Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB has warned the McGowan Government plans to force priests to break the confessional seal to report child abuse risk “interfering with the free practice of the Catholic faith”. Source: The West Australian.
In a lengthy statement issued last night, Archbishop Costelloe warned moves to legislate to force priests to report child abuse would cause “concern and distress” to many people of faith, while questioning how the plan would work in practice.
The West Australian revealed yesterday the State Government would introduce laws in the second half of the year to force religious officials to report child abuse, bringing them into line with health workers and teachers.
The changes follow recommendations by the child abuse royal commission and would mean priests could be forced to choose between state law and the canon law of Rome which forbids any breach in the secrecy that comes with confession.
Archbishop Costelloe said while everyone understood and supported the intent behind the proposal – to protect children – there was a question as to whether it would work.
“This is clearly a matter of faith and faith is not shared by everyone,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
“To threaten priests with prosecution if they remain faithful to this teaching is to run the risk of interfering with the free practice of the Catholic faith.”
Archbishop Costelloe said it seemed unlikely that child abusers would come to confession to tell of their sins.
“You don’t come to confession unless you have recognised the sinful nature of your behaviour, are filled with sorrow and shame of it and are determined never to commit such sins again,” he said. Archbishop Costelloe did not say if priests would defy the law.
Liberal spokesman Nick Goiran said the Opposition supported all recommendations of the royal commission, but also questioned how the planned change to the Act would be enforced.
Perth’s Catholic Archbishop Timothy Costello hits back at child abuse legislation (The West Australian)