Australian Archbishop refuses to report pedophile priests or their victims to the law; claims that confession alone is a “higher” communication with God

It’s unbelievable that after so many findings of pedophilia and its coverup by the Catholic Church, there are still Catholic bigwigs, people like Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, who want to continue brushing pedophilia under the rug—or keeping it in the confessional. His denials and evasions have been going on for over six months, yet as far as I know he hasn’t qualified or abandoned them, and he’s still the damn Archbishop of Melbourne.

As and The Guardian reported, Hart, described as “Australia’s most powerful clergy,” responded to a report by Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The commission proposed 85 changes to the criminal law, recommending that priests face criminal charges for failing to report crimes like sexual abuse to the police. It also argued that “there should be ‘no excuse, protection nor privilege’ for Catholic clergy who failed to alert police of abuse within the church.”

Archbishop Hart isn’t buying it. As the Guardian reported, he would prefer to keep confessions of sexual abuse, whether by priests or their victims, within the sacrosanct confines of the confessional, though one could “encourage” a child to speak to someone else like a teacher. But the Archbishop himself would keep mum; after all, there is a “higher order” of sanctity: keeping the confessions private.

Speaking to ABC radio 774 in Melbourne, Hart said he stood by comments he made in 2011 that priests would rather be jailed than violate the sacramental seal.

“I believe [confession] is an absolute sacrosanct communication of a higher order that priests by nature respect,” Hart said on Tuesday morning.

“We are admitting a communication with God is of a higher order,” he said. “It is a sacred trust. It’s something those who are not Catholics find hard to understand but we believe it is most, most sacred and it’s very much part of us.”

He said much of the abuse that occurred was historical and awareness of abuse was greater now, and he believed it was unlikely “anything would ever happen” today.

But if someone were to confess they had been sexually abused or they knew of someone who had been, Hart said it would be adequate to encourage them to tell someone else outside of confession. For example, he would encourage a child to tell a teacher, who are already mandated under law to report.

Confession, he added, was “perhaps the only opportunity where a person who has offended or a child who has been hurt can have the opportunity for broader advice,” he said.

Hart himself would rather go to jail than report sexual abuse to the authorities (from

Asked whether he was prepared to be jailed for failing to report child sex abuse by Catholic pedophile priests, Archbishop Hart confirmed he was willing to serve prison time.  He also claimed the right to cover for pedophiles in the church is an “absolutely sacrosanct communication of a higher order.

Hart is joined by other Catholic priests:

Father Frank Brennan, a Jesuit priest and professor of law at the Australian Catholic University, joined Hart in saying he would not adhere to any legislative changes.

“And if there is a law that says that I have to disclose it, then yes, I will conscientiously refuse to comply with the law,’’ Brennan told the Australian.

‘‘All I can say is that in 32 years no one has ever come near me and confessed anything like that. And instituting such a law, I say, simply reduces rather than increases the prospect that anyone ever will come and confess that to me.’’

Seriously? And what if they do confess? Do they go to jail for rape? No way! The church will simply shuffle them off to a new parish, or urge them to hie to a monastery or take early retirement. Arguing that the law makes predators less likely to confess is not an argument at all, for confession doesn’t accomplish anything—at least not in the real world.

At least in the U.S., while the psychiatrist/patient relationship is confidential, therapists have a duty to report to the police any evidence of a serious crime. I’m not sure that that’s true in Australia, but it doesn’t seem to be true for the priest/parishoner or even the priest/priest relationship.

Here’s Hart justifying his views on the basis that confession allows the rapist priest to be forgiven (but what about the confessing child?).  This is sheer lunacy: an example of religion covering up horrible crimes to maintain its doctrine.

Here’s Hart in 2013, refusing to answer a question about whether pedophiles identified by the Church are still on the loose in society.

This is one example of how religion poisons everything. Truly, this man has no business being an Archbishop, much less a priest, for he has a serious morality problem. If he had his way, pedophile priests might be chastised by the Church, or given early retirement, but they’d still be allowed to go free and mingle in society. Yet we know that pedophilia is not usually a one-off thing: pedophiles have a serious and hard-to-cure problem, and society, not the Church, needs to do something about it.

Let us remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:21: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” Civil punishment of pedophilia belongs to Caesar. After that’s taken care of, Hart can let God deal with it.

The miscreant, Archbishop Denis Hart


h/t: Gayle


  1. Posted March 25, 2018 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    The bishop is quite right. He should not report such cases to the police. What he *should* do, and there is nothing to stop him, is to require and have priests in his diocese requre that absolution only be granted after the offender has confessed, not only to the police, but to the civil authorities.

    • Posted March 25, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      “not only to the priest”!!

      • Rita
        Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink


    • Heather Hastie
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      I agree. He should require them to confess to civil authorities to prove they want to change and in order to receive absolution.

      Hart is no different from every Catholic oriest the world over in not wanting to break the seal of the confessional. However, he does not have to give absolution in such a discreet way. Historically, women in particular were required to make all sorts of public penance, which could take years, to get their absolution.

      Something else Hart said worried me a great deal – that in 32 years a priest had never confessed paedophilia to him. Given that we know from the Royal Commission that paedophilia was widespread in the Australian Church, that means that paedophile priests were either confessing to sympathetic priests, or they weren’t confessing at all. If they’re not confessing at all, they either have no guilt about what they’re doing, or at least no desire to try and change.

      • Gordon
        Posted March 25, 2018 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

        or indeed much belief that they will burn in hell or whatever post-life consequence is supposed to follow from not confessing.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted March 26, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

          Yep! Good point.

    • Posted March 25, 2018 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      I agree. There are reasons to keep the secrets of the confessional. There’s no reason to absolve the crimes in these cases.

    • Pikolo
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      I like this approach – it’s a real example of cultural sensitivity and reasonable religious acomodation. It allows the church to maintain it’s policy(confidential confessions) and comply with the law.

    • nicky
      Posted March 26, 2018 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Exactly, if one is truly repenting, one should be willing to face the consequences of one’s crimes. No self-reporting to the police, no absolution. It is not very complicated, meseems.

  2. Posted March 25, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I understand the concept of the confessional being sacrosanct, but why would an archbishop be taking confessions? Being an archbishop is largely an administrative position, so I would expect that he would avoid taking confessions because it would compromise his position in the hierarchy as one who makes decisions about clerical matters.

    This is a severe case of clergy blowing smoke up the cassocks of their peers and up our asses.

    • Posted March 26, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      I forget how matters work – wouldn’t he receive confessions from his bishops?

      (I thought there was sort of a “confess to the next level up” thing.)

  3. steve oberski
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Truly, this man has no business being an Archbishop, much less a priest, for he has a serious morality problem.

    This man comports perfectly with the bronze age snuff porn derived, anti-human, depraved, genocidal, xenophobic, misogynistic, homophobic morality of the Catholic Church.

    He perfectly represents the ideology of this criminal organization and to the extent that Australian (an other) Catholics provide him with financial and moral support, they are culpable in the crimes that he commits.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Yes, anyone who supports this organization with money has a lot to answer for as well. We sure want to get our morality from the church, right?

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink


      • Rita
        Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        The Catholic Church has seen a massive drop in donations since the revelations about the pedophile priests.

    • Brad
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      AGREED! Then let the Aussie authorities put the miscreant archbishop in the hoosegow if he does not report child abuse, sexual or otherwise. Maybe after a few months of being cooped up with other criminals he will deign to know the real truth.

    • Zetopan
      Posted March 28, 2018 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      You left out money laundering for the mob (only discovered a few years ago) and outright theft of the property of people that the church condemned.

  4. Posted March 25, 2018 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    yeah 10 bucks says he’s violated a few altar boys too

  5. BJ
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I thought the last story was unsurprising, but this is even more so.

  6. Liz
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    They send them to the Saint Luke Institute in MD.

  7. Rita
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Here is a link to a Tim Minchin song along with praise from a priest (they’re not ALL pedo’s) Scroll down to hear the song – it’s worth it.

    • Helen Hollis
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

      “Its art,” he said. “In a work of art, which is what Minchin was doing, it was a cry from the heart. The heart speaks another language from the mind.”

      I think Father Bob meant well when he said this. Because I am not going to assume he meant that there was anything wrong with Minchin’s mind.

  8. Posted March 25, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Why on earth do these superstitious people think that imagining your imaginary friend has let you off, somehow absolves you of responsibility for your actions? What about confessing to their victims and making reparations for the crimes they commit?

    • Helen Hollis
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

      IMHO, Catholics do not take the approach that they are let off of anything. Many evangelicals do not feel the need to confess to anyone but Jesus himself in prayer.

    • jay
      Posted March 26, 2018 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      “Why on earth do these superstitious people think that imagining your imaginary friend has let you off, somehow absolves you of responsibility for your actions?”

      True. But is a government representative any more morally authoritative? Is confessing to the state any different?

      • phil
        Posted March 26, 2018 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

        What has moral authority got to do with confession?

        In the secular world people might confess to police, who might investigate the case, and pass the information on to the courts for prosecution and to decide punishment. While we would all want the process to be done with due concern for the highest morals, the aim is administration of law and dispensing of justice.

        Confessing to the state is entirely different in that the state applies temporal punishment and may demand compensation for victims. By contrast the church just say “Sin no more” and sends the guilty on their way, frequently to re-offend in the case of paedophiles.

  9. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Sometime I wonder whether some of the church hierarchies are actually secretly working towards the death of religion. We all know of various high-heidjuns in the Anglican bullshit-factory who openly admit that they don’t believe in major tenets of their religion. This appears to be a similarly high-heidjun in the Catholics ; Mormons have been controlled by self-parodists since day 1 of Wossname and the golden tablets. It really does look as if some religions are governed by people with a death wish for those religions.
    How did Billy put it? “A plague on all their houses!”

  10. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Oh, for non-existent Christs’ sakes! It is pretty clear that Christians are supposed to obey the laws of their government, since those governments were put in place by God. That is Christianity 101, and he should look into it.

    • Helen Hollis
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

      I remember reading this in the bible when I was young when being raised as a JW. I always wondered why they read it out loud, yet had to argue in court to refuse to participate in the pledge, and refused to vote.

  11. Jessy Smith
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Why does an all powerful all knowing God need Catholics confessing to a priest?

    • Helen Hollis
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

      Why does an all powerful all knowing Allah need Muslims to pray in Arabic?

    • Jiten
      Posted March 26, 2018 at 5:01 am | Permalink

      That’s just one of a whole mountain load of puzzling things about religion.

  12. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    The argument rings hollow when you consider the extent to which the RCC has been more concerned about protecting the institution than the well-being of its parishioners, including shuffling offending priests to other parishes rather than firing them and reporting them. Prioritizing the institution over people is also a problem with lesser issues like corruption in the Vatican bank, etc.

    Currently, some of the Australian press seems to think that mandatory reporting should be extended to the confessional, as this article in the Sydney Morning Herald notes.

    In most of the United States, it is still the case that clergy are mandated reporters, except in the case of something heard during confession. This article discusses the issue in California.

    I kinda sorta get the sanctity of the secrets of the confessional but mostly in other contexts. It plays a pivotal role in Alfred Hitchcock’s “I, Confess” and I am told it is a plot point in multiple episodes of “Law and Order”.

    Ironically, its most articulate defense comes from ….Friedrich Nietzsche. In the context of a hostile diatribe on Martin Luther, FN writes,
    ” After Luther had given a wife to the priest, he had to take from him auricular confession; that was psychologically right. But thereby he practically did away with the Christian priest himself, whose profoundest utility has ever consisted in his being a sacred ear, a silent well, and a grave for secrets.”

  13. FB
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I was raised Catholic and hated confession. It was always disturbing to kneel in front of an adult male, and a strange, very close to his body, and whisper my “sins” since I was eight. Another kind of child abuse that Catholics respect because, you know, it’s an “absolute sacrosanct communication of a higher order”.

  14. Dave
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Lock the bastard up now and save time.

  15. grasshopper
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Google won’t tell me if Margaret Hobbs was a psychiatrist, only that she was a psychotherapist.

    In 1991 six year-old Sheree Beasley was kidnapped and murdered by a man at Rosebud, in Victoria, Australia. His psychotherapist, Margaret Hobbs, began to suspect he was involved in her murder, and reported her suspicions to the police, who subsequently bugged her rooms to collect evidence.

    The killer was a sunday school teacher and Presbyterian church elder at my aunt’s church.

    Suffer the little children.

  16. Posted March 25, 2018 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Would these crimes be called mulligans here. Just read Michael Gerson and dollowmhistorian JohnFea, both evangelicals and both point out the loss of the virtues presumed foremost.
    So today one can pillage, loot, rape, steal and if tell the friendly priest be exonerated? Explains politica

  17. Barney
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Strange that he talks about the victims “confessing”. They are surely “testifying” – before God, in his eyes – of a crime committed against them. I don’t see why that should be included in their ideas of “confession of sins” being completely confidential.

    • Posted March 25, 2018 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      It seems to me that the Catholic church’s view of sex is so warped (what do expect if it’s employees are forbidden from doing it) that being raped might very possibly be considered a sin.

  18. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    “There are reasons to keep the secrets of the confsssional”. Maybe, but where there is a serious crime, the laws of the land have to take precedence over the “laws” of the church. When the Church made the laws, life was nasty, brutish, and short. One of the greatest leaps forward in human thriving came when the Church lost the power to make laws for everyone. There is absolutely no justification for sliding backward on that progress in this day and age.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 25, 2018 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      “… the laws of the land have to take precedence over the “laws” of the church.”

      In the US, the law of the land recognizes a legal privilege applicable to confidential communications between penitent and clergy.

      • phil
        Posted March 26, 2018 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

        That doesn’t make it morally acceptable. And what of atheists, do they have corresponding rights?

  19. SusanD
    Posted March 25, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Ah yes, the Catholic church. It doesn’t pay any taxes, wants parishioners to donate part of their income to it, then abuses the children we send them to be educated. My brain can’t deal with that conundrum.
    But is there any depth to which the Catholic Church has not sunk in its 2000-odd year history? Here just some of its abominations (maybe you can think of more):

    – burning astronomers at the stake
    – torturing anyone with a new idea
    – cowing the populace into submission with threats of eternal damnation for the slightest disobedience
    – selling its god’s benevolence for money in the form of “indulgences”
    – treating women as the lowest form of life
    – slaughtering millions in its drive to be the only “true” religion
    – stamping out native beliefs and cultures in favour of its own dogmas
    – stealing entire generations of Australian (and presumably other countries’) children by drugging unmarried mothers and coercing them into giving up their children for “a better life”.
    – protecting paedophile priests (surely the greatest ‘sin’ ever perpetrated)

    Would Jesus have done any of this?

    Surely the sooner this monstrous, misogynist, evil institution fades away, the better off the whole world will be. Luckily, since it won’t admit women as priests, this is exactly what will happen as fewer and fewer men are silly enough to join up.
    Even God must be saying “will no-one rid me of this disgusting, totally out of touch bunch of turbulent priests?”

    • nicky
      Posted March 26, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      If I’m not mistaken, the selling of ‘indulgences’ was one of the, if not the, most important reason(s) for the Reformation, and hence the cause for the religious wars in Europe, and therefore, indirectly, for the Enlightenment (yes I know I’m cutting corners there, but still).

      • SusanD
        Posted March 26, 2018 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

        That may well be the case, I must do some more reading on that. WWI provided the impetus for female suffrage and women attaining their rights as human beings, but that doesn’t make WWI a good thing. The selling of indulgences was purely a money-making exercise at the expense of the “faithful”. Oh, don’t get me started…

    • Posted March 26, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      A minor one compared to the others, but one that still makes me said: ruins the minds of some geniuses, like Thomas Aquinas. When ever I read the guy, I sigh, because the guy is obviously so very intelligent, but his starting points are so demented. Imagine what would have happened if he’d been able to use his intellect even in the way that Aristotle did! (Never mind Galileo or whatever.)

  20. Posted March 25, 2018 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Can we consider them complicit in the crime?

  21. Posted March 26, 2018 at 2:27 am | Permalink

    I hear the distant thunder of more ex parishioners as they head for the door……


  22. CJColucci
    Posted March 26, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne is a Catholic. Film at 11:00.
    The secular state, on the other hand, is not bound by the House Rules that bind the Archbishop. and may decide whether to accommodate those rules or not, as it chooses. If it chooses not to, it can toss the recalcitrant confessor into the slammer. Whether that will actually get the needed information depends on how seriously the priest takes the House Rules.

    • phil
      Posted March 26, 2018 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

      The problem with the secular state is that it is populated, staffed, with many Catholics (and other religious type of course) and many of them are quite willing to pervert the course of justice, just as the RCC was, to avoid disgracing the church. That was part of the problem uncovered by the Royal Commission, that in some instance (but by no means all) police were complicit in protecting offenders from prosecution. Also religious legislators fight tooth and nail to protect churches from confining laws.

  23. Posted March 26, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    What disgrace!

  24. phil
    Posted March 26, 2018 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    “It’s something those who are not Catholics find hard to understand …”

    There’s nothing to understand. He would rather follow directions from a criminal organisation than obey the laws of the land, which must have precedence in every circumstance.

    Lock him up and deprogram him.

    • phil
      Posted March 26, 2018 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

      This should be compared to the RCC’s opposition to same sex marriage and the disgusting propaganda they put about in the lead up to our unnecessary plebivotasurvey thingy*. Then they had the gall to announce that people who marry someone of the same sex might be dismissed from employment in Catholic institutions.

      Comedian/satirist Shaun Micallef skewered this nicely when he commented something like “That’s a bit severe. Surely they could just move them to a different parish.”

      * And voters in the electorate of the very very Catholic and same-sex-marriage opponent Tony Abbott voted in greater proportion (75%) than the national average, against Tony’s wishes. |-D

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