The Anglican Church of Australia has voted to amend the canon on confession, which traditionally has required ministers to observe total confidentiality when people confess their sins. Now, if penitents confess a crime, the pastor will be expected to rat them out to the police.
The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia has voted to amend the church’s 1989 canon on confession, no longer requiring its clergy to maintain the seal of the confession.
On 2 July 2014 synod amended the existing rule that states the confession of a crime is to be kept confidential unless the person making the confession consents to a priest disclosing it. The new policy allows priests to report serious crimes if the person making the confession has not reported the offence to police and director of professional standards. A minister is only obliged to keep such an offence secret if he or she is reasonably satisfied that the penitent has already reported the offence to police.
The proposer of the motion, barrister Garth Blake, told synod the church should not act as a cloak for criminals. “It seemed to me that protecting children and the vulnerable takes precedence over the confidentiality of confessions.”
Adelaide Archbishop Jeffrey Driver told The Advertiser he would encourage his dioceses to adopt the new policy. “I understand the importance of the confessional, but on balance I believe this is a healthy step,” he said.