Australia, attack on seal of confession: government official pressures archbishop to have his priests tell police about crimes revealed in confession

I am unconcerned about such a bill in the U.S. It is straight up unconstitutional. This person is just trying to be sensational. One quote from the bill struck me as odd.

“Right now, we are protecting the predator,” he added, “not the child.”

Do these politicians understand nothing? Such a bill would do zip to protect even one child. There is no priest anywhere that will report a confession, law or no law, and all that such legislation will do is to persecute Catholic clergy and close one small avenue that a pedophile might use to seek redemption and an end to his behavior.


Protestants don’t have a seal of confession. There was a man in prison who confessed to his Protestant minister that he committed murder and the minister voluntarily testified against him.

It really depends on what the local law allows.

I’m a Protestant minister. As I said upthread, if I did something like that I’d end up in jail, because civil law strictly protects professional secrecy. Plus, keeping an absolute secrecy about what is confided to them is one of the solemn promises pastors make during their consecration here.

As I also said, there is a procedure following complicated steps if a minister should wish to be relieved of the obligation to keep secrecy. But it is only allowed for grave reasons, and one of those “grave reasons” is having certainty that someone is incurring real and serious harm. So, a murder wouldn’t cut it, since the victim cannot be harmed any longer. It is a procedure clearly designed for abuse cases.

But then again, to my knowledge, it has never been used (because pastors tend to take promises made before God seriously).

While I agree that a peodophile afraid of being reported won’t go to Confession, a truly repentant one would seek help, and would need other forms of help even if they could go to Confession.

This makes one wonder if the “moral impossibility” clause which dispenses from a complete integral confession would come into play here, the moral issue rising from the penitent’s risking imprisonment in the part of the priest. Theoretically then, a repentant child abuser would confess all other sins other than the child abuse, though obviously with a firm intent never to abuse anyone again. A Vatican-level clarification would likely be necessary before anyone could assume that the exception applied however. Not sure if that will be coming anytime soon.

The standard of proof in a criminal matter in Australia is “beyond reasonable doubt”. In the (second) Pell trial, the jury allowed their belief of the testimony of the complainant to override (unreasonably) the doubt introduced by other witnesses. The appeal court judges who let this stand were later corrected by the High Court. The mistake made by the jury and appeals court judges was not that they accepted the complainant’s testimony as credible testimony (potentially sufficient to convict) but that they discarded other testimony. It shocks me - but apparently one person’s testimony can constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt if there is nothing else to cast doubt…


Makes you wonder what would happen if said priest had instead confessed this to his bishop?

I may be thinking of a different priest but I remember a story about a priest convicted of pedophilia who claimed he confessed it over a thousand times to lots of different priests over a period of several years/decades. I don’t remember all the details but apparently if you did the math it would’ve had to mean he confessed to pedophilia approximately once a week for years. Somehow I doubt it.

It’s a rather dirty trick that all these laws threatening the seal of the confession are made to apply only in cases of child abuse, and not in cases of other crimes.

The politicians are trying to enforce the stereotype of Priests being pedophiles to get an emotional knee-jerk response from voters because they know logic is not on their side.

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This is the sort of case I was thinking of. Not child abusers having their confessions.disclosed,.but victims or families of victims,.who if anything are more likely to raise.the matter in.confession.

A bishop is still bound by the seal, like anyone else hearing a confession, regardless of who confesses to him or what they confess.


I doubt it too. But I observe that were it true, the offender simultaneously failed to take serious corrective action to safeguard his potential victims.

Sure. But Bishops from time to time see fit to reassign duties of their priests. Perhaps that priest would make s good private secretary…

And if they do so based on what they learn during a Confession, then (as I understand it) that is a violation as well, or at least is dangerously close to one.

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