Catholic leaders ‘willing to go to jail’ to uphold seal of confession and not report child sex abuse
Catholic priests have said they are not willing to break the seal of confession to report child sex abuse, and would rather go to jail than abide by the law.
South Australia has joined the ACT in moving ahead with laws to force Catholic priests to break the seal of confession, to report paedophiles to police.
Other states are still deliberating over whether or not they will adopt that recommendation from the royal commission.
But Catholic Church leaders have rejected the idea.
Catholic priests and reporting child sex abuse
The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has again called on Pope Francis to dismiss Philip Wilson after the Archbishop of Adelaide refused to resign, following his conviction for covering up child abuse offences. This begs the question should priests who have knowledge or suspicion of child sex abuse report that to the police?
The role of Catholic Priests
In the Royal Commission into Child sexual abuses Senior Counsel Gail Furness told the Commission that:
“Children were ignored or worse, punished. Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious persons were moved. The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past. Documents were not kept, or they were destroyed”.
The case of Archbishop Phillip Wilson
Phillip Wilson was convicted of covering up abuse by priest Jim Fletcher in the NSW Hunter region in the 1970s, making him the most senior Catholic in the world to be convicted of concealing sexual abuse.He was sentenced to 12 months’ detention, eligible for parole after six months, but has said he will lodge an appeal against his conviction.
The Archbishop has also refused to quit his post.
Today the Prime Minister intensified the pressure on the Catholic Church by saying “the time has come for the Pope to sack him”.”There are many other leaders that have called on him to resign, it is clear that he should resign,” Mr Turnbull said.
He said it was time for “the ultimate authority in the church to take action and sack him”.
Wilson was the bishop of Wollongong before being elevated to Archbishop of Adelaide. He was also the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
History and statistics relating to child abuse
Wikipedia reports that historically, Church officials had often failed to prevent future abuse by clergy who had come to their attention by transferring clergy and religious leaders to new parishes or dioceses, and not stripping them of their religious status.
Of the 201 Catholic Church authorities surveyed by the Royal Commission, 92 (46%) reported having received at least one claim of child sexual abuse. Overall, some 4,444 claimants alleged incidents of abuse in 4,756 reported claims over the period 1950-2015 (86% of claims related to pre-1990 incidents).
Alleged perpetrators were overwhelmingly male (90%) and religious brothers were disproportionally highly responsible (having the most claimants and some 37% of all alleged perpetrators, despite being numerically inferior to priests and religious sisters). By means of a weighted index, the Commission found that at 75 archdioceses/dioceses and religious institutes with priest members examined, some 7 per cent of priests (who worked in Australia between 1950 and 2009) were alleged perpetrators (this finding did not represent allegations tested in a court of law)
By August 2011, according to Broken Rites, a support and advocacy group for church-related sex abuse victims, there had been over 100 cases in Australia where Catholic priests had been charged for sex offences against minors, as well as others involving non-custodial sentences and inconclusive proceedings.