27 October 2014, The Tablet

Call for Catholic priests to deny absolution to abusers

Priests should refuse absolution to people who confess to abusing children, a Catholic academic has said, days after the Church of England announced it would be examining whether abuse admitted in the confessional should remain confidential.

John Cornwell, who has written a book on confession and is a contributor to The Tablet, warned that withholding absolution would dissuade abusers from seeking the sacrament at all.

But he said that withholding absolution instead could bring to an end cycles of abuse and absolution.

The Cambridge academic, who was sexually propositioned by a priest during confession as a child, told The Times: “Catholic priest abusers appeared to use confession routinely to square their pastoral and offending lives. In one court case in Australia a priest admitted to confessing his abuse 1,400 times.”

Last week a report revealed that an independent inquiry into abuse by a former Anglican dean of Manchester, Robert Waddington, found that the Church of England failed to act adequately to stop the abuse.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, said that one of those who reported abuse to the inquiry believes that disclosures made in the confessional should not be confidential.

The archbishop said he had sympathy with this view and announced that the Church has commissioned theological and legal work on the question.


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