On December 2, 2019, the Australian Conference of Bishops (ACBC) denounced the agreement between the Attorneys General of each state and the Australian federal government, with the aim of standardizing the laws imposing on priests the obligation to denounce any alleged fact of ill-treatment of minors that would be learned in the context of the sacrament of penance.
“Counterproductive and unjust” are the terms with which Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane and President of the ACBC, denounced the new prejudicial legal norms on the sacramental seal of the confessional in Australia.
The attorneys general and the federal government have in fact agreed on a common legal measures obliging priests to break the sacramental seal, under penalty of incurring criminal sanctions in the case of non-reporting of abuse of minors.
The new measures go even further: they provides that in the future, priests will no longer be able to hide behind the argument of professional secrecy in order to avoid testifying against a third party, during criminal or civil proceedings.
Provisions that go against the law of the Church, which stipulates that the sacramental seal is inviolable, and that it is moreover absolutely forbidden for a confessor to reveal in any way whatsoever the faults which a penitent has confessed.
"If one priest was to break it the faithful would lose confidence that what they confess could be made public or used against them," said the prelate.
Last October, questioned on a law of the State of Victoria promulgated against the seal of the confessional, the archbishop of Melbourne, Msgr. Peter Comensoli, had already warned that he would himself violate the new standards in force.
A month earlier, Msgr. Julian Porteous, Bishop of Hobart in Tasmania, began this episcopal movement of resistance, upon the adoption in September 2019 of a similar law, declaring that “there can be no exception to the inviolability of the seal of the confessional.”