Things heating up in Australia over new mandatory reporting of confessions law



Good. I’m not in favor with chipping away at traditional law of privilege and would love to know how they are planning to enforce this “law” anyway. Next they will be bugging all the confessionals, I suppose.


What these ‘legislators’ have done is just outrageous. I know they won’t get a single priest to speak, however.


This is an important point (but let’s not encourage them by giving them bad ideas!).

People are so quick to “fix” what they perceive as a problem with a solution that cannot logistically work. In the U.S., we have some of the dumbest laws on the books because someone was trying to fix what wasn’t broken to address a problem they didn’t fully understand.


If the states and territories do ultimately legislate to abolish the seal of the confessional, I hope our bishops will have the good pastoral sense to resurrect the third rite of reconciliation which replaces individual confession with a communal rite of contrition and forgiveness. This would still be a loss to religious freedom, especially for those who crave the rare opportunity to make a clean slate of their life before God and to put out before a priest their sins and assurance of God’s forgiveness. But in the present Australian climate, I don’t expect too many of our lawmakers to lose sleep over that.

Whoa. Can you imagine an entire country only practicing “the third rite of reconciliation which replaces individual confession with a communal rite of contrition and forgiveness”?

Before Mass, every time? Once a month?



I have an additional concern that this move is being pushed not just to “fix” a perceived problem of child sexual abuse, but to get rid of the privilege in general so that evidence can be gathered for any old crime that the prosecutor wants to investigate. And like I said, how will they enforce it? The confessional is one place I expect to have some privacy. I have accepted that the government can bug my phone, intercept my e-mail and watch my house with all kinds of fancy cameras that might even peep inside, but when they want to eavesdrop on my confessions even I say that’s going too far.

I am also not at all convinced that child sex abusers would mention their behavior in confession, simply because they are usually in some state of denial that they are doing anything wrong. Of course, with this law, they’d be even less likely to mention it. So this law is serving no purpose as far as I can see. Except church-bashing and opening the door to Big Brother listening in on all your confessions.


That was an interesting article. I’m not sure the “it’s raining in Melbourne” example complements with the CSA case given one is much more easy in regards to identifying who said it, but it does give a thought-out perspective to that side of the coin.

I too am wondering hiw they will enforce things. And if they have sting operations, does the Seal apply to a fake Confession? Since any sting operation would have to be something like, “My name is Gary Jerome Smith and I have abused.” (I’m guessing it does.)


Apparently the Church needs to go underground in Australia, similar to how it is in China.


There’s a simple solution that is being discussed in another thread – eliminate face-to-face confessions and go to a system by which the priest and the penitent truly cannot visually identify each other.



Good for them.


We have this already if you go to particular churches. My concern is that the government would then start trying to gather circumstantial evidence on who confessed to whom. Also, it makes it very difficult to have a regular confessor. The next time some Catholic priest or lay person gets accused of abuse, are the cops going to track down all the priests at his parish and start grilling them as to who might have heard a confession about sexual abuse, or who might have heard a confession that sounded like a 40-year-old man, etc? How far is this going to go? Are we all going to have to use a voice masking system and wear disguises when we head for a confessional?


How about they just plant bugs in confessionals like the Communist did? Uhg… Just uhg…


These are all great points. You would hope the government wouldn’t go that far (although I wouldn’t count on it).

It is interesting that almost any priest who discusses this sacrament says that he honestly doesn’t remember the confessions he hears. They consider this forgetfulness a gift, since of course they can’t use or refer to past confessions anyway, and since I am sure they don’t want to carry around the memory of everyone’s particular sins. If the government were ever to try to force a priest to testify about confessions, I wonder if they would understand that priests honestly don’t remember most of them, or if they would assume that the priest is lying?


Does the church report to the state, or the state to the church?


The confessional is more or less the last bastion of privacy, since the psychologist and psychiatrist are “mandatory reporters,” at least in the U.S. The confessional would be the last remaining safe place to confess any heinous criminal act.


I wouldn’t bet on that. Priests have done a lot of things that “priests would never do.” Read history. Read the news.


Oh yeah, because that has worked so well throughout history…not!


How do you know they aren’t? The NSA, FBI and other agencies are doing all sorts of things they shouldn’t be.


Do you really believe law enforcement is bugging Catholic Confessionals?


From everything I’ve read, priests will never break the seal of the Confessional.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit