SYDNEY – The Australian states of Victoria and Tasmania have become the latest in the country to pass legislation criminalizing priests who fail to report the abuse of children disclosed during confession.

The country’s six states and two territories are all expected to have such laws in place in coming months.

But some clerics, including Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli, one of Australia’s most senior and vocal bishops, have vowed to ignore the laws in an effort to uphold the seal of the confessional.

Comensoli told Australian public radio that he would urge anyone who confessed to child sexual abuse to tell police. But he added that he, personally, would not break the seal, preferring to go to jail.

The laws broadly make it a crime if members of the clergy do not report abuse or suspected abuse to police.

Penalties for breaching the new laws range from fines to decades in prison, and the laws underscore the rollback of special concessions for the Church in Australia following the country’s landmark Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The laws have flowed from recommendations made by the Royal Commission, which ran from 2013 to 2017, when its findings were handed down along with 52 recommendations, many covering activities of the Church.

Victoria and Tasmania join Queensland and Western Australia as having passed or introduced such laws to parliament. New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory governments have signaled they will introduce legislation.

The new laws in Australia stand in contradiction to the Code of Canon Law, which states: “The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.”

At present, a priest who breaks the seal of confession would be subject to automatic excommunication, unless otherwise decided by the pope.

Along with Comensoli, other bishops also have vowed to ignore the new laws. These include Bishop Greg O’Kelly, apostolic administrator of Adelaide, and Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher. As well, all three bishops and other senior clerics have effectively described the new confessional laws as a distraction that would do nothing to halt child sexual abuse.

O’Kelly told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that, in 28 years as a priest, he had never had anyone confess to child sexual abuse, either anonymously or in person.

“If you’ve ever had anything to do with a pedophile, they think they’re innocent and so won’t line up at a confessional,” one veteran Australian priest who asked not to be named told CNS. “Common practice (for confession of any serious crime) is for a confessor to say ‘we need to talk about this outside the confessional’ and certainly to withhold absolution till the penitent has gone to the police.”

The emergence of the issue comes at a delicate time for the Australian Catholic Church, which is undertaking two major processes that would result in a root and branch reform of the institution.

The Plenary Council, Australia’s first in 80 years and a rarity anywhere in the Catholic world, will be held over two sessions, in 2020 and 2021.

A review of church governance at parish and diocesan levels began in May 2019 and is being undertaken by a six-person panel of lay Catholics, under the chairmanship of retired Western Australia Supreme Court Justice Neville Owen. He was also the head of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council formed to coordinate the Church’s response to the Royal Commission.


Australia is a sovereign state and is fully entitled to make it’s own laws.

The church’s Code of Canon Law is all about pprotecting the RCC and the higher you rise in the RCC the more rights you get.

Canon Law has been used by the hierarchy to hide sex abuse.

So, it’s time someone and soon nation took it on.

There is no reason that any state should allow any one religion to have exemptions fron the law on religious grounds.

So, I think the Aussies are right.

And the RCC will just have to put a notice outside each confession box which reads

Please be advised that if you confess child abuse here the priest will have to report you to the local police.


Sovereign State – what a laugh Buckley! Who is the Sovereign? Who misled her recently according to the Supreme Court? You are such a fool.


A totally unenforceable law unless the civil authorites bug confessionals, as the Army did in Armagh cathedral.

Or, more likely, activists will pretend to be penitents, lie and “confess” CSA, and then after a few weeks tell the authorities that they confessed but the priest did not pass on the info to the cops.


This is wonderful.
In fact the clergy have nothing to fear if the ‘common practice’ mentioned in the article is followed and since as is said paedophiles don’t confess to it.
This functions much more as a gunshot to indicate the days of protecting paedophiles and deference to the church are over.
It’s high time the RC church stopped expecting to be treated as special and excluded from the norms of society such as obligation to protect children.


5 14: In 45 years of no ministry I’ve never had anyone, lay or clerical, onfess the sin of child abuse. In cases of serious offences I always sought the commitment to make amends before absolution. If someonecwas trumy repentant I always suggested a donation to a charity. Today, if any person came to me to confess child abuse, the confession would then become a “conversation” where I would estimate my responsibilities and his/her responsibilities. Then the dynamic of that encounter woukd be very differently conducted. I could not, in conscience, allow an abuser to hide behind the seal of confession. I believe that when confession is used by any one to soften their conscience should, should be challenged. I’ve done it in relation to serious fraud and domestic abuse.


Perhaps Father you should ask your bishop to move you from Inisnumpty to a mainland parish. Forty five years is a long time in one place!


So is abuse, or covering up abuse, is this the sin that cannot be forgiven?
Pat, you knew of abuse and I have asked you before what you did about it?


Can’t argue hi. But as thfella says how do you I force it. Lots of stories from far flung nations. Is the well at home running dry. People rant and rave and call each other all sorts. Where is the action. Come out from behind the curtains in the valley of the squinting windows. Ya can only bang a drum so manny times till a wan gets fed up but


You said previously you knew about a PP who paid altar boys to sit on his lap for money.
What did you do about that? Did you report it to the police?


I found out about it years after it happened and the priest was dead. But I still reported it to my local PSNI Public Protection Unit.


Pat. Thank God you have either blocked Magna or he has gone off elsewhere. It was ruining this blog. I’ve noticed one or two old contributors back. Perhaps Big Lily, friend of’thon big dean’ and other former contributors will appear again and give us a laugh rather than the vile hatred and bile poured out by MC.


I think it’s time for an Irish blog to remind us of the Maynooth summer , where they are now , gorgeous etc

I seen an old character today from them days , ginger Rory , reminded me of the good old blog days


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