An Australian inquiry into child sexual abuse has recommended the Catholic Church lift its seal of secrecy when the abuse is revealed in the confessional. It also recommended an end to compulsory celibacy for priests, calling the requirement a contributing factor to child sexual abuse.
Archbishop Denis Hart, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said of the recommendation to lift the confessional secrecy seal: “I cannot break the seal. The penalty for any priest breaking the seal is excommunication; being passed out of the church.
“I revere the law of the land and I trust it,” he added, “but this is a sacred, spiritual charge before God which I must honor, and I have to try and do what I can do with both.”
Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its 17-volume report Friday, after hearing testimonies during its five-year investigation of more than 8,000 survivors of child sex abuse. More than 60 percent of the survivors were Catholic.
“We have concluded that there were catastrophic failures of leadership of Catholic Church authorities over many decades,” the report said.
The abusers were “not a case of a few rotten apples,” the report said. “We will never know the true number” of abusers, it added.
The inquiry was not limited to the Catholic Church, but also included government, educational and professional institutions.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recommended that all Australians read the report. Turnbull, who is Catholic, said, “What that commission has done is expose a national tragedy.”