The Catholic Church in Australia has rejected laws forcing priests to report child abuse which are revealed during confessions. The church leaders said that they prefer to maintain the sanctity of confessions saying that revealing confessions made to priests would infringe on their religious liberties.
Last year, Australia completed a five-year government-appointed inquiry into child sex abuse in churches and other institutions, amid allegations worldwide that churches had protected paedophile priests by moving them from parish to parish. The inquiry heard that seven percent of Catholic priests working in Australia between 1950 and 2010 had been accused of child sex crimes and that nearly 1,100 people had filed child sexual assault claims against the Anglican Church over 35 years.
Laws where introduced in a state and a territory in Australia which made it a crime for priests to fail to report abuse heard in the confessional.
The Church said on Friday that it would accept 98 per cent of the recomendations made by the inquiry.
“The only recommendation we can’t accept is removing the seal of confession,” Sister Monica Cavanagh, president of Catholic Religious Australia said at a press conference.
Addressing reporters, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President Mark Coleridge said the seal of confession was “a non-negotiable element of our religious life and embodies an understanding of the believer and God”.
This move by the Church is likely to cause more trouble for the institution. Earlier this week Pope Francis was accused by a top Vatican official of covering up a child sexual abuse incident. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano had demanded his resignation in a document which accused a long list of current and past Vatican and US Church officials of covering up the case of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who resigned last month in disgrace.
While in Ireland for the World meeting of families, the Pontiff spoke of his shame over the “appalling crimmes” committed in recent decades and called for forgiveness from those who had suffered.