Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter has expressed support for laws that would force priests to report suspicions of child sexual abuse that arise from information they receive in the confessional. Source: Sydney Morning Herald.
The changes, which would fall to state and territory governments, are among the most contentious of the recommendations from the royal commission into child sexual abuse.
Speaking on the ABC’s Insiders program yesterday, Mr Porter said the Council of Attorneys-General – which includes himself and state and territory counterparts – was working on harmonised laws.
“My personal instincts are protective and that, ultimately, the need to protect people from sexual abuse, but particularly children, is something that should take some precedence,” he said.
Last week the ACT became the first jurisdiction to introduce laws requiring priests to break the seal of confession in cases where child abuse is disclosed.
Other states are waiting for the outcome of the national discussions.
Mr Porter said the Council of Attorneys-General would be “largely taking the role in ensuring the recommendation is met and that the recommendation is met in a way that is consistent”.
Responding to Mr Porter’s comments, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, said the Church had begun talks with Vatican officials and “takes seriously any attempt to improve child safety”.
But he added: “Little solid evidence was presented during the royal commission that the sacrament has been abused in such a way as to allow paedophiles to continue to perpetrate evil.
"Moreover, there are many practical questions relating to removal of the seal, including the identification of individuals accessing the sacrament.”
He said the Church believed that laws compelling priests to break the seal of the confessional would therefore do nothing to make children safer. But the Church remained “committed to discussion with governments on this and any other issue relating to child safety”.
A-G backs laws forcing priests to break confession over child abuse (Sydney Morning Herald)
ACT confession law has legal complexities (news.com.au)