Australian Catholic leaders have vowed to end the cover-up of child sexual abuse, but they adamantly refuse to break the seal of confession, even if it means that priests could face criminal charges.
The president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Australia, Monsignor Mark Coleridge and Sister Monica Cavanagh, president of Catholic Religious Australia representing 150 religious orders, announced the response of the Australian Catholic Church to the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Sexual Abuse Child during a press conference in Sydney on Friday.
The Australian report was completed after consulting with the Vatican.
The leaders promised that the shameful history of the Catholic Church of priests and other personalities in their ranks who sexually abuse children will never be repeated, pledging to be accountable and a plan of action in response to the royal commission's call for radical reforms.
But Archbishop Coleridge said they would not yield to the royal commission's call to break the seal of confession to reveal child sexual abuse, saying it is contrary to their faith and would hinder religious freedom.
"This is not because we consider ourselves superior to the law, but because we do not believe that the safety of children is extremely important, we do it, but we do not accept that the safeguard and the seal are mutually exclusive," he said. Archbishop Coleridge.
He said that the call to abolish priestly privilege showed a lack of understanding of what happens in confession and could even make children "less secure".
"If we trust in the inviolability of the undercut seal, any child who mentions this to a priest would also be seriously diminished, any chance of a priest impressing the victim he needs to inform the responsible adults, outside the confession, and find a road to safety, also to be lost. "
Voluntary celibacy is a "possibility"
The royal commission on child abuse in Australia asked the church to consider voluntary celibacy for the diocesan clergy, despite acknowledging that it has been an important part of the Catholic tradition since the first centuries.
But when journalists asked him what voluntary celibacy would look like and if it was possible, Archbishop Coleridge was not so convincing as to happen in the future, if at all.
He said that "in theory" voluntary celibacy was a possibility, but it would have to be decided by the universal church.
Archbishop Coleridge said that it was likely that the Holy See would act on some of the recommendations of the royal commission, but not on others.
"I suspect that with regard to the question of obligatory celibacy, given its implications for the church in all parts of the world, there will not be much movement on that particular issue," he said.
& # 39; Never again & # 39;
The royal commission, held for more than 400 days, heard more than 8,000 witnesses and received more than 1,300 written accounts.
The majority of survivors of abuse were men and they were between 10 and 14 years old when they were abused for the first time.
Archbishop Coleridge said that many changes had been made since the horrible reality of child sexual abuse was known, but sometimes they were too slow and timid.
"Those failures allowed some abusers to offend again and again, with tragic and sometimes fatal consequences," he said in a statement on Friday.
"The bishops and leaders of the religious orders promise today: never again.
"There will be no cover-up, there will be no transfer of people accused of abuse, there will be no placing of the reputation of the church over the safety of the children."
Sr. Monica said that the church had already begun to change a series of practices, including the projection of people training to be priests or sisters or religious brothers.
We know that sadness and contrition are not enough.
Sister Monica Cavanagh
"We as a church have said sorry and we will continue to say that we are sorry, but we know that grief and contrition are not enough, now we need visible actions, we also know that the task before us requires resolution and a plan to ensure may the past never be repeated, "said Sister Cavanagh.
"Changing the culture of our church to be responsible and open is part of the action that must occur."
Where to now?
The key adviser to the royal commission of the church wants it to appoint an ombudsman or oversight body to investigate complaints and make recommendations to improve systems, processes and the appropriate use of power in the church.
"Such a body would need to have teeth," the Council of Healing and Justice of Truth said in a report published Friday.
It will be up to Pope Francis and his advisers to act on many of the far-reaching recommendations of the Australian royal commission against child abuse and its implications for centuries-old canon law.
The ACBC has initiated conversations with the Holy See on the recommendations of the commission dealing with the discipline and doctrine of the universal church.
The royal commission called on the Holy See to make numerous changes to the centuries-old canonical ecclesiastical law, including that the "pontifical secret" does not apply to accusations of abuse and to consider voluntary celibacy for diocesan clergy .