Forcing religious organisations to report child abuse by breaking the Catholic seal of confession will not "make children safer", according to Ballarat Diocese Bishop Paul Bird.
New legislation introduced to state parliament on Wednesday would include people in religious ministries added to the list of mandated reporters to child protection if there is a reasonable belief that physical or sexual abuse has occurred.
Although police, teachers, medical practitioners, nurses, school counsellors, and early childhood and youth justice workers were already on the list, priests and spiritual leaders were previously exempt.
A state government press release notes the confessional seal would be lifted for suspected abuse, which was an election commitment.
However, Bishop Paul Bird said that while he was keenly aware of the responsibility to keep children safe and supported the proposal to include religious ministers as mandatory reporters, "at the same time, Victorian law recognises the confidentiality of religious confession", he said in a statement.
"I do not believe that removing this confidentiality would make children safer," he said.
"It would simply guarantee that no one would ever confess child abuse in religious confession."
The Anglican Diocese of Ballarat has been instructed to act "as if they are mandated reporters" since the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, according to Bishop Garry Weatherill.
"We believe there is a moral obligation to engage in reporting child abuse of any kind," he said in a statement.
"Our clergy have been trained in reporting abuse or suspected abuse or neglect, notwithstanding any previous understanding of the "seal of the confessional"."
Any adult who fails to disclose information about a sexual offence against a child under 16 to police faces imprisonment of up to three years, and this bill means there will be no exemption from these penalties for religious confessions.
Further, Child Protection will also monitor how many reports are received from people in religious ministry. If they fail to follow the mandate to report a reasonable belief of physical and sexual abuse of a child under 18 years to child protection, they could face prosecution under the Child Youth and Families Act.
State Minister for Child Protection Luke Donellan said in a statement he expected the opposition to support the legislation.
"Everyone is expected to comply with the law - and if this bill passes there will be no exceptions," he said.
If you are affected by this story, phone the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault on 1800 806 292, or Lifeline 13 11 14.
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.