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Meeting on seal of confession

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A delegation representing the Catholic Church in South Australia met with the Attorney General Vicki Chapman last month to discuss the removal of the exemption for the confessional from mandatory reporting laws. The new legislation came into effect on October 22.

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The delegation included Apostolic Administrator and Port Pirie Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ, Administrator Delegate Fr Philip Marshall and Child Protection Office manager Sally Wellington.

Bishop O’Kelly said the group reaffirmed the Adelaide and Port Pirie dioceses’ unwavering commitment to child protection and safe environments across all institutions.

“We stressed that our clergy, staff and volunteers are well aware of their obligations as mandated notifiers and receive regular training to ensure policies and procedures are strictly enforced,” he said.

“However, we also pointed out that the seal of confession was inviolable and the exemption therefore creates a moral dilemma for priests. We noted that this matter was also being discussed in other jurisdictions and that there should be a national approach to this issue.”

Bishop O’Kelly said closer reading of the new legislation highlighted that it related solely to mandatory reporting of a child or young person at risk, rather than reporting of criminal admissions by an adult.

“The legislation states that the name of the child would need to be known and provided to the department. This might not be possible in the context of the confessional,” he said.

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