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Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
World News

Australian bishops say priests shouldn't have to report sex abuse

This comes after a national inquiry proposed a law on Monday making a failure to report child abuse, even when revealed in confession, a criminal offence.

The Royal Commission said it made the recommendation after hearing cases "where perpetrators who made a religious confession to sexually abusing children went on to reoffend and seek forgiveness".

Denis Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne, said that this is a matter of religious freedom.

When asked if priests should go to jail rather than breach the seal of confession, Archbishop Denis told ABC radio: "I've said that I would.

"I believe that this is an absolute sacrosanct communication of a higher order which priests by nature respect."

Archbishop Hart was supported by other high profile clerics, including Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, and Jesuit priest and lawyer Fr Frank Brennan.

Brennan told The Australian: "If there is a law that says that I have to disclose it, then yes, I will conscientiously refuse to comply with the law.

"All I can say is that in 32 years no one has ever come near me and confessed anything like that."

According to the Church's canon law, a priest who violates the 'Seal of Confession' will be excommunicated, which can only be lifted by the Pope himself.

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