“There is a direct conflict between the requirement of our legislation and Canon Law. Canon Law can never be allowed to over-ride civil law, in particular when it comes to the protection of children”.

Social Democrats Spokesperson for Children Cllr. Jennifer Whitmore today called on the Taoiseach to raise the issue of child protection and the Catholic Church’s position on the sanctity of the Confessional with Pope Francis when he meets with him this week.

Priests are mandated persons under the Children’s First Act, which means that they are legally obliged to report any suspicions or information relating to child abuse to the Child and Family Agency.

However, the Catholic Church’s “Safeguarding Children Policy and Standards for the Catholic Church in Ireland 2016” explicitly states that the statutory reporting of these concerns does not apply to information received during confession and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as it is forbidden under Canon Law to break the seal of confession.

Whitmore said “There is a direct conflict between the requirement of our legislation and Canon Law. Canon Law can never be allowed to over-ride civil law, in particular when it comes to the protection of children.  In his letter to Catholics worldwide today, Pope Francis stated “Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.”

Whitmore ended “If the Pope is serious about child protection, he must amend Canon Law to ensure that the secrecy of confession does not apply to any aspect of allegations relating to child sexual abuse. In the absence of this strong message from the Vatican there will always be hypocrisy in the Church’s approach to child protection. I call on the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, to raise this issue with Pope Francis when he meets with him this week”

ENDS

29th August 2018