Priests to dob in child sex abusers
October 20, 2006 12:15am
ANGLICAN priests no longer will be able to useconfidentiality as a reason for not reporting child sex abuse, understrict new rules to be introduced across Adelaide.
The unprecedented measures, to be endorsed bythe Diocese of Adelaide Synod next weekend, will extend to confessionsheard by priests, including those with other priests.
They follow the compulsory training of South Australian Anglicanpriests on their legal requirements to report child abuse toauthorities, which have been opposed by some priests who believeconfidentiality should be maintained for pastoral reasons.
The new rules surpass those implemented nationally by the CatholicChurch, which still maintains confidentiality over confessions.
Adelaide Anglican Archbishop Jeffrey Driver yesterday told TheAdvertiser he would not tolerate any more "cover-ups" within theAnglican Church of child sex abuse, saying previous inaction by churchleaders had caused enormous problems.
Archbishop Driver said priests would be given no option but toobserve a new code of conduct under which they would be forced toreport child abuse, including information received during confession.
"If I was giving confession to a priest who told me about child sexabuse, I would not give him absolution. I would immediately stop theconfession and march him straight to the nearest police station," hesaid.
Detailing the most comprehensive strategy developed by the AdelaideAnglican Church to combat child sex abuse, Archbishop Driver said thechurch "needs to recover its own integrity and confidence in thecommunity".
"This has been diminished by a relatively small group of people whohave done a massive amount of damage," he said. "I am aware confidencein the church and morale within the church has been profoundlyaffected."
An official background document detailing themeasures says they are "considered to be one of the most advanced andcomprehensive in the Commonwealth and may well become a model for useelsewhere".
Under the new strategy, any information receivedby priests about child abuse, including confessions, must be reportedto the church's Professional Standards Committee.
"It isnecessary that the Professional Standards Committee has access, inconfidence, to all information relevant to a possible respondent(offender)," it says.
"Furthermore, failure in the past todisclose and to do anything about information thus received has causeduntold damage to the Church, in its failure to act."
ArchbishopDriver said the removal of confidentiality was part of a code ofconduct developed for Adelaide Anglican priests, church officials andchurch workers - such as volunteers and lay people - which would beadministered by a new professional standards board.
Formationof the board, the appointment of a permanent professional standardsdirector and the restructuring of an existing professional standardscommittee would be presented to the Synod next weekend for officialapproval.
Archbishop Driver said he also would seek authorityfor extra powers to strip priests of their licences if they were foundguilty of child sex abuse by criminal courts or by church inquiries.
Thepowers - contained in special church legislation developed by aninternal committee comprised of lawyers and a Supreme Court judge -would give Archbishop Driver the power to refuse licences to priestswho had been either accused of child sex abuse or found guilty of childsex offences within SA, interstate or overseas.
Also includedin the child sex abuse strategy - triggered by revelations four yearsago of widespread pedophilia within the Adelaide Anglican Church overfive decades - are measures to force priests, church workers andvolunteers to co-operate with church investigations into suspectedchild sex abuse.
Under the new laws, priests who are foundguilty of professional misconduct such as child abuse can be strippedof their licences, counselled, suspended or sacked.
State Government laws requiring priests and church officials to report child abuse are still before Parliament.
The Diocese of Adelaide Synod will meet at St Peter's College, Hackney, from next Friday to Sunday.