New Australian Government Rules Could Have Priests Arrested if They Don’t Break ‘Seal of Confessional’ to Report Sexual Abuse

Ribbons outside St Patrick's in Ballarat (Credit: ABC News, Danielle Bonica)
Ribbons outside St Patrick’s in Ballarat (Credit: ABC News, Danielle Bonica)

Legislation forcing priests to break the seal of the confessional to report child sexual abuse could be introduced within the year, as Victoria’s Attorney-General ponders legal avenues for victims who signed up under the Melbourne Response.

The Melbourne Response was a compensation model set up by Cardinal George Pell, who was last year convicted of child sexual offences.

The Cardinal is appealing against the conviction, but the news has prompted calls for the Melbourne Response to be torn down.

The Melbourne Response limited the amount of compensation a victim could seek.

But Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said the Government was looking at legislation that could allow those people to sue for more compensation.

“I do think there is a compelling case for government to look at what options might be available to us, so that work is currently being done,” she said.

The Victorian Government plans to introduce laws by the end of the year forcing priests to break the seal of the confessional to report abuse.

The State Opposition called for similar changes before the last state election, and while the Catholic Church said it welcomed the expansion of mandatory reporting, it maintained the confessional seal cannot be broken.

Father Kevin Maloney, the Vicar-General of the Diocese of Ballarat, said the church would need to consider its position if the changes become law.

“If that happens, the leadership in the church is going to have to sit down and work out how they’re going to respond to it,” he said.

“But from my point of view, if that law goes through that’s the law I’ll have to work with.”

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SOURCE: Stephanie Anderson