The Truth, Justice and Healing Council has called for new national laws making it a crime to not report information about child sex abuse — unless it is obtained by a priest during the confession. The Australian reports.
In a formal submission to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the TJHC has argued that this exemption would reflect Victorian legislation granting a similar “occasion of privilege” to that protecting communications between lawyers and their clients.
Under questioning at the commission yesterday, TJHC CEO Francis Sullivan said “parliaments will need to make their own decisions and then … priests will, like everybody else, have to obey the law or disobey the law.”
A series of child abuse scandals in recent decades has revealed “a shameful history, a rather confronting history within the Catholic Church of how sexual offenders were handled,” Mr Sullivan said.
This included the cover-up of known child sex offenders, and the moving of paedophile priests between parishes or dioceses, allowing them to offend again.
“We’re talking about culture. We’re talking about self-preservation. We’re talking about how the powers that be at a given time are more concerned about public scandal and reputation damage … than they were about the specific interests of a child,” he said.
The issue is expected to provoke controversy when the commission holds a three-week hearing into the Church in February, having recently flagged it will consider “the protection of the confessional.”
The commission has the power to recommend changes to laws in some States allowing priests who hear admissions of criminal activity during confession to not report this to police.
Catholics want law to protect confessional (The Australian)
'Self-serving' culture in Catholic Church (AAP/Seven News)