International News

Can a priest break the seal of the confessional?

Thursday 17 August 2017


The Australian four-year Royal Commission, which investigates cases of paedophilia in religious groups and other public institutions in the country, has published 85 recommendations to reform Australian law. One proposal is for the law to oblige priests to break the secrecy of confession to reveal paedophiles.

If legislation were reformed, Catholic priests would be placed in an impossible position: they would have to choose between committing perjury or automatic excommunication. This is because Canon 983 in the Code of Canon Law ensures that ‘the sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.’