Ballarat bishop says confession is sacred

By Tom McIlroy
Updated November 2 2012 - 5:00pm, first published July 22 2011 - 2:47pm
Bishop Peter Connors
Bishop Peter Connors

BALLARAT’S Catholic bishop has rejected calls to force priests to report admissions of child sexual abuse taken during confession, to police.South Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon this week called for priests to be required to report all admissions of child abuse to police, breaching the confidence of a priest and his parishioner. Bishop Peter Connors called on law makers to respect the sacrament of confession. “I would like to think parliamentarians would respect to the law of the church on this matter.“If priests were required to report these things, the seal of confession would be broken,” he said. Senator Xenophon, who proposed similar laws in 2003 as a member of the South Australian Parliament, said federal law should always overrule religious practices.“No church should be complicit in the cover-up of child abuse just so some paedophile can try and clear their conscience,’’ he said.Bishop Connors, who this week celebrated 50 years as a priest, said a conversation between a priest and parishioner outside of confession was a different matter. “A priest acting in good conscience would likely report that kind of conversation,” he said. He also said priests receiving confessions would encourage parishioners to approach police about matters of abuse themselves. Bishop Connors is the chairman of the the Australian Bishop’s Commission for Canon Law. Under current laws Victorian doctors, nurses, teachers and police must all report suspicions of child abuse. Religious leaders are not bound by the law, although a 1989 manslaughter case in New South Wales tested the confidentiality of confession. Senator Xenophon plans to write to state and territory attorneys-general to push for changes to legislation.

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