Circumscribing the seal of the confessional

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In November 2016, I was asked about the seal of the confessional and told the Australian: 'If a law is introduced to say that a priest should reveal a confession, I'm one of those priests who will disobey the law.' On 3 December 2016, I had the opportunity to explain myself, writing in the Weekend Australian: 'A priest should never be required to disclose anything heard under the seal of the confessional.

Confessional

'The state has the same right to regulate matters for a priest outside the confessional as to regulate matters for all other citizens outside the confessional. Not one child will be saved by abolishing the seal of the confessional. With the seal intact, the occasional paedophile might find a listening ear to assist with the decision to turn himself in.'

This brought me to the attention of Justice Peter McClellan's royal commission. He called me to appear before his commissioners on 9 February 2017 alongside the respected canon lawyer Fr Ian Waters who explained that the seal of the confessional covered the sins of the penitent, but not other matters. I agreed with Fr Waters.

I gave the example of a little girl Sally who comes to confession and tells me that she stole the jelly beans and that her stepfather did something nasty to her. I said that I could never reveal or act upon Sally's confession of having stolen the jelly beans, but I could act on Sally's assertion about her stepfather in the same way as I could if the assertion were made outside the confessional. It would be a matter of pastoral prudence and care for Sally and her family.

There was a difference of opinion on the panel, with the one bishop in attendance, Bishop Terence Curtin, who was chair of the Bishops' Commission for Doctrine and Morals, varying his testimony to agree more with the position put by Fr Waters. I put a suggestion:

FATHER BRENNAN: Could I suggest the appropriate course would be to have Bishop Terry's committee of the Bishops Conference put in a particular submission to you articulating what is the received theological view of the Catholic Church in Australia on the seal of the confessional?

BISHOP CURTIN: Yes.

THE CHAIR: Will we get one view?

BISHOP CURTIN: Yes, you would.

FATHER BRENNAN: That's the advantage of a hierarchy, your Honour.

A panel of the most senior archbishops was then to appear before the commission on 24 February 2017. Like many, I expected that by then the bishops would have worked out a clear united position on the limits of the seal. They did not; they publicly disagreed. I then urged our bishops to have their Commission for Doctrine and Morals (perhaps in consultation with the Bishops Commission for Canon Law) provide the royal commission with a timely, succinct statement on the limits of the seal. They did not.

 

"They had no intention of providing the royal commission with a clear statement on the limits of the seal of the confessional. They were simply unable to do so. "

 

The bishops then discussed the matter at their regular plenary assembly in May 2017. They resolved nothing but issued a breathtaking media release: 'The discussion was pastoral rather than tactical ... The bishops were not simply responding to the royal commission but pursuing a broader pastoral discussion about how to help and support our priests and our people to reassure them about the practical application of the Sacrament of Penance at times when the seal of the confessional comes up.'

They had no intention of providing the royal commission with a clear statement on the limits of the seal of the confessional. They were simply unable to do so. They met again at their next plenary meeting in November 2017 and once again left the matter unresolved. One of them, Archbishop Philip Wilson, decided to seek formal guidance from Rome. By the time the royal commission reported to government in December 2017, neither our bishops nor Rome had provided any clarification on the limits of the seal of the confessional. They still haven't.

The royal commission was remarkably constrained in recommending that 'the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference should consult with the Holy See, and make public any advice received, in order to clarify whether information received from a child during the sacrament of reconciliation that they have been sexually abused is covered by the seal of confession' (Recommendation 16.26).

Since then, the community, the faithful, and priests are none the wiser. Fr Waters published an article in July 2017 stating that 'it is simply quite incorrect to say, "Whatever I tell a priest in a confessional will never by revealed by him to anyone." More accurately, canon 983 states that whatever sins of a penitent confessed by the penitent to the priest during the celebration of the sacrament of penance must never be revealed by the priest to anyone — a very different matter.'

In April 2018, Archbishop Anthony Fisher, Archbishop of Sydney, published an article disagreeing with Fr Waters and asserting that 'the clear teaching of the church is that no priest may report to the civil authorities or anyone else what he has learnt from a penitent in confession. Any priest who did so would automatically be excommunicated and subject to further ecclesiastical penalties.' Taken to its logical conclusion, Archbishop Fisher's claim would render me liable to automatic excommunication if I were to reveal that it's raining in Melbourne today and I know this because Sally told me in confession.

There is no way I would want to defend a seal of the confessional so widely drawn. However, I do think there is a case for respecting the seal of the confessional tightly defined as done by the canonist Fr Waters. But to do that, the Church would need to get its act together.

So, let me offer a rationale for maintaining a circumscribed seal of the confessional. Given the history of child sexual abuse and the past institutional failures to safeguard against it, the state has a legitimate interest in including church workers and ministers of religion in the class of persons required mandatorily to report to authorities when they suspect on reasonable grounds that a child is, or may be, at risk when that suspicion is formed in the course of the person's employment. I fully support all proposed state and territory laws which would extend mandatory reporting to anyone who works for a church organisation in any role, in the same way as it applies to teachers, social workers and police officers.

In Australia, at the Commonwealth and state level, we have laws in relation to the admission of evidence in legal proceedings. All jurisdictions extend a privilege of non-disclosure to three classes of evidence: evidence of discussions between lawyers and their clients in preparation of their cases; evidence of information shared with a journalist by a protected source assured anonymity; and 'a confession made by a person to a member of the clergy in the member's professional capacity according to the ritual of the church or religious denomination'.

 

"I still think the issue is a red herring ... a tenth order issue when it comes to reform of the Catholic Church to ensure the safety of children. Those who focus on it strongly tend to be people with little understanding or experience of how confession is actually practised."

 

When it comes to child abuse, is there a case for maintaining the first two privileges at the discretion of the client or source while abolishing the third regardless of the views of the penitent?

We know from the royal commission that paedophiles tend to be manipulative and deceptive. They are expert at flying under the radar. A person coming to confession can choose to attend at any church, including one where he is not known. He can choose whether to confess anonymously behind the grille or openly in front of the priest. In 33 years as a priest, I have never had anyone confess child sexual abuse to me. I think the prospect of that happening will not be increased by removing the privilege in relation to the confessional seal.

It is far more likely that a criminal lawyer or family lawyer will learn of child sexual abuse from their clients than will a priest in confession. It is far more likely that an investigative journalist would learn of child sexual abuse from an undercover source than a priest sitting behind the confessional grille unable to identify the penitent. Deciding to maintain the privilege between clients and their lawyers and between journalists and their sources, the state makes an assessment about conflicting goods. It's the only way that citizens can get their legal advice. It's the only way the media can get their stories necessary to protect our fragile democracy.

I readily concede that many non-religious citizens have little sympathy or understanding of the religious worth of a personal confession under the seal. But such a practice to date has been an integral element of freedom of religion for some citizens. States like South Australia without any human rights act have blithely legislated to take away this aspect of religious freedom without assessing whether its abolition does anything other than assuage the outrage of people in the community towards anything distinctively Catholic or religious.

At least the ACT with its human rights act has instituted a process for determining whether this proposed interference with religious freedom is warranted, offering to engage in a dialogue with the church about whether the proposed restriction is reasonable and demonstrably justified taking into account the nature of the right affected, the importance of the purpose of the limitation, the nature and extent of the limitation, and the relation between the limitation and its purpose, ensuring that the proposed law is the least restrictive means reasonably available to achieve the purpose the limitation seeks to achieve.

I still think the issue is a red herring. I still think it is a tenth order issue when it comes to reform of the Catholic Church to ensure the safety of children. Those who focus on it strongly tend to be people with little understanding or experience of how confession is actually practised.

If the states and territories do ultimately legislate to abolish the seal of the confessional, I hope our bishops will have the good pastoral sense to resurrect the third rite of reconciliation which replaces individual confession with a communal rite of contrition and forgiveness. This would still be a loss to religious freedom, especially for those who crave the rare opportunity to make a clean slate of their life before God and to put out before a priest their sins and assurance of God's forgiveness. But in the present Australian climate, I don't expect too many of our lawmakers to lose sleep over that.

I do however confidently assert that the abolition of the legal protection of the seal of the confessional will not render one child safer and might just take away the occasional opportunity for an offender to come forward seeking God's forgiveness with a firm purpose of amendment, including the desire to turn himself in. I continue to assert that you can 'get it' in relation to child sexual abuse and still espouse the sanctity of the seal of the confessional properly understood and applied.

 

 

Frank BrennanFrank Brennan SJ is the CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia.

Topic tags: Frank Brennan, seal of confession, Philip Wilson, Anthony Fisher, royal commission, clergy sexual abuse

 

 

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Existing comments

It is not just 'people with little understanding or experience of how confession is actually practised' that have ... focus[ed] on it strongly' Frank. It's also the bishops themselves. Have you forgotten that is the first and only recommendation of the Commission to which the Bishops have publicly responded? This is just more of the self-serving clericalism that got the church into the morass of abuse in the first place. Little wonder that there exists what you call an 'outrage of people in the community towards anything distinctively Catholic or religious'.
Ginger Meggs | 20 August 2018


Communication between persons where confidentiality is paramount should bring an awareness of freedom and responsibility. When this is enacted in a religious setting then God is seen as part of this self-revelation. While testimony at the Royal Commission did show instances of misuse it is important for this sacrament to remain a sacrament of trust between the two people involved.
Pam | 20 August 2018


How Pam can you talk about 'trust' in the light of the revelations of the Royal Commission? The testimony to which you refer was about 'abuse' rather than 'misuse' and the 'instances' were arguably only the tip of the iceberg.
Ginger Meggs | 21 August 2018


The Australian Bishops beggar belief. Why in God's name couldn't they explain and defend the seal as a united front when they had the opportunity? It might have avoided the necessity for the Commission to act without the benefit of the specialised knowledge that was denied them.
john frawley | 21 August 2018


Fr. Frank, could you clarify what makes a valid confession. My understanding is that the penitent must have a genuine desire for forgiveness, and I would have thought that if someone did confess to such a sin, part of the penance would probably to "make it better" for the victim by owning up to it. If such a penance was rejected, then, it seems to me no valid confession has been made, and so the "seal" would not apply. I accept the likelihood of a confession is low to the extreme.
Peter Bowron | 21 August 2018


Ginger Meggs, I too am appalled at the revelations of the Royal Commission and feel the Catholic church (and other churches) have a long journey to reach an understanding of just what has been destroyed. The sacraments are about our interaction with God as well as each other.
Pam | 21 August 2018


"Not one child will be saved by abolishing the seal of the confessional". What a statement to make. You repeat it again and again throughout the media. As a parent I would say that I can recognise the danger to my child. I repeat that I have never given permission for any priest to put my child at risk. We heard in testimony at the Royal Commission of confessions of pedophilia. Will we demand that the safety of children be put first? This seal is part of oppression by religion. Argue for religious freedom but not when it puts children at risk!!
Patricia Hamilton | 21 August 2018


One step in the right direction: All Clergy, lay employers, volunteers in church communities, and Catholic run institutions, are also now requested to present a WWCC.
AO | 21 August 2018


What we have now is a situation where there is a clash of laws: Catholic (Canon) Church law and established Australian law which currently compels the reporting of abuse to Police. The Catholic Church is asking for a special exemption. So, we have a decision to make. A massive change of attitude was required to even consider this change, yet here we are. Change has to start sometime no matter how awkward or difficult it might seem. The fact that certain Priests say they won’t obey this should not influence this decision as the safety of children should be the highest priority. We shouldn’t trust priests/the church to prioritise the safety of children as they have continually proved they don’t. What this law will do is to clearly state that in the matter of child abuse, priests are the same as everyone else in society and should be held to the same standards. I have no doubt it will be resisted by the Catholic Church and it may well take a few generations to be accepted, but that doesn’t make it wrong. History is littered with examples of the powerful resisting change. We wouldn’t allow this system of non-reporting in a confessional to be allowed if it was proposed now. Nor would we consider other religious groups such as Islam or Judaism to adopt a similar practice and place a similar demand on society that their religious law outrank civil law. We need to prioritise the safety of children above all else and this change is about that. Clearly, the Church cannot be trusted.
Tim | 22 August 2018


Thank you, Frank. A very helpful review of the issues here, and an explanation of a moderate Church position. It is very damaging to the broader dialogue that there seems to be no single Church position on what is covered by the seal of confession. Let's hope that the forthcoming response by the Bishops to the Royal Commission will be helpful in this regard.
Denis Fitzgerald | 22 August 2018


My opinion is. No adult human being can truly comprehend how emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and physically catastrophic it is for a child to be abused by an adult. UNLESS he or she is a biological parent. Or he or she has been abused as a child. It has been said an ontological change happens when a priest is ordained. I believe an ontological change also occurs when a human being becomes a biological parent. The Sacrament of marriage points to this. This new way of being gives depth to the understanding, of the pre-eminence preciousness of the soul of a child, people who are not parents have no access to. This Is why all parents will always put a child's safety first.
AO | 22 August 2018


An excellent unpacking of what could be done by Catholic priests in relation to the seal of confession without contravening canon law. Why doesn't the Australian Catholic clerical hierarchy listen to Frank Brennan instead of wringing their hands and squabbling among themselves?
Wayne McMillan | 22 August 2018


'Why in God's name couldn't they explain...?' Perhaps John Frawley it was not a case of 'could not' but rather 'would not'. A bit like the parent's response 'Because !' to the child's question 'Why?'. Those who are accustomed to receiving, and who believe they are entitled to, unquestioning obedience never take kindly to requests for explanation or rationale. The Church doesn't have this problem on its own but its authoritarian, hierarchical and almost hereditary structure is an ideal breeding ground for what is just another form of hubris..
Ginger Meggs | 22 August 2018


Thanks for this article.
Peter Aspin | 22 August 2018


Thank you Frank for your essay on this vexing issue. I totally agree with your conclusions about the Seal of Confession and that no pedophile would confess his wrong doing to a Priest . What completely beggars the imagination is the inability of our Australian Church Leaders to come to a definitive answer on the issue and other issues bedevilling the Church . One has to wonder what it is going to take them to realise the perilous state of the Church in this country.
Gavin O'Brien | 22 August 2018


Frank, you assert that those in support of the Royal Commission’s carefully evidenced recommendation “strongly tend to be people with little understanding or experience of how confession is actually practised.” That seems a touch clericalist, even offensive. Let’s stick to the arguments. You continue to assert that not exempting the seal of the confessional “will not render one child safer.” The Royal Commission provides extensive carefully considered evidence to the contrary. You state that the Royal Commission was remarkably constrained in its recommendation, but you quote the recommendation to the Church. In its separate report 'Criminal Justice', released 14 August 2017, the RC recommended a new criminal offence of ‘failure to report’, specifically including information gained in religious confessions. You fail to mention that the Church or any confessor could at least make absolution dependent on self-reporting, a suggestion canvassed at the Royal Commission which could be helpfully implemented by Church leaders. Finally, would you respect the seal of confession if a terrorist confessed to you that he had planted bombs at the MCG to explode at the AFL Grand Final? The seal is important but needs some doctrinal review - it is not threatened by this very responsible civil law.
Peter Johnstone | 22 August 2018


Ginger, I suggest that it's not the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church that breeds child abuse, but rather the transgressions and failures of individuals who have produced a culture alien and anathema to the faith-community Christ envisaged and initiated to be his leaven in history and society.
John | 22 August 2018


Thank you, Frank. I've been wondering why there's been no public clarification of the Church's teaching on the Seal. Now I know. Those who understand it don't have the authority to explain it, and those who have the authority don't understand it. Yet the Bishops have had plenty of time, and so has the Vatican, to rule on this. Apparently our leaders are in disarray (how strange). Like you, I believe that not one child would be saved by effectively removing the Seal, and the real power of the Sacrament for good would be damaged beyond repair. But to deny our society any formal response or acknowledgement of the scope of the problem can only do harm. The Bishops are seen, quite unfairly, as self-serving, secretive and diabolically clever, a kind of corporate Fu Manchu of the ecclesiastical world. They're not. In this at least, they're just drongos.
Joan Seymour | 22 August 2018


I am not a canon lawyer. But the old time Australian lawyer in me prompted me to put this question to the canonists in 2017. The key provisions of the Code of Canon Law are:

983(1) The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.

984(1) A confessor is prohibited completely from using knowledge acquired from confession to the detriment of the penitent even when any danger of revelation is excluded.

If the position put by Archbishop Fisher is indeed correct, and if the position put by Fr Ian Waters is incorrect, would it not be clearer and simpler for these canons of the Code to be amended simply to provide:

983(1) The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to disclose anything said or apprehended during a confession.

984(1) A confessor is prohibited completely from using any knowledge acquired from confession.

If no clear, comprehensible answer can be given to this question, we Catholics will need to accept that the theology and law of the seal are inaccessible to us mere mortals. And we cannot expect fellow citizens who do not share our commitment to the Church's theology and law to extend a privilege in civil law over such an uncertain domain.


Frank Brennan SJ | 22 August 2018


Re: "Any priest who did so would automatically be excommunicated and subject to further ecclesiastical penalties." Hard to imagine ecclesiastical penalties that might be 'further' than excommunication... would they be the spiritual equivalent perhaps of the medieval practice of exhuming the corpse in order to hang, draw, and quarter it? Great article, as always, thank you for precision and clarity. And for making my day with your response to The Chair: "That's the advantage of a hierarchy, your Honour."
Richard Jupp | 22 August 2018


You say it is highly unlikely that a priest will learn about child abuse in the confessional, that the prospect of an abuser coming to you in confession will not be improved by removing the civil privilege in relation to the seal and the seal is a tenth order issue for reform of the Catholic Church to ensure the safety of children. You note that paedophiles tend to be manipulative and deceptive. Priests almost universally declare that abusers do not come to confession. You conclude confidently that abolishing the legal protection of the seal will not render one child safer. The summary of your argument against abolishing the legal privilege of the seal seems to be in the final paragraph: ‘[It] might just take away the occasional opportunity for the offender to come forward seeking God’s forgiveness with a firm purpose of amendment, including the desire to turn himself in’. Discussion on the seal has many of the characteristics of a hypothetical. As such it is both engaging and distracting but peripheral to the potential role of the sacrament of confession or reconciliation in relation to child abuse. How do you prioritise a clear strategy or process for dealing with knowledge of actual, ongoing child abuse against ‘might just take away the occasional opportunity ...’ ? The sacrament is much more than the seal. Peter Bowron’s questions need to be answered. Patricia Hamilton’s concerns are real. The comments of these and others highlight how the bishops and church authorities generally are letting good Catholics slip away from them and from the institutional church. Or should we say that the bishops are moving away from sincere, conscientious and committed Catholics. As for canon law, do we not also recognise another authority – conscience, personal integrity, authentic subjectivity?
Kevin Liston | 23 August 2018


Father Brennan, you told the royal commission on 9 February 2017 that the seal of the confessional covered the sins of the penitent, but not other matters. So if the little girl Sally told you that she stole the jelly beans and that her stepfather did something nasty to her, you would never reveal Sally's confession of stealing the jelly beans, but you could act on Sally's assertion about her stepfather because of "pastoral prudence and care for Sally and her family". I get that. Sally is a penitent when confessing about stealing, but when she tells you in the confessional about her stepfather she has committed no offence and is not a penitent. If that's right, there is no problem related canon law 983(1) "The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason." Sally is a penitent in relation to stealing but not in relation to her stepfather's action. She is an informant, and almost certainly crying out for help. I think, then, you make matters more confusing when you suggest: "would it not be clearer and simpler for these canons of the Code to be amended simply to provide: 983(1) The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to disclose anything said or apprehended during a confession. 984(1) A confessor is prohibited completely from using any knowledge acquired from confession? Surely, that would be a step backwards towards Archbishop Anthony Fisher's April 2018 position which, as you say: ' Taken to its logical conclusion...would render me liable to automatic excommunication if I were to reveal that it's raining in Melbourne today and I know this because Sally told me in confession." It seems to me that when Sally reveals the state of the weather she is not being a penitent. Nor is she being a penitent when she tells a priest about being a victim of abuse. She wants help. And it should be given.
Frank Golding | 23 August 2018


Frank, is there an option of modifying canon law to align with the Royal Commission recommendation? It may not be considered an acceptable option by the Church, but is it an option as a matter of canon law? Brendan McCarthy
Brendan McCarthy | 23 August 2018


Peter Johnstone. There seems little doubt that if the priest in the confessional did respond to the law which requires that he report any person who confesses to sexual abuse of children (or others), the apprehension and almost certain gaoling of the penitent offender would, as you indicate, probably save a number of future potential victims. The real problem, however, is how to police the law. Successful law enforcement is heavily dependent on surveillance, examination of records and correlation of the evidence of witnesses to the act and rarely on tittle tattle from a quixotic goodie-goodie (the confessor) on which this law depends. It the law is to be acted on, the confessional will require surveillance cameras and record keeping perhaps using sound recorders. Alternatively, confession could be undertaken in public, outspoken, as a congregational event with multiple witnesses. Clearly, paedophiles will not be rushing off to confession in any event.They already don't confess and that is how they continue to get away with it. Frank's assessment that this law "will not render one child safer" seems to be damningly correct. It seems this law is likely to be a toothless tiger. It is also highly likely that nothing will change regardless of the doctrinal review which you suggest.
john frawley | 24 August 2018


This exerpt is taken verbatim from an essay by Anne Manne Nov 6 2013 : "1975. A frightened school boy knocked on the door of the Presbytery at the Catholic Cathedral in the old gold mining city of Ballarat. He was seeking the person his devout family had taught him to trust above all others – a priest. Deeply troubled, he had come about a terrible secret. Only 14, he had been raped numerous times over several years by Brother Robert Best and Brother Edward Dowlan while a student at St Alipius. The heavy door swung open, and there stood a priest. The priest gave his answer to the child’s plea for help by taking him to a grubby toilet block in Lake Wendouree and raping him. As the boy was being raped, he stared in despair out of the window where he could see the palatial bluestone mansion that so handsomely housed the Bishop of Ballarat. The boy was Stephen Woods. The priest was the notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale." Seriously, confession to priests should be abolished, and priests and brothers should not be allowed to teach or have access to young boys. Turn the priesthood over to Nuns instead.
Frank Armstrong | 26 August 2018


john frawley, the question is whether there should be an exemption for Catholic confessors from a proposed offence of institutional failure to report child sexual abuse; confession is just one aspect. Difficulty in enforcing a law in one affected area is not an argument for exempting that area. The issue is that confessors would be required to report a known paedophile - the principle that paedophiles at large should be reported to protect children is sound. The assertion that the application of the law to confessors "will not render one child safer" flies in the face of the evidence and is simply an assertion without substance. Your assertion that nothing will change as a result of a doctrinal review shows little confidence in the Church's processes - perhaps you're right but that's all the more reason for demanding due process. I used an analogy above to test the seal: "should a confessor respect the seal of confession if a terrorist confessed that he had planted bombs at the MCG to explode at the AFL Grand Final?" This is a moral question that needs to applied to an inadequate canon law.
Peter Johnstone | 26 August 2018


Peter Johnstone. The problem with the "moral question" you propose is that it is highly unlikely that it would ever arise. The perpetrator is betraying himself in the face of dire consequences, something that all the evidence indicates is not the modus operandi of the paedophile or, indeed, the terrorist in your analogy.
john frawley | 27 August 2018


Here is the link to Hans Zollner SJ’s interview on ABC Breakfast: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/abuse-cover-up-allegations-targeting-pope/1017667. He discusses the seal of the confessional and says the canonical advice from Rome favours my restricted reading of the seal of the confessional.
Frank Brennan SJ | 29 August 2018


The term' Catholic priest' has become synonymous for the term 'child molester' these days.The media is having a field day Catholic bashing particularly our national broadcaster with its blatant innuendo. Today a religious expert said the Church was run very much along the same lines as sharia law when he was discussing the seal of the confessional Children must be protected and there has to be radical changes to ensure that. However breaking the seal of the confessional is not a solution. A child molester is hardly going to confess. How could a priest identify the person anyway? The perpetrator would go to a Church where they are not known. Catholic dogma is very clear about the confidentiality of the sacrament of confession. Dogma is not changed to suit the popular mores of the times. Someone tried that 500 years ago and the outcome resulted in confusion and myriad splinter denominations at odds with each other. Sadly priests are now going to be targets with stooges going into the confessional armed with recording devices to entrap them and quite frankly with the hysteria and anti Catholic feeling drummed up in the community by the cultural marxist media I fear for our priests . Not only should we pray for our priests but we must support them in any way we can It is a matter of urgency that the Church adopts strategies to protect them from entrapment.Like it or not Catholics believe that our priests are endowed with the power to forgive sins. They are by ordination made Christ's representatives on earth. It is a privilege but at the same time bears onerous responsibility. We need them .God bless them .There are very hard times ahead of us.
Cressida | 01 September 2018


This represents an unjustified attack on the Church. There is no evidence that breaking the seal of confession will reduce offending against children. It's a matter of common sense. Politicians and the media hostile to the Church will make the most of this refusal to comply, but Catholic priests are not accountable to the State in this matter. Their duty is to God. In the past, priests have been martyred for refusing to disclose information shared in confession. The prospect of prison will not them. All Catholics should stand with them. As should all those who value religious freedom.
Peter (Happy Jack) | 03 September 2018


I was interviewed on this matter on ABC Religion and Ethics on 3 October 2018. Listen at http://radio.abc.net.au/programitem/pgY74KM9XV?play=true
Frank Brennan SJ | 05 October 2018


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