Should Priests Report Child Sexual Abuse Heard in Confessionals?

The Australian Tribunal into Child Sexual Abuse has recommended that priests must report offenders when they admit to their crime in the confessional box. The Church has retaliated with the claim that the confessions are sanctified. To understand what that means one must look at the word ‘sanctuary’ and all that entails. ‘San-c’ relates to ‘saint’ and to be sanctified means to be made ‘holy’ through the power of God.

What we know of those who practice child abuse is that there is nothing that can make them holy. They are sick in their minds and will re-offend. The best that can be offered by way of confessing these so-called sins, which by law are crimes, is an enabling pardon that will be forgotten in the face of the next victim.

One priest interviewed on radio suggested that if such a person were to be heard then the relevant pastor could only promise remission of the sun if they present themselves to the police. That means that the priest would not be involved in any follow-up.

To understand this situation one should look at the Catholic Church. In recent times the most frequent trade in child sexual abuse appears to be within its ranks. It may be the case, therefore, that if all who confessed such an act was reported to the law and subsequently jailed that the church would have few officers left to conduct its business.

Meanwhile the tribunal has drawn this conclusion after 5 years of hearing from victims. If this is their recommendation, then the priests surely have an obligation to act on it.

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