The Catholic Church has rejected not just the recommendations from the Royal Commission, but also the advice of its own Truth Justice and Healing Council, by refusing to support lifting the veil of secrecy that prevents priests from telling police about child sexual abuse they hear in the confessional.
With the Church refusing to act, it is essential that all Australian governments immediately legislate to break the culture of secrecy in the Church and once and for all put children before religion.
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said:
“It is deeply disappointing to see the Australian Council of Bishops so firmly stuck in the past and refusing to accept that the culture of secrecy has failed the children in its care.
“We cannot let an institution that has so appallingly failed children to veto essential child safety reforms.
“The Catholic Church is not just rejecting the Royal Commission, it’s also rejecting the advice from its own Truth Justice and Healing Council in refusing to make this change.
“The ball is now firmly in the Court of the Federal and all State and Territory governments to join with every Greens MP across the country and legislate to break the secret seal and report all child abuse to police.
Greens NSW MP David Shoebridge said:
“The Council of Bishops are not just out of touch with the broader community, they have lost touch with many practicing Catholics around the country who are desperately looking for reform.
“It has taken enormous courage for the Truth Justice and Healing Council to recommend that mandatory reporting laws should extend to information about child sexual abuse disclosed in a religious confession.
“No elected representative should ever place religious doctrine before protecting children from child sexual abuse. The Catholic Church must be brought into the 21st century through urgent law reform.
“The remark made by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference that removing the seal is ‘inimical to religious liberty’ fails to understand that with liberties comes responsibility and it reflects how truly out of touch the Bishops are.
“With the Catholic Church refusing to act, Parliaments must.
“Any Parliament that refuses to legislate this fundamental and symbolic reform will be harshly judged by the community and posterity."
Recommendation 7.4 of the TJHC is below:
7.4 Laws concerning mandatory reporting to child protection authorities should not exempt persons in religious ministry from being required to report knowledge or suspicions formed, in whole or in part, on the basis of information disclosed in or in connection with a religious confession.
Lucy Cowcher-Guthrie 0418 401 180
David Shoebridge 9230 3030 / 0408 113 952