Greg Craven makes some telling points in critiquing the pressure from the Gillard Government and the media generally for removing the sanctity of the Catholic confessional. If the inviolability of the confessional is not respected, why shouldn’t lawyers be forced to reveal evidence implicating their clients? Or journalists be forced to reveal their sources?
Why would anyone confess to such a crime knowing that the Priest will reveal the confidence? Craven is also correct in noting that a Priest will not grant absolution unless the confessor agrees to turn himself/herself into the Police.
Section 116 of the Constitution bans the Parliament from prohibiting the free exercise of religion. In the Catholic Church, the sealed confession is integral to the faith.
I have a number of concerns about the attacks on the Catholic church over child abuse. There is no evidence that there is a greater proportion of abusers among priests as against the general population. The accusation of being a paedophile is today so grave that it surpasses even mass murder in the view of many as a criminal action. So people need to be extremely careful before pointing fingers at a person or group. Just look at the scandal in the Government-owned BBC where for years it protected an alleged paedophile (Jimmy Saville) and then falsely accuses Lord McAlpine of such an abuse without any evidence. This from the public broadcaster.
Why should child abuse among Aborigines be excluded from the Royal Commission? I’m happy for the Government to have an inquiry into this hideous crime, but instead the inquiry seems to be a way to smear Tony Abbott as a Catholic.
As far as I can see, there have been many more members of the Labor party convicted of child abuse than Catholic Priests. For example Stephen de Rozairio, Bill D’Arcy, Terry Martin, Keith Wright and Milton Orkopoulos. That’s five Labor members (four of whom were Labor MPs) jailed for child abuse. And then, as Abu points out in the comments, former NT Chief Minister Bob Collins, was charged with child sexual assault but died before the trial concluded.
It is interesting and rather hypocritical that the Government seems to want to break the seal of the confession while members of its own party didn’t tell authorities of and / or covered up criminal activities involving the AWU and the HSU. Why shouldn’t members of the ALP be forced to tell all regarding confidences given them by Craig Thompson? Why shouldn’t the Prime Minister be forced to reveal everything relating to the AWU? So we have a Government which has masters of cover up trying to allege a cover up in the Catholic church. That seems to be a diversion rather than an ethical inquiry into a hideous crime.
The real risk from the Royal Commission is that it will turn into a witch hunt / lynch mob as people get falsely accused and defamed. Can allegations of child abuse be made in the context of this Royal Commission without fear of later defamation action? Just because a supposed victim asserts that a person committed child abuse is not proof that it did occur.
Any priest worth his salt would prefer to go to jail than break his solemn vow of hearing a confession.