Malta’s Archbishop Charles Scicluna has dismissed suggestions that priests should be obliged to report child abuse when they learn about it in their confessionals.
“Priests are bound to absolute secrecy in confessionals because people don’t confess to priests per se but to God [through priests],” Scicluna said in an interview on Xarabank. “While priests have a duty to urge confesses change their ways, they cannot expose them. Confession binds us to complete secrecy, which we absolutely cannot breach. Confessional secrets are the only secrets you absolutely cannot expose.”
Xarabank host Peppi Azzopardi then challenged the Archbishop to state whether he will hold his tongue if someone confesses he had abused one of the Archbishop’s own relatives. However, Scicluna stood firm, arguing that allowing or encouraging priests to report cases they hear about in Confession would defeat the entire purpose of Confession.
“It is a martyrdom priests must bear, but the secrecy must be absolute. After all, if you know that I can expose your secrets, then why would you confess to me in the first place?”
While there has been no call in Malta for priests to be forced into revealing confessional secrets, such a thorny debate has recently cropped up in Australia. After an official inquiry into church abuse recommended that priests be legally obliged to report to the police child abuse cases they hear about in confessionals, the state of South Australia has passed such a law while other states are considering following suit.