On November 1, a law came into force in the state of Western Australia that obliges Catholic priests to violate the confidentiality of confession if they receive information about sexual abuse of minors in the sacrament.
The rule, which extends to all ministers of worship of other faiths, is part of new legislation introduced by Western Australia’s Prime Minister Mark McGowan’s government since 2017.
According to the Catholic Weekly, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Sydney, not reporting sexual abuse of which he is aware in the confession would make him criminally liable.
The fine will be 6 thousand Australian dollars, up to about 4 thousand US dollars.
In 2020, the Archbishop of Perth, Timothy Costello, defended the secrecy of the Confession or Holy Seal before a committee in the Parliament of Western Australia, one of Australia’s six states.
The prelate recognized the “terrible history” of sexual abuse in history and explained his reasons for defending the confidentiality of confessions.
,Sins are not confessed to the priest, but to God“, accurate.
In this sense, the priest “has no right or authority to reveal anything that happens in this intimate encounter with God.”
For this reason, “outlawing the free exercise of an essential aspect of the Catholic faith seems to me to be something that modern secular societies have always understood to be beyond the limits of their authority,” he continued.
What happens if a priest violates the secret of confession?
The Code of Canon Law establishes in canon 983 that the sacred seal or secret of confession is inviolable.
For this reason, the Code of Canon Law indicates, “the confessor is strictly prohibited from inventing repentance, by word or any other way, and without reason.”
Similarly, Canon 1388 states that “the sacrament that directly violates the Holy Seal incurs a laya sententia (automatic) excommunication reserved for the Apostolic See.”
This means that only the Pope can lift the penalty of excommunication in this case.