We shudder at any suggestion that Islamic law over-rides Australian law, even when that Islamic law applies only to Muslims, yet few people question the fact that Catholic Church law over-rides Australian law. Indeed, we seem unconcerned that Australian law protects the superiority of Catholic Church law!
The federal independent senator Nick Xenophon went directly to that protection when he called late last week for an end to the exemption of Catholic priests from Australia's laws for the mandatory reporting of child abuse. Senator Xenophon has followed the lead of Ireland's prime minister, Enda Kenny, who's announced that he will introduce legislation requiring Catholic priests to report to police child abuse disclosed in confession. Ireland has been rocked by widespread pedophilia among Catholic priests and the Catholic Church's protection of that pedophilia, and over the past 15 years the people of the Hunter Valley, where I live, have been sickened by a series of disclosures of pedophilia in Catholic clergy and the diocese's tolerance of it.
How often did the Hunter priests Vince Ryan, Denis McAlinden, John Denham and others confess their sexual abuse of a child to a priest? How often were they then able to move onto their next victim free of guilt and free of fear of being reported to the police?
The Catholic Church maintains that the confession in its confessional is to god, not to the priest, and that therefore the confidentiality is provided by an authority over and above that of the community! God help us if all Australians held that they were excused by their god from the authority of our community, government and courts!
The church is concerned, too, that if confidentiality were not assured many people would not avail themselves of the sacrament of confession. If these people had committed a serious crime, such as the sexual assault of a child, they'd go to hell. Terrible! But I for one am not convinced that there's a hell for them to burn in, so I want them in our version of hell, such as it is, before they front St Peter.
Should the Catholic Church be permitted to offer confidentiality to pedophiles or any other criminals?