Church-State Separation · Criticism of Religion

The sacrament of Confession, and child abuse

AustralianArchbishop
Archbishop Denis Hart. Image via The Guardian.

I read this article today, and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you all.

At first I was puzzled on what my take should be. I should know that, shouldn’t I? I’ve railed against the Catholic Church many times on this subject, and certainly, in the younger days of this blog, I’d be throwing the book at them. “They’re using excuses not to report,” I would have said.

Here’s the thing. I understand about the confessional being sacred and you’re talking to God with the priest as an intermediary; I don’t have a problem with any of that.

But if you start making laws that say the priests have to divulge info to the cops, I’m not crazy about that. The archbishop said it was okay for priests hearing a confession to suggest that a child report the abuse to someone else, like a teacher, who is mandated to report. (I think we have a similar situation in the United States, where teachers are on the mandatory list to report stuff like that.) And that’s a good idea, I think.

But for the rest, especially if a law is passed that makes the information sharing mandatory, isn’t there a church/state separation line that would be crossed? I understand that Australia is more lax in their separation of church and state than the US (much to the annoyance of Australian atheists — not that we Americans get it right; we frequently don’t).

Then again, maybe my terminology is wrong. Maybe it’s not church/state separation we should be talking about, but church-state COOPERATION. I’m on record as wanting the Catholic Church to cooperate with civil law enforcement with regard to child sexual abuse. I’m calling for VOLUNTARY cooperation on the part of the Catholic Church, not laws to enforce it.

Where do you stand on this issue? Please share your comments below.

(Self-promoting postscript: If you’d like, I recently started another blog you can check out, called Full Throated Feminism. It’s a little different from this blog, but please come and take a look. Thank you.)

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