Australia church abuse: Priests 'must report' confessions

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xenoview's picture
Australia church abuse: Priests 'must report' confessions

Catholic clerics should face criminal charges if they do not report sexual abuse disclosed to them during confession, an Australian inquiry has recommended.

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LogicFTW's picture
To me this brings up an

To me this brings up an interesting controversy, or possible debate that I have not seen discussed on these boards in the last 6 months or so.

When people realize they could face stiff penalties for confessing to certain crimes, it is highly likely they will greatly reduce the amount of confessing. Stepping outside of religion, in psychology, at least here in the US if a psychiatrist or counselor hears a confession of guilt to certain crimes they must report it to the police if it involves murder or child abuse. (As well as things that can be an imminent threat to the patient or the patient to someone else.)

I can only imagine that the amount of confession and discussion on these sort of things went way down when patients realized they were not protected. I can only imagine the same, or an even greater extent will be true for confessions to a priest or the like when people realize who they are talking to, by law has to report them or face criminal charges as well if discovered.

I think it is nearly everyone's goal to reduce sexual abuse. But how do we know if their will be progress towards this goal if priest start disclosing confessions of sexual abuse to the criminal justice system? Is a sexual abuser confessing and talking to a priest better than not saying anything at all in effort by these sexual abusers to not face criminal justice for their acts? At least their talking to someone that has some experience talking to people about this? Perhaps they can get the person to then confess to the police or seek help and stop any future acts?

Or perhaps many people will confess anyways, even knowing (or not knowing!) that when they confess this, they will be handed over to the police?

Here in the US, popular culture/media and even the police themselves like to cultivate the notion that a policemen/detectives cannot directly lie, or carry out major deceit to catch criminals. Like the popular question "are you a cop" criminals like to ask if they suspect a sting operation. This is a surprisingly effective tool for many non hardened/informed criminals to get caught. Criminals will falsely believe that a police officer must identify themselves if directly asked, will not take federally controlled substances, or commit a crime. I have a few family members in law enforcement that talk about the effectiveness of this common misconception.

Perhaps Australia should go for a similar method concerning priest and confessions?

Is a religious rights being trampled here? The confession occurs on the religions private property. Perhaps if the religion accepts no federal dollars or tax breaks?

I say any activity, even if its deceitful should be used to reduce the amount of sexual abuse and other major crimes, that these events are so awful, some generally accepted rights could be bent a little? Just work is done to prevent that from turning into a slippery slope? Where many rights are trampled for even small(er) criminal acts?

How about spousal abuse? I think it is quite likely priest and others within the church hear many confessions of mistreatment as spousal abuse is unfortunately a very wide spread problem that sadly affects millions?

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