Breaking the Seal of Confession: Australia


I go behind the screen too but many Catholics go face to face.


Yes, and that’s okay. But I doubt that anyone confessing criminal child abuse confesses face to face. In fact I doubt that they ever go to confession at all.


So is this just a tempest in a teapot? An irrelevant law about something that never happens? Why the uproar in that case?


The uproar is because the law proposes to eliminate the seal of confession. No priest can disclose what is told to him in confession no matter what it may be. And if such a law were enacted, I would think that face to face confession ought to become obsolete.


I don’t want to derail the thread but the US constitution is responsible for the absurd levels of gun ownership and consequent misuse is in the US. Happy to take part in another thread if you start one.


Yep. Glad I wasn’t the only one thinking that!


Which is why I said that you could not base your argument in favor of breaking the confession seal on a theological argument that people do not need to confess their sins to a priest


Wow. Just wow. Thanks for spreading misinformation through one liners that can’t be rebuttaled without going off topic.

Gun ownership in the US has saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, through defensive use and as a check and balance against the government. And the lack of gun ownership has lead to the deaths of millions across the world.


Given the context of the thread, I was most likely referring to the 1st amendment not the 2nd


Right, as any normal person would, but FiveLinden made an egregious comment stating that the US Constitution kills people. I felt like that had to be called out.

I totally agree with you that it’s a shame the rest of the world has not adopted free speech as an ultimate law. It’s why people are being fined or jailed for speech that is being considered hateful (but isn’t a call to action), including the Church’s stance on homosexuality.


I would prefer to hear a priests comments on this thread,perhaps we talk to our own about it.


After seeing a newly ordained priest step out of the confessional efter hearing confessions for two hours straight and then giving a lecture I can say that a lot of his braincells were well fried.


Probably, yes. Aside from confessions behind a screen, even when I hear confessions face to face I often don’t actually know the person’s name - this is particularly true in larger parishes or during Rite II. Part of the problem in Australia was that the bishops there weren’t clear about what is and isn’t covered by the seal when they appeared before the Royal Commission - is it strictly limited to matters of sin (and the identity of the penitent) or does it go further than that? In other words, if a child should tell a priest in confession that they’ve been abused can the priest disclose that?


This is the Code of Canon Law re confession:

Can. 982 A person who confesses to having falsely denounced to ecclesiastical authority a confessor innocent of the crime of solicitation to a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, is not to be absolved unless that person has first formally withdrawn the false denunciation and is prepared to make good whatever harm may have been done.

Can. 983 §1 The sacramental seal is inviolable. Accordingly, it is absolutely wrong for a confessor in any way to betray the penitent, for any reason whatsoever, whether by word or in any other fashion.

§2 An interpreter, if there is one, is also obliged to observe this secret, as are all others who in any way whatever have come to a knowledge of sins from a confession.

Can. 984 §1 The confessor is wholly forbidden to use knowledge acquired in confession to the detriment of the penitent, even when all danger of disclosure is excluded.

§2 A person who is in authority may not in any way, for the purpose of external governance, use knowledge about sins which has at any time come to him from the hearing of confession.



And 2) Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches:

Canon 733

  1. The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore the confessor must diligently refrain either by word, sign or any other manner from betraying the penitent for any reason.

  2. The obligation of observing secrecy also binds an interpreter if one is present, and also all others, to whom knowledge of the sins from confession comes in any way.


[quote=“JimG, post:25, topic:540669, full:true”]
If such a law were passed, pastors should post a prominent warning sign in every confessional or reconciliation room: “Warning: Anything you say here can and will be held against you in a court of law.” Priests should give a similar warning before every conversation or counseling session.
[/quote] What a terrible idea.


No such law in Australia. It is the recommendation of an enquiry. Such a law could be passed however.


thanks you


The exemption runs out on March 31st, for Canberra. Mandatory reporting for all adults begins in April.
South Australia already has mandatory reporting, that includes the confessional scenario, as does Tasmania I believe, or the Tasmanian bill could still be before the parliament.


That is news to me. I am more familiar with the major population states where there is no such law. If you could point to some references to the existence of laws binding on priests in the confessional, I’d appreciate that.

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