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Dublin: 15 °C Tuesday 2 September, 2014

No exceptions for priests in child abuse legislation

Catholic confession will not get special treatment in new laws over reporting child abuse, the government has confirmed.

Image: Riccardo De Luca/AP/Press Association Images

PRIESTS HEARING CONFESSION will not be excused from new laws making it illegal not to pass on allegations of child abuse, the government has confirmed.

The legislation drawn up in the wake of the Cloyne report, which revealed widespread cover-ups of child abuse allegations within the Catholic hierarchy, will make it mandatory for all such allegations to be reported to gardaí. Suggestions that the new laws would break the confessional seal have sparked an angry reaction among some clerics – with Cardinal Seán Brady saying it “undermines [...] the right of every Catholic to freedom of religion”.

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice today told TheJournal.ie that mandatory reporting “will apply regardless of any internal rules of any religious grouping”. Saying that the “central focus” of the law was child protection, the spokesperson said a culture of not reporting in the past had led to sexual predators believing they have “impunity” in preying on children.

There was some confusion over the planned legal changes after justice minister Alan Shatter told the Irish Times yesterday that confession would not be mentioned in the legislation. However, the Department of Justice spokesperson today confirmed that although the confessional seal would not be picked out by name, it would still be covered by the law.

Minister Shatter told the paper that the controversy over the confessional seal was a “bogus issue”. It’s understood the legislation is currently with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, and the government is hoping to bring it to the Dáil by the end of October.

Read more: The Cloyne Report – who’s saying what>

Read more: Cloyne report findings ‘could not be starker or more disturbing’>

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