Seal of Confession bill a risk to religious freedom

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Home > Media > News > Seal of Confession bill a risk to religious freedom
Seal of Confession bill a risk to religious freedom

Proposed legislation to break “the seal of confession” in churches will have serious implications on religious freedom, the Hobart Archdiocese said yesterday.

Archbishop Julian Porteous said the proposed legislation impinged on long-held Catholic teachings and would conflict with the Federal Government’s religious freedom review.

“I am concerned that the law as currently drafted requires priests to violate the most solemn and sacred act between the penitent and God,” Archbishop Porteous said.

“With the Federal Government undertaking a review into religious freedom, now is not the time to introduce additional Tasmanian legislation.

“Federally, a religious discrimination act has been proposed, which would be similar in nature to Australia’s existing discrimination laws protecting people from being disadvantaged because of their age, race, gender or disability.

“Attempting to push Tasmanian legislation through while we await the Federal Government’s recommendations could lead to disharmony between State and Federal laws in the future.”

Archbishop Porteous said the Catholic Church took the issue of child sexual abuse with the utmost seriousness and was doing everything it could to ensure a safe environment for all children and vulnerable persons who have contact with the Church. 

“The Catholic Church has undertaken significant work to respond to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It has produced National Guidelines for child safety which incorporate the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The bishops have established an independent body to oversee compliance with these National Standards,” Archbishop Porteous said.

“The Archdiocese of Hobart has produced “Safe Communities” which outlines policies, procedures and practices to be followed by all agencies of the Catholic Church in Tasmania.

“Priests and all who work for the Church understand their obligations before the law to report on matters of child sexual abuse. Priests, however, cannot comply with law that would require them to violate their vows to a higher authority.”