Seal Confession Archbishop Perth
Title: Pastoral Letter to the
Catholic Community of the Archdiocese of Perth The Most Rev Timothy Costelloe SDB Archbishop of Perth
Author: The Most Rev Timothy Costelloe SDB Archbishop of Perth
Publisher: Catholic News
Date: 18 May 2020
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
On Thursday, 28 November 2019 the McGowan Government introduced the Children and
Community Services Amendment Bill (2019) to the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia.
McGowan Government introduced the Under the proposed legislation changes, Catholic priests would be required to report child sexual abuse that was disclosed to them during Sacrament of Penance. Put simply this means that if the Bill is passed into law it will become a criminal offence for priests in Western Australia to remain faithful to the teaching and tradition of the Catholic Church, which holds that any information gained by a priest in the course of celebrating Confession is subject to the requirement of absolute and unbreakable confidentiality – what is generally known as the Seal of Confession.
In commenting about this matter the Honourable Simone McGurk MLA, Minister for Child Protection; Women’s Interests; Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence and Community Services made the following comments:
“The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has demonstrated that the actions of institutions and individuals who concealed knowledge of sexual abuse provided a refuge and protection for perpetrators.
“The revelations of George Pell’s knowledge of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church are damning. The actions outlined in the findings released by the Royal Commission last week are completely unacceptable.
“The McGowan Government has taken the next step in implementing the Royal Commission recommendations by bringing the Children and Community Services Amendment Bill on for debate in the Legislative Assembly.
“We know that there is some opposition to the proposed extension of mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse to information gained by religious ministers during confession.
“To date, the Catholic Church has resisted change in this area, and publicly opposed breaking the seal of confession. The Catholic Archbishop of Perth has made his position on this very clear.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Children and Community Services Act (2004) to introduce mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse for ministers of religion. On Wednesday,
13 May 2020 the
Bill for debate.
Most Rev Timothy Costelloe SDB Archbishop of Perth
“Following the revelations about George Pell and what he knew about abuse occurring within the Church, it’s time for the Church’s leadership to put child safety first.
“The extension of mandatory reporting to ministers of religion signals very clearly that child safety is the number one priority.
“I call on the Archbishop to make that statement by supporting this legislation in full.
In view of the Minister’s direct “call” to me, and because of the importance of this matter for the Catholic Church, I am writing to you now to set out the position of the Church, and my position as the Archbishop of Perth, in relation to this issue.
As is so often the case, what is a very complex matter is being presented by some as a very simple thing: you can put child protection first, or put the Church’s teachings first, but you cannot have both. To explain why I do not accept this assertion will take time. I hope you will bear with me as I seek to explain, in what is inevitably a lengthy and detailed letter, the Church’s position on this matter.
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