Archbishop Costelloe calls new law ‘disappointing’

A confessional room at St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth (The eRecord/Josh Low)

Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB has issued a pastoral letter in response to the passage of legislation that makes it mandatory for priests to report confessions of child sexual abuse in Western Australia. Source: The eRecord.

The legislation removes civil law protections for priests regarding the confidentiality of the seal of confession.

In the letter, released yesterday, Archbishop Costelloe said the legislation not only potentially criminalises fidelity to an essential dimension of the practice of the Catholic faith by priests, but also carries with it no guarantee that any child will be better protected from abuse.

“It is particularly concerning and troubling that the majority opinion of the legislative committee established by the Government to look into this matter was not accepted by the parliament,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

“In a 3-2 majority decision this committee recommended that disclosures made in the context of a religious confession should not be subject to the new mandatory reporting laws,” he said.

Archbishop Costelloe said some people appeared to have formed the view that if a person discloses during confession that he or she has been abused, the priest can and will do nothing.

“This is either an ignorant or a deliberately misleading presentation of the way confession is practised in the Catholic Church,” he said.

“A priest will do everything he can to provide advice, support and accompaniment if the person making the disclosure is open to this.”

Archbishop Costelloe explained that priests are allowed to act if the person discloses information outside the context of confession. A priest however must not betray the confidence of the person who comes to him in the confessional, according to canon law.

Pastoral letter: Pastoral Letter from The Most Rev Timothy Costelloe SDB on the Community and Family Services Amendment Bill (2021)


New legislation ignores recommendations, carries no guarantee, says Archbishop Costelloe (By Jamie O’Brien, The eRecord

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