Friday, October 20, 2006

Priest To Dob In Child Sex Abusers

Adelaide, AU -- ANGLICAN priests no longer will be able to use confidentiality as a reason for not reporting child sex abuse, under strict new rules to be introduced across Adelaide.

The unprecedented measures, to be endorsed by the Diocese of Adelaide Synod next weekend, will extend to confessions heard by priests, including those with other priests.

They follow the compulsory training of South Australian Anglican priests on their legal requirements to report child abuse to authorities, which have been opposed by some priests who believe confidentiality should be maintained for pastoral reasons.

The new rules surpass those implemented nationally by the Catholic Church, which still maintains confidentiality over confessions.

Adelaide Anglican Archbishop Jeffrey Driver yesterday told The Advertiser he would not tolerate any more "cover-ups" within the Anglican Church of child sex abuse, saying previous inaction by church leaders had caused enormous problems.

Archbishop Driver said priests would be given no option but to observe a new code of conduct under which they would be forced to report child abuse, including information received during confession.

"If I was giving confession to a priest who told me about child sex abuse, I would not give him absolution. I would immediately stop the confession and march him straight to the nearest police station," he said.

Detailing the most comprehensive strategy developed by the Adelaide Anglican Church to combat child sex abuse, Archbishop Driver said the church "needs to recover its own integrity and confidence in the community".

"This has been diminished by a relatively small group of people who have done a massive amount of damage," he said. "I am aware confidence in the church and morale within the church has been profoundly affected."

Also included in the child sex abuse strategy - triggered by revelations four years ago of widespread pedophilia within the Adelaide Anglican Church over five decades - are measures to force priests, church workers and volunteers to co-operate with church investigations into suspected child sex abuse.

Under the new laws, priests who are found guilty of professional misconduct such as child abuse can be stripped of their licences, counselled, suspended or sacked.

State Government laws requiring priests and church officials to report child abuse are still before Parliament.

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