Catholic Archbishop: ‘I’d Rather Go to Prison Than Report Child Abuse to Police’

One of the highest-ranking officials in the Catholic Church has stated that he would “rather go to prison” than report pedophilia to police.

Australia’s most powerful clergy, Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, says he’s prepared to be jailed for failing to report child sex abuse by pedophile priests.

He made the shocking statement in response to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse saying there should be “no excuse, protection nor privilege” for clergy who failed to alert police of abuse.

Hart insisted that sexual abuse was “a spiritual encounter with God through the priest” and was “of a higher order” than criminal law.

A new report by the commission proposed 85 sweeping changes to the criminal justice system and recommended that priests face criminal charges for failing to report serious crimes such as sexual abuse to the police.

As the law currently stands, clergy are not legally obliged to report crimes to the police and disciplinary proceedings for criminal activity by members of the Catholic Church are handled internally by Canon law, which operates independently of the regular legal procedure.

Following an investigation by the commission, officials believe that the Catholic Church is using “confessional confidentiality” as a cover for not reporting child sex abuse to the authorities.

“We understand the significance of religious confession – in particular, the inviolability of the confessional seal to people of some faiths, particularly the Catholic faith”, said the report. “However, we heard evidence of a number of instances where disclosures of child sexual abuse were made in religious confession, by both victims and perpetrators.”

We are satisfied that confession is a forum where Catholic children have disclosed their sexual abuse and where clergy have disclosed their abusive behavior in order to deal with their own guilt.”

Independent reports: Asked on Tuesday if he would rather go to prison than breach the seal of confession, he told ABC Radio Melbourne:

“I’ve said that I would.”I believe that this is an absolutely sacrosanct communication of a higher order.”

Source

55 thoughts on “Catholic Archbishop: ‘I’d Rather Go to Prison Than Report Child Abuse to Police’

    1. Judgement as a whole has 2 concepts.. 1: when you judge a fruit whether its good to grab at a Market, you judge whether it’s ripe or not.. that’s an example of reasoning.. but judging another person’s flaws you will always be judged back with the measure of what you accuse.. guard your words as you would guard a loved one or spouse..

    2. But he also refuse to turn in child molesters in your Parrish as well …instead you send them to another Parrish to play with lil boys bootyholes

    3. As a Counsellor if I hear someone has raped a child, I am bound by the law to report this to the police. Why shouldn’t a priest have to also?

  1. This article is insincere and lacks the full facts. I wonder if it would be helpful if this paper had an advisor in matters pertaining to the Catholic Church. This native paper risks being like the white and European prejudice that labeled native religion “superstition”. I am suggesting you could do better. Peace

    1. One does not need to understand matters pertaining to the Catholic faith to know that child sexual abuse is wrong. What light could a RC “advisor” possibly shed? That this is commonplace and acceptable among those in the priesthood? That adherents of the faith, (possibly like you, Patrick?) are ready to act as apologists and defenders of grown men who prey like vultures on children?

      1. I’m an apologist for getting facts and quotes correctly (at the least). I don’t know what your reading or research level is at but I hope it exceeds that of this newspaper. People who only react emotionally (possibly like you Krista) without knowing the facts are willing to convict the innocent. For example: “The ACTUAL quote from his Aug. 14, 2017, statement (as correctly noted in numerous other online sources): “Confession in the Catholic Church is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest.”

        SEXUAL ABUSE is not a spiritual encounter. CONFESSION is.

      1. One example: and there are many based simply on reader response: The ACTUAL quote from his Aug. 14, 2017, statement (as correctly noted in numerous other online sources): “Confession in the Catholic Church is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest.” SEXUAL ABUSE is not a spiritual encounter. CONFESSION is. The whole issue is about the “seal of Confession” which here in America and I suspect in other countries IS protected by law. This is irresponsible reporting which I suspect supports an agenda.

  2. Sloppy reporting in at least one section of this article.

    Archbishop Hart NEVER insisted that sexual abuse was “a spiritual encounter with God through the priest” and was “of a higher order” than criminal law.

    The ACTUAL quote from his Aug. 14, 2017, statement (as correctly noted in numerous other online sources): “Confession in the Catholic Church is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest.”

    SEXUAL ABUSE is not a spiritual encounter. CONFESSION is.

    1. I agree, this is sloppy reporting which includes the misleading headline. This story is about one issue, “the seal of confession” and it is backed up by law, universally. This paper seems to have an agenda and the frustrating thing about it is that it confirms Trump’s observations re. “fake news”. Politically etc. I am very much aligned with this paper but I am not aligned with its obvious biases.

    2. The misleading headline and then the following misleading information until near the end of the article is inexcusable. The press needs to be careful of reporting misinformation and slander. The Church

        1. everyone needs to stop using the lazy highly politicised term “fake news”. IT’s not “fake news” it’s WRONG INFORMATION. It’s DELIBERATELY MISLEADING REPORTING and SLOPPY JOURNALISM.

          Please take the politics out of everyday important discussions. IT’s childish, sloppy and dangerous.

          Thank you

  3. Anyone who condones sexual abuse and believes offenders have a sacred right to work things out with god does not know love , respect or care. The catholic church has gotten away with criminal acts and its time to call them on this

    1. Turns out this article is dangerously inaccurate, no one said “sexual abuse was “a spiritual encounter with God through the priest” and was “of a higher order” than criminal law.”
      What he ACTUALLY said in a statement was, “CONFESSION in the Catholic Church is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest.” He also said if someone confessed to abusing children, he would encourage them to admit to their crimes outside the confessional so that it could be reported to police.

      1. Ok. what if they don’t admit to their crimes outside of confession? Then the priest not reporting it knows it may happen again and has done nothing to help. I believe in asking for forgiveness but if you do a crime you have to be held accountable and deal with the punishment (consequence) of your actions.Being able to just go to confession is not repentance.

        1. If they do not fulfill the conditions then they are not forgiven. And they know it.
          But the priest remains bound by his vow of silence with regard to Confession.
          And don’t think the priest would find this situation easy.
          Vows are serious matters.

    1. This explains a lot historically. these people are no better than the people who murder in the name of Allah and guided by their holy book.

      1. Turns out this article is dangerously inaccurate, no one said “sexual abuse was “a spiritual encounter with God through the priest” and was “of a higher order” than criminal law.”
        What he ACTUALLY said in a statement was, “CONFESSION in the Catholic Church is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest.” He also said if someone confessed to abusing children, he would encourage them to admit to their crimes outside the confessional so that it could be reported to police.

  4. My understanding, as someone who grew up Catholic, was that if someone admitted a crime – like murder, rape, etc – in confession, the priest was obliged to instruct that person to surrender to the law; otherwise, the person making confession was not showing genuine repentance and could not be given absolution. I think the concealment of child rape among priests has more to do with collusion within the church hierarchy than actual church doctrine.

    1. Good point, however as someone who was in the Seminary for several years, this could be part of the Penance (to self report). Another option would be to withhold absolution until the self report was finished and then absolve. Another option would be to withhold absolution especially if it could be determined if there was intent to sin again. Finally, the Priest himself could report and seek the same forgiveness of God, especially if his reporting, he determined, served the greater good. Often the person who was confessing and their identity was hidden behind the traditional veil.

  5. The Roman Church is a disgusting institution with long trail of historically duplicitous behavior. The Roman Church has protected baby rapers for decades. Perhaps centuries for that matter.

    1. Can you please provide evidence of Roman Catholic priests who have literally raped babies? And can you please provide the range of dates that would indicate they have literally been doing it for decades?

    2. Your hateful comment grossly overexagerates. There have been murderous predatory rogues within the Church, but there have also been far more saints, persons inspired and much holier than you, in the Church. The Church consists of many human beings, both good and bad. It is not the members of the Church, priests, nuns, people or even its saints that make it holy. It is Christ, it founder, who makes the Church holy. Though many fail, at least the Church proclaims the ideal for which to strive to bring out the best in man. How many evildoers there are who have found their way to conversion through the Church. Where some have failed, many have not.

  6. if a mass murder can repent ask forgiveness and be forgiven, why cant a priest ask forgiveness for breaking the vow of confessional, and wouldn’t God put the reason into his judgement, when any soul puts a childs life and safety before thier own as a good thing?

    1. if i am not mistaken, the sanctity of the confessional doesn’t include information when the priest is aware of another person in imminent danger.

      1. true, but a sin cannot be forgiven if it has not been committed. An intent is about a sin not yet committed. If the intent is included as an auxilliary comment, the Priest can withhold absolution. As a laicized Priest myself, I do not remember your observation as specifically being brought up. I think you bring up a very good point. Thanks for your thoughtful input

    2. I think you bring up a very good point, especially when there might be intent to commit this sin again. The Priest, in this case, might be called upon to be a “martyr” for a greater cause…and himself seek absolution/Mercy!

  7. if i am not mistaken, the sanctity of the confessional doesn’t include information when the priest is aware of another person in imminent danger.

  8. These so called men of God have been getting by with this for thousands of years!!1 If they will not report sexual abuse from with in the church can they then forgive a confession of it???? Which makes him guilty of harboring a criminal!!!!

  9. These so called men of God have been getting by with this for thousands of years with no repercussions from the church! If they will not report sexual abuse form with in the church how do they handle a person confessing it?? Either way it is harboring a criminal!!

  10. You REALLY meant to write “Hart insisted that sexual abuse was “a spiritual encounter with God through the priest” and was “of a higher order” than criminal law.”—???

    What he ACTUALLY said in a statement was, “CONFESSION in the Catholic Church is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest.” I find nothing anywhere in any of the multiple interviews or statements that could even remotely be construed as “sexual abuse…was of a higher order than criminal law.”

    This is shamefully bad reporting.

    1. I totally agree…as a married priest this article (maybe from a good newspaper) makes legitimate the phrase “fake news”. A Native Paper that feeds prejudice does not seem to remember its own history and the damage this does.

      1. no it doesn’t – it just misrepresents what someone said. YOU make the term “fake news” legitimate by using it. Don’t use that term. It’s the product of propaganda aimed at undermining ALL media and news networks to destabilise Western society. Use real normal terms like “Bad reporting” or “biased writing”. These things have always existed in the world of journalism but so do genuine stories & journalists who risk their lives for the truth and factual news stories. The genuine news stories out-number the biased or “agenda” news stories by miles so let’s not jump on the Trump bandwagon – The term “Fake news” is childish and deliberately loaded.

  11. This online media is looking for online traffic with such news in order to generate more revenue for their web division. At the end of the day, he or she is just trying to make easy and quick money through CPC, CPV etc.

  12. This is outrageous! It is very dangerous for the Catholic Church when they do not
    react when their priests are guilty of child abuse… It will give desastrous consequences. Please, do react and stop child abuse.

  13. My limited understanding of confession is if you confess something illegal like murder, theft or in this case child sex abuse, the priest should direct the confessor to confess to the police and face up their crimes in order to be absolved of the crimes in the Lord’s eyes.

  14. Amazing, but not surprising. Please, non-Christians reading this post, don’t blame all Christians and run away. There are so many TRUE Christians! Even some Catholics. I am a Lutheran and this is one of the things we run away from!

  15. Every priest is bound to keep secret what he hears in Confession. This does not mean he is condoning what he hears. Also he can only forgive if the penitent is truly sorry.
    That involves atoning for the wrong done to those who have been hurt. The priest may propose that the penitent gives himself up. The penitent must also promise that they will do their best never to do this wrong again. The priest will only give absolution when the necessary actions have been taken by the penitent. This sacrament is much misunderstood by Catholics and non Catholics. It is not a licence to do what ever we want with freedom. And why single out the Church? Doctors have a similar position in law with their Patients and spouses can refuse to give evidence in a court case against each other.

  16. Well, dear Father Hart, what say you about those victimized by the pedophiles confessing to you? What about them? Surely, Father Hart, if you and the Catholic Church would consult HIM, God would be gracious enough to give you a solution. Something to preserve the sanctity of confession, while also serving the innocent whom our very Savior has said, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt 18:6)
    Father Hart, the atrocities and abuses suffered at the hands of pedophiles very, very often separate them from the ONE you have vowed your life to serve. The truth is confession and the forgiveness of sins is honorable, and protecting the innocent children is, as well. We CAN do both!

  17. My headmaster from my secondary school (Father Lawrence Soper) was recently jailed for something like 18 years for his vile conduct and abuse of pupils (in the mid 1970’s), not me, I hasten to add. Other teachers at the same school, St Benedict’s in Ealing, London, have also been jailed. Worse still, it took years for him to be brought to justice as he was allowed to withdraw thousands of pounds from the Vatican Bank, which helped to fund him while he hid in Kosovo.
    All that the school did for me, was very quickly cure me of the cancer that is organised religion. These days, I’m a very happily married atheist, to another atheist and we have two gorgeous daughters, one doing a masters degree in medicine and the other doing a degree in environmental geography.

  18. This article completely distorts what the Archbishop of Melbourne said. The archbishop spoke about the seal of the confessional not about the horrible crime of child abuse.

    It is only anti Catholic bigots who seek to distort what the Church teaches like this.

  19. This guy is so full of shit it is pouring out his ears. To use the confidentiality of confession to hide abuse of children is simply evil. There is no other way to describe it. This guy will have a special place in hell.

  20. The thing is, priest and bishops know of things that are happening outside of the confessional, so they can report it. They are not breaking any canon or church law by doing this.

    Secondly, the person hearing the penitent’s confession usually tells the person that part of their penance is to self-report. This is a form of restitution and part of their reconciling with God and Man. One has to face the civil laws just as they face God’s laws. The Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession can be a very tricky thing. One has to watch out for the good of the community or one is a co-conspirator not just under civil law but also under church laws or canons.

  21. “Money talks and bullshit walks” and both Christianity as well as Judaism should be renamed…MONEY! Christianity and Judaism around the world has been bought by MONEY! If you don’t like it…too damn bad! You are a day late and a dollar short! Your opinion does not count!

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