Laws compelling priests to break the seal of Confession and report child sexual abuse to police or face criminal charges are due in the Victorian Parliament before the end of the year. Source: Sydney Morning Herald.
The Andrews Government wants to remove legal privileges that shield priests from giving evidence about alleged crimes heard during the confession, arguing that the sacrament provides cover to pedophiles.
Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said removing that legal privilege would take away one more reason to not report child abuse.
Under the proposed laws, any priest who received a confession of child sexual abuse and failed to make a report would risk being charged.
The proposed change to the state evidence act, which also covers doctor-patient relationships, was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which concluded in December 2017.
“What we saw in the national royal commission was a sense that many people who committed child sexual abuse thought that they could cleanse themselves by simply confessing it,” Ms Hennessy said.
“And those offenders were then moved around into different places and were protected and the royal commission was really unequivocal that that protection resulted in years and years of abuse in many different communities.”
Ms Hennessy said she had begun drafting legislation and hoped to introduce it to parliament before the end of the year.
Victoria’s opposition also proposed to strip priests of this legal privilege before the November state election but on Wednesday Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said he wanted to see the details of the proposed laws before taking a stance.
The ACT Government introduced mandatory reporting laws to its parliament last month in which a failure to report carries a jail term of up to two years. The NSW Government is also considering similar legislation.
Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli has previously dismissed the notion of priests breaking the seal of confession.
“The practical dimensions of what is being envisioned in the recommendations, I don’t think is being fully understood,” he said in a radio interview with the ABC last year.
Hennessy wants priests to report sexual abuse or face charges (Sydney Morning Herald)