The Catholic Church has strongly resisted calls for the seal of the confessional to be broken. (Public Domain: Annie Spratt)
Admissions of child abuse will continue to be protected by the seal of the confessional in the state of Victoria, after the Andrews Government stopped short of adopting one of the key recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Royal commission recommendations:
- Religious ministers forced to report information confided in them in confessional
- Creating a new criminal offence for failing to protect children within an institution
- The creation of a new National Office for Child Safety
- Celibacy in the Catholic Church would become voluntary
The State Government has indicated it needs more time to consider the proposal from the royal commission, which has called for the sanctity of the confessional to be tossed aside and replaced with powerful new mandatory reporting laws.
The laws would force members of the religious clergy to report any suspicions or explicit confessions of child abuse to police, but their implementation has been met with powerful resistance from the Catholic Church.
The Government has previously agreed to work towards a national approach to the confessional.
The Attorney-General, Martin Pakula, said privilege on religious confessions was set out in Victorian law.
“The meeting of Attorneys General in Perth agreed that … a national response was desirable, and commissioned further work to develop a nationally consistent approach on this important issue,” he said.
The Government’s position on mandatory reporting is one of 24 recommendations it is giving “further consideration”.
On Monday, it announced it had accepted 128 royal commission recommendations in full and a further 165 recommendations in principle.
The Victorian Government has accepted 128 Royal Commission recommendations in full. (Supplied)
And, with the November state election nearing, it is also using the opportunity to trumpet a suite of legal measures aimed at child abuse survivors.
“We have delivered a number of recommendations … to make sure that survivors of institutional child sexual abuse receive the recognition, respect and support they deserve,” Martin Pakula, Victoria’s Attorney-General, said.
Among the measures are new offences, making it a crime to groom a child and fail to report their suspected abuse to police.
It will also be a crime for adults within organisations who have the power to protect a child from being abused, but fail to do so.
The Government has also scrapped the statute of limitations on civil actions and scrapped what was known as the ‘Ellis defence’, which means unincorporated organisations like churches must nominate a defendant with assets in the event they are sued.
“We will continue to work with the Commonwealth, states and territories to progress recommendations that require national action,” Mr Pakula said.
The Government will release its final report on the royal commission’s recommendations on Wednesday.