Since he is obviously computer literate, I would recommend that Mr Higgins bring up “Mandatory Reporting” on the internet and there he will find that any organisation which deals regularly with children is required by law to report cases of child abuse to civil authorities – not just Mr Higgins’ organisation of choice, the Catholic Church.
It also applies to persons or organisations that have a “duty of care”. It does not only apply to the huge number of organisations scrutinised by the Royal Commission but those that were excluded from the Commission’s brief such as the education departments who deal with over seventy per cent of children. His suggestion that this matter be moved to the Federal Government jurisdiction has merit as the present mandatory reporting laws differ somewhat from state to state.
When he raises the matter of the Seal of the Confessional he is clearly out of his depth.
He criticises the Catholic Archbishops response to a question from the Commission. The question was hypothetical and when you get down to facts – irrelevant.
Confession as it is commonly called refers to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is just one way in which people seek forgiveness for their sinfulness.
While a priest can affirm that forgiveness only God forgives. I would suggest that Mr Higgins acquaint himself with the furniture of a confessional, something he can achieve any time by a visit to St Agnes church which is usually open.
There he will observe, as he enters, a privacy screen, so that any person approaching this sacrament can maintain anonymity. This is general practice and the priest has no idea who is at the other side of the screen. As he penetrates further into the room he will see where the priest sits and a chair for anyone who might wish to engage face to face – usually to seek spiritual guidance.
One thing is sure that in the unlikely event of a pedophile presenting himself or herself for Reconciliation they will make use of the privacy screen. It is not remotely likely that the priest will ask for their name and address nor would it be given. Also if a priest were forced by legislation to reveal confessional matters it would be very unlikely that anyone would approach the sacrament of reconciliation.
Rev. Fr. L. F. Donnelly