Australia

South Australia set to abolish church confession protections

A priest hears confession at the church of San Cayetano (St.Cajetan) in Brazil. Source: AFP

South Australia's Catholic Church says it was unaware of legal changes that will abolish the confessional exception for priests not reporting sexual abuse.

South Australia is set to become the first state to legally compel clergy to report child sex abuse revealed in confessions. 

Under laws set to take effect in October, priests who hear confessions about child abuse will have a legal obligation to report the matter to police.

Not reporting abuse will carry a maximum $10,000 fine, and brings expectations of priests in line with those of social workers, teachers, medical professionals and others in positions of authority.

The state will be the first to adopt a royal commission recommendation to remove the mandatory reporting exemption for priests hearing confession. 

But the Acting Archbishop of Adelaide said the South Australian Catholic Church had not been made aware of the change which was legislated last year and was now considering its implications.

"Our commitment in South Australia to child protection and child safe environments in unwavering," Bishop Greg O'Kelly said in a statement.

"Our priests are well aware of their obligations to report child abuse and neglect under mandatory reporting laws. The legislative change extending mandatory reporting to the confessional has much wider implications for the Catholic Church and the practice of our faith."

South Australian Attorney-General Vickie Chapman on Thursday released the government's response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.

South Australian Attorney-General Vickie Chapman
SA Attorney-General Vickie Chapman is urging other states to compel clergy to report child abuse.
AAP

As well as including the confessional in mandatory reporting laws, the government has signed on to the national redress scheme and introduced laws to that will allow victims of child sexual abuse to seek compensation beyond the age of 21.

Ms Chapman said the state government was responsible for 104 of a total 189 recommendations of the royal commission.

Of the 104, a total of 66 were accepted, one rejected and a further 37 were still being considered.

"It's critical that the terrible legacy of child sexual abuse is addressed with a comprehensive suite of policies at both the federal and state level," Ms Chapman said.

She said the government would continue to work with other states and territories towards a national approach that ensures children and young people are better protected.

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