The Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) Legislative Assembly has adopted a new law obliging priests to report information obtained in confession when it involves abuse of minors.
The law voted in on June 7, 2018, extends a disposition that already exists, the Mandatory Reporting Law, that requires the members of certain social and professional categories to report any infraction involving minors.
Under the pretext of protecting minors, this reporting scheme is thus taking over the sacrament of Penance in which the contrite penitent obtains pardon for his sins.
The archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Archbishop Christopher Prowse, spoke out on the eve of this vote against the intrusive nature of the new law: “Priests are bound by a sacred vow to maintain the seal of the confession,” recalled the prelate in the online June 6, 2018 issue of the Canberra Times.
“Without that vow, who would be willing to unburden themselves of their sins, seek the wise counsel of a priest and receive the merciful forgiveness of God?” added Archbishop Prowse, accusing the ACT legislation of “threatening religious freedom” by claiming the right to pass a law on confession.
ACT Chief Minister Gordon Ramsay admits: “The consideration of confession is an important one and a discussion which must be had.”
The law is set to become effective on May 31, 2019. As such, the battle for the integrity of the sacraments is only just beginning.
Confessors in the Church have their patron saint: St. John Nepomucene, who died a martyr on March 20, 1393, in Prague, for refusing to reveal the contents of the confessions of Queen Sophia, spouse of the King of Bohemia, Wenceslaus IV.