The Catholic Church in Australia has officially rejected the idea of requiring priests to report evidence of sexual abuse received via confession booth, despite the fact that the recommendation came straight from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that uncovered widespread abuse last year.
Their groundbreaking report found that the Archdiocese of Melbourne failed to deal with child sexual abuse allegations for several years, ultimately leading to “catastrophic human consequences.” The report also recommended some changes, including lifting the celibacy requirement and requiring priests to report abuse revealed during confessions.
The Catholic Church hasn’t budged on the celibacy rules (despite evidence showing it’s a major precipitating risk factor) and now it has officially rejected the recommendation involving confessions and sexual abuse.
On Friday, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and the Catholic Religious Australia — the top body for religious orders in the country — accepted many of the recommendations in the report, but pointedly pushed back on any breach of the seal of confession, calling the idea “contrary to our faith and inimical to religious liberty.”
“We are committed to the safeguarding of children and vulnerable people while maintaining the seal,” the conference president, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, and CRA President Sister Monica Cavanagh, said Friday.
Coleridge acknowledged that the church reaction to child sex abuse had sometimes been too slow, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.“Those failures allowed some abusers to offend again and again, with tragic and sometimes fatal consequences,” he said.
Someone just locked up the award for understatement of the year…
Yes, the Church was slow to respond. It was also negligent. It was also responsible for years of cover-ups, and for failing to take proper precautions in the first place. The confession booth is a perfect example of dogma outweighing common sense. In one case, a priest confessed to committing 1,500 instances of molestation (not a typo) to 30 separate priests over 25 years. Because of the sacred seal, though, no one ever reported his crimes, allowing the abuse to continue.
If you aren’t willing to make changes that involve priests reporting information about sexual abuse against children, can you really be that committed to fixing this problem?
The gravity of the problem is lost on the Catholic Church to the point where they’re not even taking seriously a comprehensive report that outlines how they can fix this. If they don’t understand or accept the origins of these issues, why should anyone feel safe in their presence?
The Catholic representatives here promised the bare minimum: they said they wouldn’t actively cover-up for abusers, and that they wouldn’t simply transfer away those priests who are accused. But they stopped short of accepting big rule changes that could actually save children’s lives. They’re not taking the steps that show they’re actually committed to being part of the solution for the problem they created.
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