In an obvious attempt to curb child abuse, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull delivered the Federal Government’s response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex abuse.
Mr Turnbull had a clear message for the Catholic Church when it came to the seal of the confession: “The safety of children should always be put first.”
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the church does not view the sacramental seal as incompatible with maintaining child safety and wants measures that will genuinely make environments safer for children.
“There has been no compelling evidence to suggest that legal abolition of the seal of confession will help in that regard,” the Brisbane archbishop said.
Hetty Johnston, founder and executive director of Bravehearts said: “Any institution that would put its own culture, or its own laws, or its own processes above the best interests of children is an organisation that no longer deserves any kind of support.”
Breaking the seal of confession not a silver bullet
A fierce critic of the Catholic Church’s handling of sex abuse allegations, former priest Paul Collins said there had been a serious lack of accountability within the church when dealing with child sexual abuse.
He argued forcing priests to reveal abuse allegations could be pursued.
“If the state, whether it be the Commonwealth Government or the State Governments, pass a law for mandatory reporting, then priests should be bound by that,” he told the ABC.
But Mr Collins said such legislative changes may not have the desired effect.
“The simple reality is that the caricature of Catholics all running off to confession all the time is nothing more than a caricature,” he argued.
“The vast majority of practicing Catholics in Australia have not been near the confessional [box] in 30 years, and that includes myself.”
“It would be most unlikely, especially if mandatory reporting came in, that any abusive priest or person working for the Catholic Church would be going to confession,” Collins added.
That sentiment is echoed by Associate Professor Keith Thompson, from the Catholic University of Notre Dame.
He said there was research from countries such as Ireland that suggested child abusers who did confess to priests may not have ever given a full account of their crimes.
“People who commit abuse against children, particularly sexual abuse, don’t confess as a general rule because they don’t perceive that what they’re doing is a sin in the first place,” he said. “They think in a perverse way that they are socialising the children, that they’re befriending them, that they’re helping them grow up and become adults.” (Source: Reuters and ABC News)