Catholic priests have said they are not willing to break the seal of confession to report child sex abuse, and would rather go to jail than abide by the law.
South Australia has joined the ACT in moving ahead with laws to force Catholic priests to break the seal of confession, to report paedophiles to police.
Other states are still deliberating over whether or not they will adopt that recommendation from the royal commission.
But Catholic Church leaders have rejected the idea.
Father Michael Whelan, the parish priest in St Patrick’s Church Hill in Sydney, said priests would not break the seal of confession.
“The state will be requiring us as Catholic priests to commit as what we regard as the most serious crime and I’m not willing to do that,” Father Whelan said.
The New South Wales Government has said it would respond later this month about whether priests would be legally obliged to report confessions of child sex abuse.
“I expect every jurisdiction in Australia now will follow that recommendation and I expect the church throughout will simply not observe it?” Father Whelan said.
Asked if the Catholic Church was above the law, he said: “Absolutely not, but when state tries to intervene on our religious freedom, undermine the essence of what it means to be a Catholic, we will resist.”
“The only way they [the states] would be able to see whether the law was being observed or not is to try and entrap priests.”
Father Whelan said he was “willing to go to jail” rather than abide by a law.
An alternative, if a priest hears a paedophile confess sins of child sexual abuse, would be to “stop them immediately”, says Father Whelan.
“I would say, ‘Come with me now, we will go down to the police station in order for you to show that you are remorseful’,” he said.
NSW Labor senator Kristina Keneally, who is a scholar of theology and a Catholic, said church could not put itself above the law, but mandatory reporting was not the most effective way to prevent abuse.
“I would look to ordination itself, I would look to who we ordain,” she said.
“I have no doubt that if more women and more parents were involved in the leadership of their Catholic Church, that the problem of child sexual abuse would not have been as big as it was and would have been dealt with far differently when it came to light within the institution.”