THE Catholic bishop overseeing western Victoria believes that removing the confidentiality of confession would not make children safer.
Bishop of the Diocese of Ballarat Paul Bird said that at present the law in Victoria recognises the confidentiality of religious confession.
"In my view, to change the law to remove this confidentiality would not make children any safer," he said.
"It would simply guarantee that an offender would never confess such a crime. So removing this confidentiality would not help the safeguarding of children,” he said.
However, a Warrnambool sex abuse survivor questioned the bishop’s stance.
“What about if someone does confess?” he said.
“It’s as simple as that. Almost everyone wants action taken if someone does confess to a crime so that there are no additional victims.
“Surely if we have learnt anything, that would be a first step – stop there being more victims,” he said.
The victim said it was disappointing that the first step of Australian bishops was to put the Catholic Church first – again.
“Once again the protection of children seems to be an after-thought,” he said.
Bishop Bird said the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had asked that the Australian Bishops seek clarification from the Holy See as to whether information from a victim obtained during a confessional would be included in the seal of confession or whether in fact a priest would be free to report such a disclosure.
"I believe there is good reason to see this as not included in the seal of confession because the seal essentially refers to confidentiality for a penitent who confesses their sins," he said.
"We are waiting on a response from the Holy See on this question," he said.
Abuse survivors have condemned the Catholic Church’s response to recommendations from the Royal Commission.
While Australia's Catholic leaders have vowed to end the cover up of child sexual abuse and have accepted 98 per cent of recommendations, the Seal of Confession rules remain unbroken.
The bishops and peak body for religious orders, Catholic Religious Australia, will not break the seal of confession to reveal child sexual abuse, even if priests risk criminal charges under extended mandatory reporting laws.
“It is contrary to our faith and inimical to religious liberty," Australia Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said.
Clergy abuse survivor Phil Nagle was furious after reading the long-awaited response.
“What they announced is unbelievable. They have accepted pretty much everything but the seal of confession; that’s the one they’ve rejected because they believe they are above the law,” he said.
“They’ve the chance to make changes but instead they have continued with the same model they’ve had for thousands of years.”
Bishop of the Diocese of Ballarat Paul Bird said the Diocese was unable to directly act on some recommendations and were awaiting a response from the Holy See with regard to the seal of confession.