Thursday, July 19, 2012

Priest Could Be Ordered to Break Seal of Confession in Australia

A legislative committee in Australia’s state of Victoria is questioning whether the government should honor the confessional seal with new laws to toughen requirements for reporting abuse of children.
The prospect of government forcing priests to report what was said in confession is the sign of a "police state mentality", says one Australian priest and law professor.

Hundreds of years of Catholic tradition in the confessional could be overturned by Victoria's inquiry into child sex abuse. Priests would be ordered to reveal crimes told to them in private confessions under one proposal before the inquiry.

But priests say they will resist being forced to reveal secrets of the confessional.

Priest and law professor Father Frank Brennan said the move would be a restriction on religious freedom.
“If a parliamentary inquiry were to recommend a law by parliament saying that priests were forced to disclose anything revealed to them in the sacrament of confession I think that would be a serious interference with the right of religious freedom,” Father Brennan said today.

“Indeed it would be a very sad day if we moved to a police state mentality, it’s almost of Russian dimensions to suggest Catholic priests would have to reveal to state authorities what went on under the seal of the confessional.

“I am one of the priests who, if such a law were enacted, would disobey it and if need be I would go to jail.”

Father Brennan said disclosures to priests in the confessional were different to those made to doctors or counsellors, or even when a priest was acting in a counsellor role.

“If it were in the sacred realm of the sacrament of confession which in Catholic theology is akin to the penitent being in conversation with God, where the priest is simply an agent, then definitely the state has no role of interference in that.”


  1. If it ever becomes a law of the land, I have no idea how it could be actually implemented in practice! Besides, it essentially penalizes against Roman Catholics and Eastern/Oriental Orthodox! What about Anglicans and Protestants, who regard confession as purely optional, or in most cases altogether nonexistent? Why should they miss out???

  2. Fertile ground for future martyrs.