Catholic bishops in Queensland want to maintain the secrecy of the confessional while extending their support for expanding mandatory reporting laws for child sexual abuse, redports The Australian.
Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge said bishops and congregational leaders believed in expanding Queensland legislation to allow for the compulsory reporting to police of a reasonable suspicion of sexual abuse of a child or a person with a disability.
But in a co-signed submission to the state's child protection inquiry, Archbishop Coleridge and Catholic Religious Australia vice-president Libbey Byrne said any legal changes should be limited to current clerics and staff and the relevant bishop. Further, they said any mandatory reporting requirements should be subject to the sanctity of confession.
"What a penitent says to a priest under protection of the sacramental seal is said to have passed within the 'internal forum'," the submission said.
"It is the absolute sanctity of what passes between penitent and priest in the internal forum that the canon law provisions . . . are designed to protect.
"Civil laws which put at odds this Catholic position ought be avoided on the ground that our civil society is one that respects the religious freedom of its citizens."
Churches were asked to provide their views on the extension of mandatory-reporting provisions on the opening day of public hearings into the inquiry to create a more efficient and effective child-safety system.
Under the Queensland Catholic bishops' proposal, a bishop or his delegate would have the statutory obligation to report allegations to police but a general requirement should not be extended to parishioners. Likewise, only active clergy should be captured under the laws.
FULL STORY Qld bishops want to guard sanctity of confession (Australian)