OPINION

Why there's more to the question of the confessional

QUESTIONABLE: The benefit of having priests break the seal of the confessional is not as clear as it may seem. Picture: Shutterstock
QUESTIONABLE: The benefit of having priests break the seal of the confessional is not as clear as it may seem. Picture: Shutterstock

I DON'T always get to see letters written about me to editors or online, and maybe that's a good thing.

However, one particular letter to the editor earlier this month from a local politician which I did read gave me reason to pause.

He had just finished reading The Altar Boys by ABC journalist Suzanne Smith, a book on the abuse of children in the diocese of Maitland and the cover-up by the church.

In light of my recent article "More than ever we need to ask RUOK?", this politician accused me of hypocrisy, given that I'm the same person who has said I would rather go to prison than break the seal of the confessional.

It's true, I am a hypocrite. I ask others to take their lives and faith seriously, then find my myself more interested in sharing gags than the gospel.

I dream of martyrdom and standing up bravely for truth, but once in the pulpit I find myself giving soft sermons lest I become unpopular. Yes, I have many faults.

Even so, I do not believe that breaking the seal of confession would save a single child or catch even one paedophile.

But I can see how it would betray the trust of millions and put myself on the wrong side of justice until the end of time.

For those who sincerely disagree, believing a priest should break the seal of confession if only to report an abuse, may I ask you how you intend this to happen?

Require priests to report the identity of someone they never physically saw?

You have to remember you are dealing with society's worst perverts who are nothing short of diabolical.

Might not an astute paedophile pretend to be someone else?

Do you honestly think a paedophile is going to tell the truth if and when confronted with his or her confession?

Clearly such "evidence" would be inadmissible, if not almost certainly untrue.

Earlier this month, Queensland state legislators passed new laws that will mean priests are no longer protected by the seal of confession and must report cases of child abuse or face criminal charges.

In the United States, breaking the seal of confession has only received wide support in California and New Orleans.

And yet, even in these liberal-minded jurisdictions, the law was not changed.

There are only a handful of jurisdictions in the free world where the law compels priests to break the seal of confession, and all are in Australia.

And yet, how will police test priests? By faking confessions pretending to be paedophiles? Bug confessionals? Or simply trust the confession of a paedophile?

Australian politicians often reference the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse as the reason for changes.

Yet, of the 26 recommendations the Royal Commission made to the Catholic Church, breaking the seal of confession was not one of them.

It recommended that if a person confesses paedophilia, absolution should be withheld until they report themselves. This would not break the seal.

In the end, all these new laws will serve is to convince the community, incorrectly, that the church is still covering up sexual abuse.

The results have been tough from my side of the fence.

I have been pushed and grabbed by strangers and called the most horrific names in public, even by children.

I've been warned not to dress as a priest in public for my own safety.

Three attempts were made to burn down our local church in less than two years.

Earlier this week, a man was charged for setting fire to Lismore's Catholic cathedral.

Add to this that many Catholics are now no longer having their children baptised, and it becomes obvious that the constant hate from politicians and the media towards the Catholic Church is having an effect.

Perhaps some will say that all this is justice ... fighting fire with fire.

But you don't fight fire with fire. You fight fire with water.

It is not wise to destroy the road to redemption for millions of fallen angels in the hope of trapping one devil.

Twitter: @frbrendanelee