South Australia extends reporting laws to the confessional

St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Adelaide (WikiCommons)

South Australia will become the first state where priests will be legally obliged to report any confessions of child sexual abuse or face the possibility of a $10,000 fine. Source: ABC.

The move by the state government follows similar laws being passed in the Australian Capital Territory last week.

Apostolic Administrator of Adelaide Archdiocese, Bishop Greg O'Kelly, said the Church was "unaware of this change" until yesterday "and the implications are now being considered".

New child protection laws passed last year — but made public today by the state's Attorney-General, Vickie Chapman — removed an exemption for priests from mandatory reporting when the information was divulged during confession.

Ms Chapman revealed the change ahead of the government releasing its full response to the royal commission into child sex abuse.

While priests have been mandatory reporters outside of confession for more than a decade in South Australia, Bishop O'Kelly said the new law "has much wider implications for the Catholic Church and the practice of our faith".

Under Church law, priests are bound by the seal of the confessional to not reveal what they are told or face automatic excommunication.

"Our commitment in South Australia to child protection and child safe environments is unwavering," Bishop O'Kelly said in a statement.

"Our priests are well aware of their obligations to report child abuse and neglect under mandatory reporting laws and have been participating in regular and compulsory child protection training since 2007, as have all our church employees and volunteers."

Ms Chapman said mandatory reporting was so important, including in confession, because abuse usually occurred in secret "unless a responsible adult acts".

"The protection of children the public expect must be superior to any other interest," she said.

Ms Chapman said other states should follow South Australia's lead.

As well as including the confessional in mandatory reporting laws, South Australia has signed on to the national redress scheme and introduced laws that will allow victims of child sexual abuse to seek compensation beyond the age of 21.

FULL STORY

SA Catholic Church blindsided by move to scrap confession protection (ABC)

RELATED COVERAGE

SA Catholics unaware of new confession law (news.com.au)

South Australia to compel priests to report abuse revealed in confession (The Guardian)

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