A movement to force Queensland priests to report crimes of child sexual abuse revealed during confessions would not make children safer, said the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane.
Mark Coleridge has opposed a state government plan to legislate against the sanctity of the confessional as an excuse, defense or privilege.
In his presentation to the committee considering the bill, the archbishop said it would be unfeasible and does not understand the practical aspects of a confessional.
“The mechanism within this legislation that deals with the confessional seal simply will not make a difference in the safety of our youth,” he wrote.
The law proposed by the Queensland government is in line with a recommendation from the Royal Commission on institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
It includes the lack of protection of the crime that entails up to five years in prison and up to three for not reporting the abuse.
However, the archbishop said there is a confession between the penitent and God, with the priest’s task of allowing that dialogue.
“The proposed legislation would make the priest at this vital point less a servant of God than an agent of the state,” he added.
“The clerics died because they refused to submit to the claims of the state and preferred to defend the rights of the penitent before God and the rights of God before the penitent.
“This legislation is destined to fail in this regard.”
The archbishop said the church was committed to the protection of children, but rejected accusations that the seal of the confession should be violated because it facilitated secrecy and cover-ups.
Tim Reid, general manager of the Anglican Church in southern Queensland, wrote in his presentation that there was nothing in force in the law of the Anglican Church in the diocese that prevented the clergy from reporting abuses they had learned in a confession.
“However, the General Synod of the Anglican Church has passed legislation that, in effect, allows the clergy to comply with mandatory reporting laws related to child sexual abuse or avoid committing a lack of crime reporting without violating the laws of the Church about confession, “he wrote.
If the law is passed, sex offenders with minors would also be prevented from using their position in the community to lessen their sentence, in circumstances in which this influences their crimes.