
The Australian Archbishop Peter Comensoli would, in his own words, rather go to prison than break the seal of confession in the case of abuse confessions. The Archbishop of Melbourne told Australian media (Thursday).
Victoria's state parliament began deliberations Thursday on a bill that would require priests and other professionals such as teachers to report any case of child sexual abuse to police. That includes cases priests learn about in confession.
Those who do not fulfill this obligation will be punished with up to three years imprisonment.
Conservative opposition supports the draft
Victoria's Justice Minister Jill Hennessy told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday that religious views are "secondary" when it comes to protecting children. In Victoria, the social democratic Labor Party provides the government. However, the conservative opposition coalition of the Liberal and National parties declared their willingness in principle to support the bill.
In the city-state of Canberra and other Australian states, priests are already forced by law to break the seal of confession in cases of abuse. In Victoria and the other states, lawmakers are invoking a recommendation from the state's Abuse Commission, which submitted its final report in December 2017 after five years of work.