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Abuse inquiry calls raised at Vatican

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June 14, 2018

Archbishop Mark Coleridge will confer with the Vatican about breaking the seal of confession.

The Catholic Church argues it can protect children while not breaking the seal of confession, even if priests face the prospect of criminal charges for failing to report child sexual abuse.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge will hold talks with Vatican officials about the child abuse royal commission's recommendations, which include the controversial call to break the sacramental seal to reveal child abuse.

Archbishop Coleridge says the safety of children is paramount for the church in Australia but any safety measures must be realistic and effective.

"There's nothing to suggest that legal abolition of the seal will help in that regard," he said.

"Whatever (the) questions of religious freedom or the sheer practicability of what's proposed, the real question is will it make children any safer - and the church's answer is no."

The Brisbane archbishop said protecting children and upholding the integrity of Catholic sacraments are not mutually exclusive and the church will continue to work with government to ensure both can be achieved and maintained.

Archbishop Coleridge leaves on the weekend for a 10-day visit to Rome, which will include meetings with Vatican officials about the royal commission's recommendations for the universal church and the Australian church's 2020 Plenary Council.

He will also attend an international conference on child safety involving English-speaking Catholic leaders and experts.

The royal commission called on the Holy See to make numerous changes to centuries-old canon law including that the "pontifical secret" does not apply to child abuse allegations and to consider voluntary celibacy for diocesan clergy.

It also criticised the Vatican for being slow to respond to petitions from Catholic Church authorities in Australia to dismiss those found to have committed child sexual abuse.

Archbishop Coleridge said the church in Australia has already implemented a number of the royal commission's recommendations, also noting it was the first non-government institution to commit to the national redress scheme.

It includes work on consistent national safeguarding standards and establishing or strengthening child safeguarding officers in dioceses, archdioceses and other Catholic organisations.

The federal government announced its formal response to the royal commission's recommendations on Wednesday, establishing a national office for child safety and setting October 22 as the date for a national apology to institutional child sexual abuse survivors.

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