There is an interesting development in Australia where there is a raging scandal involving pedophilia in the Catholic church. A high-ranking Vatican official cardinal George Pell has returned to Australia to face sex abuse charges and will be going on trial.
Pell is widely seen as powerful and arrogant and went to great lengths to suppress investigations into abuses in the church.
Thomas Doyle, a former Catholic priest and a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter, told NPR last week that before these allegations, Pell had already been criticized for his treatment of victims of clerical sex abuse.
While Pell was the archbishop of Sydney, for instance, a man sued the archdiocese over childhood sexual abuse. “Pell instructed his lawyers to fight the civil charges as vigorously possible,” Doyle said. “He wanted him used as an example so that other people would not have the audacity to sue the Catholic Church.”
Pell later testified, under oath, that this was his strategy. Another church official told the courts that the Catholic Church actually had evidence to support the claims of abuse that they were so aggressively fighting in court.
He is now accused of not only covering up abuse but of committing abuses himself.
In the Catholic church, sins that are confessed to a priest as part of the confessional process are considered to be beyond the reach of the law. Now a commission investigating such abuses has recommended that those admissions of abuse should be reported.
Catholic clerics should face criminal charges if they do not report sexual abuse disclosed to them during confession, an Australian inquiry has recommended.
The report recommended that people in institutions who “know, suspect or should have suspected” a child was being abused should face criminal charges.
The issue of mandatory reporting was one of the most discussed aspects of the inquiry.
In some cases, abusers had made admissions during Church confession in the knowledge that they would not be relayed to police.
“We heard evidence that perpetrators who confessed to sexually abusing children went on to reoffend and seek forgiveness again,” the report said.
The Catholic church is of course fighting to preserve this privilege.
I do not understand why we give priests this privilege of not being required to report knowledge of child abuse crimes, the way the rest of us must do. It not only enables the offenders to feel absolved and go out and abuse again, it also gives the priest too much power over some of the people who confess to them, especially in the case of the young and the vulnerable. You can see how that power could lead to abuse.
Confessional immunity should be abolished.