On June 7, 2018, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Legislative Assembly in Canberra passed a law requiring Catholic priests to break the seal of confession in some cases. Passage of the new legislation expands the Reportable Conduct Scheme governing allegations of child abuse and misconduct to include religious organizations.
In the June 7 “Opinion” section of the Canberra Times, Archbishop Christopher Prowse expressed his support of the revised scheme but stated he would not support a requirement to break the seal of confession. Prowse, who is the Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, continued:
“Breaking the sacred seal of confession won’t prevent abuse and it won’t help our ongoing efforts to improve the safety of children in Catholic institutions. Apart from the fact that child abusers do not confess their crimes to police or priests, such legislation would also threaten Catholics’ religious freedom…by [the government] appointing itself an expert on religious practices and by attempting to change the sacrament of confession while delivering no improvement in the safety of children.”
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said the church had begun talks with Vatican officials and “takes seriously any attempt to improve child safety.”
Click here to review the full text of Archbishop Prowse remarks in the Canberra Times.
The Sydney Morning Herald coverage of the new legislation is available using this link