Lawyers for abuse survivors have called on all states to act in ensuring the mandatory reporting of abuse allegations aired in the confessional, after the Catholic Church today confirmed it would not lift the seal of confession for such allegations, despite this being recommended by the Royal Commission.
Maurice Blackburn National Head of Abuse Law Michelle James said the Catholic Church's response today was sadly unsurprising, and it was now up to all states to act urgently in taking the legislative steps necessary to ensure allegations of abuse raised in the confessional were reported.
"Already the ACT and SA have indicated they will act to ensure mandatory reporting of allegations of abuse raised in the confessional, and the Opposition in Victoria have similarly indicated similar action," Ms James said.
"The Catholic Church have shown clearly today that they will not act on this important measure themselves, despite the Royal Commission making serious recommendations about the need for abuse revealed as part of the confessional to be made part of mandatory reporting processes.
"Abuse survivors deserve much better from the Catholic Church – it is a ridiculous proposition from the Church in their response today to assert that children would be less safe if mandatory reporting from the confession was required.
"The Catholic Church must be called out on this, and if they continue to fail to act – which they almost certainly will – then states must be prepared to step in to ensure that any allegations of abuse aired in the confessional are reported.
"This is also critical in sending a strong message that if church staff choose to prioritise canon law over the laws of the state to protect children then they must be willing to face the consequences.
"We also continue to urge the Federal Government, including the current Senate committee reviewing the implementation of the nation redress scheme, to consider linking an organisation's charity status with their ability to demonstrate that they are child safe.
"There are significant concessions and benefits available to charities in claiming tax-free status. In our view the threat of missing out on such benefits may be the incentive many institutions need to at last genuinely show they are committed to prioritising child safety in a way that is consistent with the recommendations of the Royal Commission," she said.