An Australian archbishop has warned that a new local law could penalise priests who refuse to break the seal of Confession in cases relating to child abuse.
The legislative assembly of the Australian Capital Territory has expanded regulations on abuse reporting to include information divulged in the confessional.
In an article for the Canberra Times, Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra and Goulburn, supported the effort to protect children but said that “breaking the sacred seal of Confession won’t prevent abuse”.
Archbishop Prowse said that the law would be ineffectual, partly because abusers would be unlikely to confess their crimes if “if they thought they would be reported”.
The archbishop added: “The government threatens religious freedom by appointing itself an expert on religious practices and by attempting to change the sacrament of Confession while delivering no improvement in the safety of children.”
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said: “They’re complex issues that need to be balanced with what people believe to be religious freedoms.”
The Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn has nine months to negotiate with the government before the law comes into effect.