Kieran Tapsell Canon Law
Author: Kieran Tapsell
Publication: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
1. Dr Austin’s report of 28 November 2016 to the Royal Commission states that bishops and religious superiors have an obligation to report child sexual abuse to the civil authorities where the civil law requires it because of Church moral teaching contained in an 1885 encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, and par 2242 of the Catholic Catechism requiring Catholics to obey civil laws that do not offend divine law, morality or the Gospels.
2. Canon law, like civil law, requires a moral obligation to be promulgated as law before it can become a legal obligation. Exceptions to such legal obligations also have to be promulgated as part of the law.
3. Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical and the Catholic Catechism are teaching documents setting out the beliefs and moral teachings of the Church. They are not legislative documents having legal effect, and they have never been promulgated as such to create, amend or qualify canon law.
4. The obligation to observe the pontifical secret over child sexual abuse was imposed by canon law with no exception within the law for reporting to the civil authorities until 2010 when a limited dispensation was given under Canon 85.
5. If moral obligations can create exceptions to canonical obligations, then canon law ceases to be a coherent legal system.
For more information visit: https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/sites/default/files/IND.0654.001.0001.pdf