Priest Frank Brennan warns he will defy confessional crackdown


Australia’s best credentialed priest on legal matters will defy any new laws to convict Catholic clergy for breaking the seal of the confessional on child sex abuse but gravely doubts he will ever be confronted with this dilemma.

Father Frank Brennan, a Jesuit priest and professor of law at the Australian Catholic University, yesterday rejected recommendations by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that would force priests — under the threat of criminal sanctions — to break the confessional confidence of offenders.

Under the church’s canon law, priests must maintain sec­recy about sins that a person confesses in a manner sometimes compared with client-lawyer confidentiality but in a holy context it is considered an ­untouchable imperative. But the royal commission headlined its 85 recommendations in its long criminal justice report on a crackdown on one of the church’s central pillars.

Father Brennan said if the law were to be introduced in Australia his only options as a priest would be to stop hearing confessions or to defy any legislation that sought to break the seal of confidentiality.


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