WHERE TO NEXT FOR CATHOLIC CHURCH? Royal Commission: Local Priests Reflect; Recommendations on Celibacy and Criminal Confessions Met with Mixed Emotions

Daily News (Warwick, Australia), December 23, 2017 | Go to article overview

WHERE TO NEXT FOR CATHOLIC CHURCH? Royal Commission: Local Priests Reflect; Recommendations on Celibacy and Criminal Confessions Met with Mixed Emotions


Byline: Marian Faa

TWO Warwick priests have reflected with sadness on the history of child sexual abuse within Catholic institutions but say recommendations in regards to celibacy and confessions are not straightforward.

A Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse presented its final report to the Governor-General this month.

The final report included 189 recommendations, two of which have been controversial within the Catholic Church.

They included introducing voluntary celibacy for priests and requiring priests to report matters relating child abuse disclosed in confession.

After 54 years working as a Catholic priest in the Darling Downs and beyond, Fr Terry Hickling said the thought of abuse within the church shocked and disappointed him.

"I am very, very sad that these things have occurred and that priests, religious and people involved in our church have been involved in pedophilia," Fr Hickling said.

"It saddens me and turns my stomach upside down."

Catholic institutions were over-represented in reports of abuse taken from more than 8000 survivors during the five years the commission was conducted.

Nearly 65 per cent of victims identified as male, and most perpetrators of institutional child sexual abuse were teachers and persons in religious ministries.

Parish priest Franco Filipetto said the church had committed itself to working with other authorities to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission but it was only those two recommendations that had become particularly problematic.

"In my opinion these two recommendations cannot be resolved by the church at a national level," Fr Filipetto said.

"The Catholic Church is a universal church... so those issues must be taken to a higher level at the Vatican."

Fr Hickling supports the idea that celibacy be made voluntary for diocesan priests but said the secrecy of the confessional was a sacred charge that must remain unchanged.

"There have been married priests in the Catholic church from the beginning," Fr Hickling said.

"I would hope that the church would bring in voluntary celibacy, that is my wish."

But if Commonwealth laws were changed to force priests to reveal information confided to him in confession, he said he would be forced to disobey.

"On that there can be no change in my book," Fr Hickling said.

"That knowledge in confession is sacred between you and God, and the priest hears it knowing it is the most sacred vow of his priesthood. …

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