Abuse inquiry calls raised at Vatican
Megan Neil – – Australian Associated Press 14/6/15
Archbishop Mark Coleridge will confer with the Vatican about breaking the seal of confession
The Catholic Church argues it can protect children without breaking the seal of confession, even if priests face the prospect of criminal charges for failing to report child sexual abuse.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge will hold talks with Vatican officials about the child abuse royal commission’s recommendations, which include the controversial call to break the sacramental seal to reveal child sexual abuse, particularly if made by clergy.
Archbishop Coleridge says the safety of children is paramount for the church in Australia but any measures must be realistic and effective.
“There’s nothing to suggest that legal abolition of the seal will help in that regard,” he said. “Whatever (the) questions of religious freedom or the sheer practicability of what’s proposed, the real question is will it make children any safer – and the church’s answer is no.”
The Brisbane archbishop said protecting children and upholding the integrity of Catholic sacraments are not mutually exclusive and the church will continue to work with governments to ensure both can be achieved and maintained.
Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter told ABC radio on Thursday secular protections around confessions had never been absolute.
He expects the states and territories will reach a position around the mandatory reporting of confessions of child sexual abuse, which would need only a “fairly minor” modification to the law.
Archbishop Coleridge leaves on the weekend for a 10-day visit to Rome, which will include meetings with Vatican officials about the royal commission’s recommendations for the universal church and the Australian church’s 2020 Plenary Council. He will also attend an international conference on child safety involving English-speaking Catholic leaders and experts.
The royal commission called on the Holy See to make numerous changes to centuries-old church canon law including that the “pontifical secret” does not apply to abuse allegations and to consider voluntary celibacy for diocesan clergy.
Archbishop Coleridge said the church in Australia has already implemented a number of the royal commission’s recommendations, also noting it was the first non-government institution to commit to the national redress scheme.
The federal government announced its formal response to the royal commission’s recommendations on Wednesday, establishing a national office for child safety and setting October 22 as the date for a national apology to institutional child sexual abuse survivors.