Australia: New legislation – priests must violate the Seal or face jail

It believe it is more important now than ever that we return to the old-fashioned confessionals with a complete physical barrier between the penitent and confessor, with a window having a fixed grate and a curtain or something to obscure view that the penitent cannot touch or move.  Thus, anonymity of the penitent is secured the penitent has no physical access to the priest.

I shudder at the thought of what I call “law suit rooms”, especially those where the penitent winds up between the priest and the door and there is no window.

From the Australian site The Age:

Laws forcing priests to report child abuse passed in Victorian parliament

The Victorian government says it hopes it does not have to jail priests who fail to report child abuse revealed in the confession box.

The state’s Parliament passed laws on Tuesday carrying sentences of up to three years for failing to report abuse, [for violating the Seal of Confession] but Premier Daniel Andrews said on Wednesday morning that he did not know of any convictions under Victoria’s broader mandatory reporting laws, in place for 25 years.

The Premier said the laws, and the new legislation passed on Tuesday, were intended to create a culture in which all abuse or mistreatment of children was reported, regardless of how it came to light.  [It’s an attack on the priesthood and on the Church.]

Mr Andrews said the bill, which passed the upper house on Tuesday night with bipartisan support, was intended to send a message all the way to the top of the Catholic Church in Rome[See?  This statement is superfluous, if “Rome” isn’t the target.]

“The most important thing is to send a message that the law is to be taken seriously, if people don’t obey the law, then the penalties are very significant,” the Premier said.

“The culture is one where people have taken the laws and their responsibilities in terms of mandatory reporting very seriously.”

The changes will bring religious leaders into line with police, teachers, doctors, nurses, school counsellors and youth justice workers who are required to report child abuse to authorities.

“The special treatment for churches has ended and child abuse must be reported,” Child Protection Minister Luke Donnellan said in the wake of Tuesday night’s Parliamentary vote.


“They’ll have to get the prisons ready,” declared Melbourne’s best-known Catholic priest, Father Bob Maguire, on Wednesday.

Asked whether the clergy would refuse to report abuse to the police, he said: “I presume so. Well, they have to in principle.”


But Mr Andrews said the state government now expected church workers to obey the law of Victoria, not rules written in Rome.

“I’ve made it very clear that the law of our state is written by the Parliament of Victoria, it’s not made in Rome and there are very significant penalties for anybody and everybody who breaks the Victorian law,” the Premier said.


The Northern Territory and South Australia have introduced mandatory reporting laws to which clergy are subject, and Western Australia and Tasmania have committed to doing so.

Mr Andrews, a practising Catholic, announced the policy in November, during the 2018 state election campaign.

St. John Nepomuk, pray for us.

Bl. Miguel Pro, pray for us.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in GO TO CONFESSION, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Priests and Priesthood, Religious Liberty, Si vis pacem para bellum!, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. KatieL56 says:

    Now it makes perfect sense as to why Cardinal Pell was ‘railroaded’ and convicted; to furnish the ‘proof’ that Australia needs such a law because “Look, the highest-ranking of prelates is a convicted child molester! You cannot trust the Catholic Church here not to cover up abuse, therefore, just as we ‘lawfully’ presided over the too-apt-to-be-funny ‘kangaroo court’ for Cardinal Pell, we will ‘lawfully’ make sure that we witch hunt any priest who won’t play our games.”

    Yes, Father, this is a direct attack at priests. This is the real anti-clericalism.

    May God help us. We already know that unless Sodom and Gomorrah are going to get the biggest apology in the history of ever, our world has already gone beyond the pale. How much worse can it be? We can’t imagine but soon even the horrors of today are going to be looked on as the last glimpse of humanity before it plunged into the abyss. . .unless God’s mercy can shock us out of the hellbent trajectory we’re on.

    Right now we’re saying Father Heilman’s 54 day Novena for our Nation through October 7. Maybe you and he can make plans for a Novena for our World? What if, November 1, All Saints Day, we could pray a 54-day Novena for World Reparation for Sin, to end on Christmas Eve? We could pray in Latin as well!

  2. Gab says:

    Mr Andrews is also the same “practising catholic” who decreed and provides the taxpayer funded “education”
    for all schools to teach the LGBTI curriculum, ludicrously known as “Safe Schools”. He’s a rabid socialist.

  3. Patrick71 says:

    In light of this all of the petty little differences among Catholics seem, well…petty.

    Unite the clans!

  4. Since no actual child abuser is going to out himself by ratting out a priest he confesses to, the only way they’ll be able to enforce this “law” is by installing bugs in confessionals, or by sending in agents to pose as penitents. I wouldn’t put it past them.

  5. APX says:


    I agree with you. That being said, it’s really expensive to put people in jail, so that may be a deterrent for them to enforce it. In Canada, on the Alberta provincial level, it’s approximately $127,000/day per inmate. It’s very difficult getting someone put in jail here because of the cost. Even homeless people get put on house arrest to “save money”.

  6. Gab says:

    And of course this despicable legislation won’t stop at child abuse. It will expand to include other crimes confessed in the confessional.

    Mind you, police informants, patients under psychiatric care, the lawyer-client privilege as well as a journalist’s sources are all protected from being reported to the law.

  7. Patrick71 says: petty little differences
    Watch the ‘c’atholic Left defend it.

  8. Gab says:

    Sorry for so many comments, Father but I forgot to add that Mr Andrews, the “practising catholic” also forced through legislations that legalised euthanasia in June this year. His fellow Labor mob (think Democrats) forced through abortion right up to full term in 2008.

  9. veritas vincit says:

    ‘I shudder at the thought of what I call “law suit rooms”, especially those where the penitent winds up between the priest and the door and there is no window.’

    The pastor at a parish near me, had the solid door to the church “reconciliation room” replaced with a door with a large clear window so that anyone can see in. I’m convinced that pastor had Father Z’s concern about accusations and lawsuits.

  10. Fr_Andrew says:

    Seems to me that according to Canon 915 and Canons 1369, 1373 and 1375, that the bishop of Mr Andrews (and any Catholic who voted for this legislation) should declare at least their unworthiness to approach the Communion rail if not a a personal interdict or excommunication, until they should repent of passing this law which seeks to punish Catholic priests for doing their duty.

    Even if bad priests and bishops have done terrible things, to pass legislation to “send a message to the Rome” is to undermine the Church and an attack on the Bride of Christ is an attack on her Divine Spouse and as the old truism goes : qui tacet consentire videtur.

  11. Patrick71 says:

    I mean the petty little differences between faithful Catholics. “Conservatives” and “trads,” etc. We gotta stop fighting.

  12. Fr_Andrew says:


    I appreciate your sentiment, but it’s really not as easy as you suggest. The official position of the FSSP is still that the SSPX is in schism and their priest commit a mortal sin everytime they say Mass. I recently had dinner with an FSSP priest and that came up. He said he warned his faithful that whenever they go to the SSPX they commit a mortal sin as well. I couldn’t understand the logic in this, but there you go.

    It’s just one example, but that’s something anyone can just gloss over. Plenty of others could be made from all sides of non-trivial stuff that prevents this idealistic notion. Should all of us of a more conservative and traditional bent try to get on the same page, discuss our differences, try to cooperate where possible? Absolutely. But it’s far more complex than Mr Matt’s catch phrase would suggest. Divisions are much more than just “petty little difference”.

    And, I fail to see what this looming problem has to do with the traditionalist groups who all, as Fr Z wisely suggests, would hear confessions behind a screen and thus be pretty terrible witnesses even if they were willing to say anything. A witness who only heard a voice among hundreds of others, never saw a face, never got a name … pretty terrible “evidence”.

  13. SimonK says:

    Anita, I don’t think the point of this law is actually to be enforced. Really, this is just a cheap way for the government to be seen to attack the Church. They are hoping that anti-Catholics (some of whom confusingly actually are Catholic, or at least claim to be) will vote for them because of this.

  14. Patrick71 says:

    Ok, Father. Keep splitting hairs and let the heretics win. Great strategy.

    You are reading things into my comment that are not there. Just stop it. I think you are looking for something to disagree about just because. You are assuming things about what I’ve said because you’re used to fighting maybe. Whatever.

  15. Gab says:

    Fr Andrew. they convicted Cardinal Pell on the hearsay of the accuser. No corroborating witnesses, no evidence.

    So no, as it is in Victoria, where Mr Andrews is premier, no evidence is required to convict a priest. The precedence has been set.

  16. DeGaulle says:

    Irony alert.

  17. Imrahil says:

    That is not the offial position of the FSSP.

    (As proof that is is, I would accept a statement by the Chapter or General Superior, of perhaps even one by a district superior of given with the air of uttering an FSSP-general position, dating no earlier than 2016.)

    Nor any defensible position.

    That being said, if some Father did say such a thing, there are enough SSPX priests who, at least five years ago, said that attending the NO was intrinsically singular (which now is apparently not their position any longer) and attending the FSSP VO was sinful as well – as it were, extrinsically; because it inadvertently supports the NO.

    (In reality, though, the Church is still the Church.)

  18. rtjl says:

    I think if I were an Australian bishop, in order to protect my priests, I would be very tempted to forbid confesssions that are not anonymous except in case of extreme necessity, i.e. someone facing imminent death. I would insist that priests make sure that anonymous confessions are readily available to the faithful and that confessionals are built so that the faithful can get in and out of them without being seen by the priest and so that priests can get in and out of them without seeing the faithful. I would encourage priests who are approached face to face by the faithful for confession to respond saying, “I am sorry but I can’t hear your confession at this time. Please come at such and such a time to such and such a place where your identity will be protected.” But this would only work if anonymous confessions were easily and frequently available – which in too many cases they are not.

  19. Grabski says:

    The only people ‘confessing’ to abuse will be government plants. No face to face confessionals will help, as no priest will be required to tackle such ‘penitents’.

    It’s all out war on us People

  20. robtbrown says:

    Fr_Andrew says:

    I appreciate your sentiment, but it’s really not as easy as you suggest. The official position of the FSSP is still that the SSPX is in schism and their priest commit a mortal sin everytime they say Mass. I recently had dinner with an FSSP priest and that came up. He said he warned his faithful that whenever they go to the SSPX they commit a mortal sin as well. I couldn’t understand the logic in this, but there you go.

    I hope it wasn’t someone who had been one of my students. Btw, did he say where it is to be found?

    The position of the Church, found in Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, refers to a schism. Later, that was clarified by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, who said the consecration of bishops was a schismatic act, but that the SSPX was not in schism.

    And the excommunications were lifted by BXVI.

  21. robtbrown says:


    I would not accept an opinion coming only from a district superior as official any more than I would a provincial of another order.

  22. veritas vincit says:

    I would never even think of attending a Mass celebrated by a member of a de facto priestly schismatic group like the SSPX. [Your premise is false. The SSPX is not in schism.]

    Yet, judging that attending such a Mass is “committing a mortal sin” strikes me as unduly harsh. [Not only harsh, but absurd.] I though you had to know something is gravely wrong and still do it, to be guilty of mortal sin? There seems to be a lot of uncertainty about how grave it is to attend an SSPX Mass (complicated, in part, by the conciliatory actions of Pope Francis toward the SSPX). The argument is better made that it is prudential to stay away from such Masses. [In in other cases, it isn’t.]

    A similar consideration probably applies to priests who celebrate SSPX Masses but that gets even more complicated and out of my pay grade to address properly. [Very much so.]

  23. Hidden One says:

    I await the public announcement of canonical penalties for all Catholic parties who attempt to induce a priest to break the Seal.

  24. jaykay says:

    How long will it be before some “set-up” case emerges? Just wonderin’…

  25. veritas vincit says:

    Father Z:

    Respectfully, I used the phrase “de facto schism” out of recognition that the SSPX is not in formal or de jure schism. That is a crucial distinction.

    [You are in schism or you aren’t.]

  26. Mightnotbeachristiantou says:

    Few questions. How many child abusers are going to confession and confessing this as a sin?
    I don’t think the law had in mind just abusers, but those being abused and those with knowledge of abuse.
    What are the current guidelines for the priests that hear this confession?
    If a priest learns that a child is or might be being abused, what is he supposed to do? Is he to get personally involved? Does he have a duty to keep that child away from the abuser? If he hears of a plan to murder, he has certain obligations? Would that include child abuse?

  27. maternalView says:

    Such a handy thing to have on the books. Any particular priest needing to brought down can suddenly be arrested for failing to report abuse–after a sting at his parish reveals he failed to report the abuse of or by a (planted) penitent.

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