“If you’re referring to the seal of the confessional, that’s non-negotiable,” he said.
The ABC’s Q&A is no stranger to controversy — but one particular question on last night’s show raised some eyebrows.
The show’s host Virginia Trioli asked what a priest should do when a parishioner walks into confession after being attacked by her husband.
According to Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge, the “sacred bond” between priest and parishioner appears to mean a priest has no obligation to report domestic violence.
Specifically, he insisted that the confidential “seal of the confessional” was “non-negotiable.”
The discussion around the church and domestic violence began innocently enough, with Archbishop Coleridge acknowledging that the church had a part to play in tackling domestic violence.
“This is a community responsibility including the church’s,” Coleridge – who is the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane – said.
Coleridge also acknowledged that for too long, domestic violence remained hidden and dismissed by authorities.
“It was one of those things, like the abuse of the young, that went on behind closed doors… it was a cone of silence, ‘it happened in the family home, let it be’,” he said.
“Well, those days are gone.”
That’s when acting Q&A host Virginia Trioli stepped in, asking him whether the Catholic church needed to take responsibility for turning a bling eye to family violence for so long.
“Archbishop can I jump in there?,” she said.
“I was raised Catholic and in a very strong Catholic parish, and it seems to me that the issue – like clerical sexual abuse of children – that the issue of family violence was one that perhaps the priests also turned a blind eye to, didn’t speak up on, and perhaps that was an issue they could haven’t spoken out but didn’t speak out.
“Is that something the church needs to reflect on, and needs to wonder about the role they played?”
“Maybe, yes,” the Archbishop confessed.
“The church has to reflect on it. And if they were turning a blind eye, it was following suit with the whole society, which has for a very long time known that this has gone on and turned a blind eye,” he said.