What is worth protecting and fighting for? The answer to that question is straightforward: our children, writes Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli. Source: The Age.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse cast a much-needed light on the failures of many institutions across Australia, including government and church institutions, and most prominently my own church.
It grieves me daily to know that young, and now adult lives, have been devastated and destroyed through multiple failures by the Church. We failed to hear, to believe, and to act on credible information regarding child sexual abuse. There is no stepping aside from this fact, and it drives my ongoing commitment to personally do everything in my power to create and maintain safe environments for children in our schools and parishes.
I share the concern of our civic leaders that religious leaders like myself follow the laws of our land. I support religious ministers holding mandatory reporting responsibilities, a change the Church proposed in 2013. I have committed the Archdiocese of Melbourne to organisational and cultural change.
Alongside this commitment I will also uphold the seal of confession. I recognise that many people find it hard to understand, or relate, to the importance of confession in the lives of many Christians.
So why, when faced with Victoria's proposed new laws on mandatory reporting of child abuse, which would include information revealed in confession, would any reasonable Catholic person, or any person for that matter, express concern?
Violating the seal of confession does not address any reform needed to protect children from abuse in institutions and other contexts, which is the fundamental point of the royal commission.
What is proposed is unworkable. It shows a significant lack of understanding about the act of confession – particularly ignoring the anonymity of this sacrament and the very real expectations of Catholic families that clergy will respect the strictest confidentiality of the seal of confession.
The Victorian Charter of Human Rights protects the freedom to demonstrate a person’s religion and belief in worship, and their observance and practice as a basic human right. The proposed new laws on the sacrament of confession effectively deprive this basic human right to Victorians of faith, and in particular, members of the Church.