GOVERNMENTS across Australia are making it clear why they are introducing laws compelling Catholic and Anglican priests to break the seal of confession in cases of child sexual abuse.
It is not to haul priests and bishops before the courts. As Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Wednesday after his state became the latest to introduce the new legislation, in response to recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, no one has been convicted under Victoria's mandatory reporting laws in 25 years.
The intent of the laws is to change the cultures of the institutions that committed crimes against children over decades, by failing to stop perpetrators, covering up for them and moving them on when allegations were raised.
They're intended to creat a culture in which all abuse or mistreatment of children is reported, regardless of how or where the information becomes known.
"The most important thing is to send a message that the law is to be taken seriously," he said.
The message, that he wants to be heard "all the way to the top of the Catholic Church in Rome", is that civil law trumps church law when it comes to the protection of children.
The Council of Australian Attorneys-General moved to consider introducing laws across the nation legally requiring priests to break the seal of confession in cases of child abuse and by June had established a working group, led by NSW.
South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT have already removed confessional privilege while NSW, Queensland and Western Australia are yet to act.
In its final report in December, 2017 the royal commission rejected claims its recommendations suppressed freedom of religion. The right to religious practice was "respected" but not "absolute", it found after five years of devastating evidence about the abuse of children in institutions across the country.
Australian Catholic bishops have strongly objected to the move and complained that they have not been consulted about drafting the new laws as they roll out from state to state. But after decades of churches and other institutions putting their reputations and status above the care of children, the community and governments are in no mood to pander.