Time to break the silence of the confessional


Sir, – A five-year State inquiry in Australia into child sexual abuse has concluded that the Vatican should make celibacy for priests voluntary and should end the secrecy of confession (irishtimes.com, December 15th). These recommendations have been rejected by the Australian Catholic Church.

However, the question remains, and it is as pertinent in Ireland as in Australia, whether the secrecy of the confessional is legally permissible. If a priest knows of a crime, and knows the identity of the perpetrator, then surely he should be legally bound to report the matter to the police?

It is extraordinary that, after all the inquiries and debate in Ireland into child sexual abuse, no group has formally recommended that the Catholic Church change its internal rules to bring them into line with the rules of the State. The silence of the confessional is a form of criminal conspiracy, and the celibacy requirement for priests is employment discrimination on the grounds of marital status.

Perhaps people in Ireland are still in thrall to the Catholic Church and are still unwilling to challenge them fully. – Yours, etc,


Gregory Hills,

Sydney, Australia.