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What is the party’s position on the status of the confessional seal in NSW?

It should be maintained, although I would urge the Church as an employer to ensure that anyone on its payroll confessing to the evil of child sexual abuse be reported to the police.

 


We oppose any moves to legally require priests to disclose information revealed to them during confession.

 


NSW Labor supports the application of the criminal law. in particular s316 and s316A of the Crimes Act, to those who obtain information in confession. Failure to report child abuse should not be excused because information was obtained in confession.


The Christian Democratic Party believes Churches have the right to carry out their religious beliefs and customs without fear of retribution.

The Christian Democratic Party understands Australian law currently grants Catholic priests an exemption from reporting crimes revealed to them during Confession. The Catholic Code of Canon Law states that ‘The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason’. The seal of confession is important to Catholics for the purpose of receiving absolution. If a great sin was confessed and should to be shared with authorities, then it would be encouraged that the person speak with the priest outside of the seal of confession and agree that authorities should be notified.

The Christian Democratic Party believes policy should remain with the status quo and grant exemption under the seal of confession.


The NSW Government has implemented a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to introduce a new failure to report offence. Section 316A of the Crimes Act 1900 commenced on 31 August 2018.

A further recommendation of the Royal Commission was that any legislation introducing such an offence should also apply to information disclosed in, or in connection with, a religious confession, and that legislation should exclude any existing excuse, protection or privilege necessary to achieve this objective.

Section 127 of the Evidence Act 1995 provides a privilege in respect of religious confessions. This provision is part of the Uniform Evidence Law, which has been adopted in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, the ACT, the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth. To ensure uniformity among Uniform Evidence Law jurisdictions, the NSW Government considers that addressing the issue of confessional privilege requires a national approach.

All Australian states and territories recently committed to continue working together to progress the implementation of the Royal Commission’s recommendations requiring national coordination, including the issue of confessional privilege.


The confessional seal has been used to protect paedophile priests and allow them to keep offending and harming children. It should be abolished.

 


The confessional seal is an important element of the Catholic faith, and we acknowledge despite other parties insinuations, that its presence does not hinder the reporting of abuse.

 


The AJP recognises that the confessional seal is an integral part to the religion’s practices. However, based on our foundational principles, the party acknowledges the recommendations made from the recent Royal Commission into child abuse and hold the position that priests must break the confessional seal in instances where normal mandatory reporting laws would apply for cases of serious abuse or neglect of children.

The party also welcomes an open dialogue with the church in ensuring that priests are adequately and appropriately responding to confessions that disclose any immediate or potential risk of harm to the person, someone else, or an animal.

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