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World News

CofE may reconsider confession confidentiality rules for sexual abuse perpetrators amid report release

by Sophie Drew

The final report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is set to be released in the coming days, and may push Church of England priests to lift the confidentiality protocol surrounding confession. 

Currently, those confessing information to a member of clergy are entitled to total privilege under Canon Law, but the report may suggest breaking such an agreement in the case of child sexual abuse.

In this instance, such crimes would be reported to the authorities, even if clergy have been informed during the formal confession process. 

The document, due to be published on Thursday, is the last in a string of reports commissioned in 2015, under the Inquiries Act 2005. 

Campaigners are hoping the latest report will recommend a new law to ensure priests are legally required to pass on any allegations or suspicions of abuse; this would result in a change in canon law, which would require the House of Bishops to sign off on the idea. 

The change was suggested in 2019, but bishops did not reach a consensus on the issue. Instead, a statement was made saying priests should not report the issue to the police, but should implore the confessor to do so, and withhold absolution until they do.

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