Tasmanian Catholic Churches Won't Follow New Law Requiring Priests To Break Seal Of Confession To Report Pedophiles
Tasmanian's government recently voted in favour of legislation that compels priests in Catholic churches across the state to go to police if someone admits to child sex crimes during confession.
It's a contentious issue because it means these priests will be breaking the Seal of Confession, one of their biggest duties.
While many in the community might sleep a little easier knowing priests will now be on their side and put pedophiles behind bars, it doesn't seem that clear cut.
Tasmania's most senior Catholic said they won't be following the law of the land, known as secular law, because they have a commitment to God.
In a statement, Archbishop Julian Porteous said: "I believe the Tasmanian bill will not strengthen protections for children and vulnerable people, but it will have the opposite effect - as offenders will be less likely to come forward to confess serious sins for fear of being reported,"
"This will deny priests the opportunity to encourage offenders to report themselves to police."
He might want to reconsider that outlook considering the penalty for not reporting perpetrators of child sex abuse, which also applies to every Tasmanian, is up to 21 years behind bars and a fine of up to $3,320.
Unsurprisingly, this decision from Archbishop Porteous has prompted a serious backlash from victims groups and the government.
Beyond Abuse spokesman Steve Fisher told the ABC: "Our question to them is how much damage does it do to the 14, 15-year-old child who goes into the confession booth asking for help and is then told that no, we won't be doing anything.
"That will further traumatise him or her and he may never come forward again. They really, really need to look at what is best for survivors instead of what is best for the church."
Archbishop Porteous' comments come after a similar sentiment was made by Melbourne's Archbishop Peter Comensoli.
Melbourne's most senior Catholic revealed that he wouldn't report child sex abuse claims to police, or other crimes, if it was said to him during confession.
Speaking to ABC Radio, Archbishop Comensoli told host John Faine: "Personally, I'll keep the seal.
"I will speak to the person there and then about how they will need to go to the police about this or an appropriate authority and [ask them] at the end of the confession to repeat what they said outside of the seal so I can act.
"My basic position in this: I hold the principle of mandatory reporting...I also hold on to the principle of the seal of confession.
"I don't see them as mutually exclusive."
The high ranking Australian Catholic said he would rather go to jail in order to uphold his pledge to his job and to God than go to police with information about a potential abuser.
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