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Catholic Archbishop claims confessional is more sacred than the protection of children

Female looking at a sunset | Shine Lawyers

Lisa Flynn | Shine Lawyers Written by:
Lisa Flynn
National Special Counsel - Abuse Law

I read with absolute disgust the recent article quoting the Acting Archbishop of the South Australian Catholic Church who stated that the Church will not adhere to a change in law requiring priests to report confessions of child sex abuse.

The Acting Archbishop of Adelaide basically stated that the Church law protecting the secrecy of the confessional, in his mind, trumps any law made by parliament designed to protect vulnerable children from the devastating effects of child sexual abuse.

The Catholic Church wants us to believe that it has learned from the “sins of the past” and that they have taken the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse seriously. They have come out recently supporting the National Redress Scheme – publicly holding themselves out to be committed to supporting survivors as they come forward.

All of this rhetoric is undone when their current leaders continue to put the reputation of their Church above the protection of children. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, where the safety of children is at hand, there should be no compromises.

The current Head of the Catholic Church in South Australia is in the Acting position because the real Archbishop of South Australia has recently been found guilty of concealing a crime (a crime involving the rape of a child).

How do we sit back and say that it is acceptable for this man, representing this institution, to say that:

“Politicians can change the law, but we can’t change the nature of the confessional, which is a sacred encounter between a penitent and someone seeking forgiveness and a priest representing Christ. It doesn’t affect us.”

I beg to differ. The abuse of children in any institution, is everybody’s business. We have a civil duty to stop it. We have a duty to protect the vulnerable and when you are in a position of power to prevent further harm of any other person, it is absolutely your business to stop it.

The strong recommendation from the Royal Commission into Institutional Reponses to Child Sexual Abuse who heard thousands of harrowing stories of abuse within the Catholic Church, was that Priests be made mandatory reporters and that no exception be given for information revealed and received under the seal of confessional.

The South Australian Government are acting in response to these recommendations and the Catholic Church is trying to say that these laws don’t affect them?

The whole point of having to make these laws is to impact change after the Catholic Church remained silent for too long, covering up child sexual abuse and failing to support victims and survivors when they have come forward historically.

The governments in each state commit millions of dollars to prevent organised crime gangs. We hear often of crackdowns against outlaw motorcycle gangs. Maybe some of these resources could be redirected towards an institution whose leaders are now coming out and publicly saying that their gang members will not obey the State laws?

Many victims and survivors coming out of the Catholic Church would say a whole lot of the crime prevention resources should be re-directed towards investigating and acting on the actions of the wrongdoers within the Church. Few crimes are worse than robbing a child of their innocence and their future.


Written by Lisa Flynn on . Last modified: June 28, 2018.

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    Many years ago when I worked as a Welfare Officer with the Department of Housing, I met a priest who went out of his way to protect women from priests who took advantage of the weak. He told me in no uncertain terms that he felt it his duty as a priest to confront the perpetrator himself. And did so on many an occasion, often threatening bodily harm if the incident happened again. He felt he had a moral duty to protect the weak. Many good priests are hampered by the strict rules of the church.

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