Skip to content

Australian state hesitates to require priests to break seal of confession

Free World Class Education
FREE Catholic Classes

7/12/2018 (11 months ago)
Catholic Online (

The Australian state of Victoria has said a recommendation by the royal commission that it pass a law requiring priests to break the confessional seal to report cases of child sex abuse requires further consideration.


Catholic Online (
7/12/2018 (11 months ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Australian state hesitates, require priests, break seal of confession

Melbourne, Australia,(CNA/EWTN News) - Victoria attorney general Martin Pakula said July 11 that the government needs to further consider 24 of the 317 recommendations made to the state by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Pakula said the state government accepted 128 recommendations, and another 165 in principle, according to The Guardian.

He told ABC radio that the proposal to require the breaking of the seal of confession "needs a degree of national agreement."

The Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, and Tasmania have already adopted laws making it illegal for priests to fail to report the confession of a child sex abuse crime.

In South Australia, priests who fail to report child sex abuse which they learned of while hearing a confession will face a AUD 10,000 fine ($7,400) beginning Oct. 1.

Like Victoria, New South Wales is subjecting that recommendation to further consideration, though it accepted 336 of the royal commission's recommendations.

The New South Wales government said last month that "whether or how the offence will apply to members of the clergy where the information about an offence was gathered through religious confessions is a complex issue that has been referred to the Council of Attorney's-General for national consideration."

The Catholic Church in Australia has vehemently opposed the imposition of laws mandating reporting from the confessional. Many priests have said they would go to jail before violating the seal.

The Code of Canon Law states that "The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason." A priest who intentionally violates the seal incurs an automatic excommunication.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that "every priest who hears confessions is bound under severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him," due to the "delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons."

Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra-Goulburn has said that "Priests are bound by a sacred vow to maintain the seal of confession. Without that vow, who would be willing to unburden themselves of their sins?"

"The government threatens religious freedom by 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," he said. "Sadly, breaking the seal of confession won't prevent abuse and it won't help our ongoing efforts to improve the safety of children in Catholic institutions."

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney has said that "priests will, we know, suffer punishment, even martyrdom, rather than break the seal of Confession," which he called "a privileged encounter between penitent and God."

Clerics are not the only critics of the new legislation. Andrew Wall, a member of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, said forcing priests to break the seal of confession oversteps an individual's "freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of religious rights."


Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2019 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2019 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.

Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.