Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, Vol 30, No 3 (2017)

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

Michael Andre Guerzoni
Issued Date: 31 May 2018


The sacrament of confession is criticised for impeding clerical reporting ofinformation about child sexual abuse to authorities. The sacrament of confessionis found within Catholicism and Anglicanism and imposes a ‘seal’on priests, forbidding them from ever revealing details of the sins confessedto them. This creates a moral dilemma in cases of abuse: should the priestobey canon or civil law? There have been recent efforts in AustralianAnglicanism to address this dilemma via canonical reform in 2014 and2017. In light of these changes, this article examines the perspectives ofAnglican clergy in the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania towards the confessionalseal. Findings reveal that most clergy would not obey canon law andecclesiastical instructions about maintaining the confessional seal on thegrounds that this requirement contravenes their theological and moralprinciples. The clergy also describe their approaches to responding toinformation of harm revealed both in confessional and pastoral encounters,demonstrating a desire to act in ways that assist all parties involved.

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DOI: 10.1558/jasr.35021


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