Shatter: no special case for seal of confessional
SEANAD:DAVID CULLINANE (SF) said he was glad the Minister for Justice had made it clear that there would be absolutely no exemptions in terms of legislative requirements on the reporting of the abuse of children or vulnerable adults.
Mr Cullinane had earlier noted that the Association of Catholic Priests had stated that there would be no breaking of the confessional seal. It had to be made clear to everyone, including the main church in this State, that the rights of children and the laws of the land came first, Mr Cullinane stressed. Priests should know that they could not use the confessional seal as a reason for not coming forward with information on abuse.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter (FG) said it was possible that if a priest or a bishop was prosecuted under withholding of information legislation they might claim entitlement to some form of privilege. However, the legal basis for such a claim no longer held, as the special position of the Catholic church had been removed from the Constitution. If such a claim was based on freedom of religion, the courts might be called on to decide the issue.
He did not believe that, where a child or a vulnerable adult had been a victim of abuse, the Irish courts would hold that it was of benefit to the State that those who knew of the abuse concealed it.