Archbishop Comensoli prepared to risk jail

Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli at the ABC studios in Melbourne yesterday (ABC News)

Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli has said he would rather go to jail than report admissions of child sexual abuse made in the confessional. Source: ABC News.

A bill which would make it mandatory for priests to report suspected child abuse to authorities, including abuse revealed in the confessional, was introduced to Victoria’s Parliament yesterday.

The Church last year formally rejected the notion that clergy should be legally forced to report abuse revealed during confessions.

Interviewed on ABC Radio Melbourne yesterday, Archbishop Comensoli said he did not see the principles of mandatory reporting and the seal of confession as being “mutually exclusive”.

He said he would encourage someone who admitted to abuse to tell police, and tell him again outside the confessional where he could then report it without breaking the seal of confession.

But if the person confessing refused to do that, he said he would not break the Catholic tradition: “Personally, I’ll keep the seal,” he said.

Archbishop Comensoli said most confessions were made anonymously and admissions of abuse were “deeply rare”.

He said the “vastly more important” recommendations from the royal commission such as accreditation, supervision and ongoing training were not talked about.

He said the Archdiocese of Melbourne had “very extensive” policies around child protection and underwent ongoing training and audits.

“So all of those sorts of things, I think, are much more about the protection of children and are better at it on a practical level than this one particular thing. Yet this one particular thing has become nearly the all, and I think that’s a shame.”

Meanwhile, Melbourne priest Fr Kevin Dillon said the Church “needs to recognise the enormous damage that’s been done” to abuse survivors.

Fr Dillion, who has been an outspoken advocate for victims of Church abuse, suggested the laws were an opportunity to revisit the canon surrounding the confessional seal.

But he did not say whether he himself would report abuse if it was confessed to him, instead saying: “I would have to follow my conscience at the time to do what I believe was the right thing to do.”

Priests who break the seal of confession currently face excommunication from the Church.


Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli would choose jail over breaking confessional seal (ABC News)


This foolish law has nothing to do with stopping child abuse (The Australian)

Archbishop prepared to risk jail rather than comply with confession law (The Age)

The Conversation Hour: Archbishop Peter Comensoli and Tim Costello (ABC News)

Melbourne’s Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli vows to keep seal despite law (The Australian) 

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