Priests reject breaking confessional seal

Priests say the sacramental seal is inviolable (CNS)

Clergy advocacy groups representing more than 2000 priests across Australia have rejected outright breaking the seal of confession, even if it becomes law in some states and territories. Source: The Catholic Leader.

The National Council of Priests of Australia, with 1700 members, rejects new laws announced in South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and Western Australia – which would require priests to break the seal of confession in cases relating to child abuse.

NCPA chairman Fr Jim Clarke, a canon lawyer and parish priest of St Mary of the Angels in Geelong, said his members stood firmly behind the practice and tradition of the Church.

“The sacramental seal is inviolable. No priest can break that sacred trust,” he said.

“When priests sit and hear the confessions of parishioners they are sitting as the Lord, through the ministry of the Church.

“We hold that to be a sacred trust as part of our ordination commitments.

“So we are against any movement by any civil authority to expect priests to divulge anything from a penitent.”

Brisbane parish priest Fr Scot Armstrong, who chairs the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, representing 600 priests, said the new laws would not help protect children.

Fr Armstrong said his organisation’s executive regarded the new laws as impractical as well as unacceptable in principle.

They attempted, erroneously, to link confession with a culture of concealment.

“If, for example, the penitent confesses from behind a screen, how can the confessor know for certain who is confessing? Or, how can the penitent be certain the confessing priest is who he or she thinks he is? Or, how will a conviction beyond reasonable doubt be secured except by police entrapment?” he said.

“Priests cannot and will not follow such a law.

“The intention to protect children and vulnerable adults is thwarted by the ill-judged nature of the legislation which indicates a radically inadequate understanding of the sacrament.’’

Fr Clarke agreed, noting that the psychological profile of a child sex abuser meant they would be highly unlikely to confess their sin before a priest, “because a bona fide sexual abuser does not believe they are doing anything wrong”.


More than 2000 Australia priests reject breaking seal of confession (The Catholic Leader

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