Item Details

The Sacrament of Confession and Child Sexual Abuse: Reported Practise of Tasmanian Anglican Clergy Navigating the Confidentiality Dilemma

Issue: Vol 30 No. 3 (2017)

Journal: Journal for the Academic Study of Religion

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Buddhist Studies Islamic Studies Biblical Studies

DOI: 10.1558/jasr.35021


The sacrament of confession is criticised for impeding clerical reporting of
information about child sexual abuse to authorities. The sacrament of confession
is found within Catholicism and Anglicanism and imposes a ‘seal’
on priests, forbidding them from ever revealing details of the sins confessed
to them. This creates a moral dilemma in cases of abuse: should the priest
obey canon or civil law? There have been recent efforts in Australian
Anglicanism to address this dilemma via canonical reform in 2014 and
2017. In light of these changes, this article examines the perspectives of
Anglican clergy in the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania towards the confessional
seal. Findings reveal that most clergy would not obey canon law and
ecclesiastical instructions about maintaining the confessional seal on the
grounds that this requirement contravenes their theological and moral
principles. The clergy also describe their approaches to responding to
information of harm revealed both in confessional and pastoral encounters,
demonstrating a desire to act in ways that assist all parties involved.

Author: Michael Andre Guerzoni

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