Australia’s bishops reject govt proposal to report child abuse confessions

Australia’s bishops reject govt proposal to report child abuse confessions Sr Monica Cavanagh

Australia’s Catholic bishops and religious orders, responding to recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, accepted 98% of its suggestions, but said they could not accept recommendations that would violate the Seal of Confession.

“We are committed to the safeguarding of children and vulnerable people while maintaining the seal. We do not see safeguarding and the seal as mutually exclusive,” said the preamble to a 57-page response to dozens of recommendations concerning child safety, formation of priest and religious workers, ongoing training in child safety and even out-of-home care service providers.

The response, published on August 31, came eight-and-a-half months after the Royal Commission released its 17-volume report on child sexual abuse. The report was based on five years of hearings, nearly 26,000 emails, and more than 42,000 phone calls from concerned Australians. In February 2017, Australian Church leaders spent three weeks testifying before the commission.


In a statement published with their response, Josephite Sr Monica Cavanagh, president of Catholic Religious Australia, and Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, president of the Australia Catholic Bishops’ Conference, expressed “their deep sorrow that vulnerable children were abused, weren’t believed and weren’t supported when seeking justice”.

Sr Cavanagh said: “The process is already underway to reform the Church’s practices to ensure that safeguarding is integral in all that we do as part of our ministry and outreach in the community.”

The statement said Archbishop Coleridge acknowledged that the Church’s response to the abuse scandal had been “too slow and too timid”.

“Many bishops failed to listen, failed to believe, and failed to act,” he was quoted as saying. “Those failures allowed some abusers to offend again and again, with tragic and sometimes fatal consequences.”

The Church’s response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations, he said, is “a plan of action; it is our pledge to the Australian people; it is our promise of transparency and accountability.”