"Confession Booth" by Alejandro Linares Garcia / CC BY-SA 4.0"

Queensland passes law to jail priests for not reporting confessions of child sexual abuse

Sep 9, 2020

By Allyson Horn

Priests in Queensland will now be compelled to break the seal of confession to report child sexual abuse or face three years in jail.

New laws passed through Queensland Parliament will force members of the clergy to report known or suspected cases of abuse to police.

The legislation means religious institutions and their members are no longer able to use the sanctity of confessional as a defense or excuse in child sex abuse matters.

Police Minister Mark Ryan said the laws would ensure better protection for vulnerable children.

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9 comments on “Queensland passes law to jail priests for not reporting confessions of child sexual abuse

  • I don’t believe this new law will do anything to make the Catholic church do what is morally correct by reporting to the authorities cases of child sexual abuse heard in the confessional box. The church has a record of covering up abuse committed by its own clergy. It has always seemed more concerned about protecting the name of the church than helping the victims of that abuse

    It.is not a new law that is needed to bring about change, it is a new morality within the Catholic church that is needed. It has dragged its feet for far too long in dealing with historical abuse cases committed by its own clergy. Using the so-called sanctity of the confessional as an excuse is a cop-out, but the Catholic church is dogmatic in the extreme when it comes to its beliefs, so I don’t see that this new law will have the effect it is meant to have.



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  • 3
    Cairsley says:

    A Catholic priest who breaches the seal of the confessional would face severe penalties under canon law that no priest would want to risk (including loss of priestly office); so, if they hear the confession of a child-molester, they are much more likely to adhere to the requirements of canon law than to obey this new secular law passed by the Queensland state government. After all, who, apart from the penitent, the priest and, of course, God, would know?

    Even so, I do not think this new Queensland law is useless. Not at all! A priest who is struggling with his faith may, on hearing a child-molester’s confession, be brought to the point where he might decide differently. He might not only initiate the process of bringing justice to the molested child but might also begin a new course of life for himself, free from dogmatic superstitions and the like. More governments should be making it clear that members of the clergy in all churches, regardless of ecclesiatic laws, are expected and required by civil law to report child-molesters to the appropriate secular authorities. It is ridiculous that the safety of children should ever be respected less than the comfort and dignity of priestly child-molesters and status-conscious bishops on the grounds of nothing more than dogmatic superstitions! If we think we are more enlightened than the Aztecs who used to sacrifice children to their gods, perhaps we should think again.

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  • Back when I was Catholic, I was taught by the nuns that a priest is not obligated to absolve the perpetrator of a crime in the sacrament of penance. He may require the criminal to turn himself in as a condition for absolution. That said, I doubt that will happen with these child molesters, and what Joe Kerr said is right: the church needs a new morality. The church needs to know that unlike the military with its UCMJ and JAG, the church has no law enforcement or criminal justice authority, regardless of what they say about canon law.

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  • 5
    Cairsley says:

    … I was taught by the nuns that a priest is not obligated to absolve the perpetrator of a crime in the sacrament of penance. He may require the criminal to turn himself in as a condition for absolution. …

    Generally, that is correct; but in the case of priests (and vowed religious) confessing sexual abuse of minors, bishops in general and the Vatican have pursued a policy of keeping the crimes hidden from the secular authorities and managing the problems themselves, giving priority to protecting the Church’s reputation, fobbing off or discouraging complaints as much as possible and seriously failing to meet the needs of the victims for justice and healing. This has been an immense scandal hanging over the Church for decades now, and it has arisen, it seems to me, more because of ignorance, naïvety, arrogance and conceit — a disastrous case of superstition-induced stupidity and incompetence — on the part of the clergy from top to bottom, than out of any conscious evil intentions. Too many of them have conflated serving the interests of the Church with serving God, and the common good of society demands that they be relieved of the authority and influence over citizens’ lives with which they have been traditionally entrusted by the State for far too long.

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  • the church needs a new morality

    No, the church just needs to end. Religion’s time is done; we don’t need it any more.
    It can be said about many things: we don’t need tougher laws or harsher penalties; we need better people.

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  • Unfortunately ShadowMind, the reality is that the church is not just going to end and I doubt if the several billion people on this planet who are tied to one religion or another would say that it is done and not needed anymore. It will be a very long time before we reach that Utopia.

    I do agree though that we need better people.



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  • Holding  clergy accountable for criminal and unethical behavior would go a long way towards showing the members of those organizations that the clergy is NOT infallible and NOT above the civil laws. A demonstration that those (mostly) guys are only human just like the rest of us imperfect slobs is just what’s needed and that when they abuse innocent children and adults who trust them then there are consequences.

    Clergy of all types hold power over the congregations because they are seen as special individuals among us, some of whom have magical powers in direct connection to God. ~eye roll~

    Watching a member of any clergy on a perp walk after an arrest and then hearing and seeing video of a trial would be quite a reality check!

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  • @Alan4discussion #2

    They will probably intensively preach that canon law trumps civil law…

    Nailed it!

    That is at the core of this subject. Whether or not they outwardly preach it, it is a safe bet that the legitimacy of canon law is the overriding mindset of religious leadership. JFK gave, IMO, one of the finest speeches on the separation of church and state back in September 1960 in Houston, Texas. This was during his campaign for the presidency, and the fact that he was Catholic was a big issue. I wish religion could take the same stance: if it can’t reconcile with politics (and it categorically cannot), stay out of politics.

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