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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The Anglican Church Investigation Report

Contents

B.5.1: Introduction

1. The seal of the confessional is the expectation, in English law and canon law, that words spoken to a priest by a penitent during confession will remain confidential.[1]

2. Confession is a “minority practice” within the Church of England and it is unclear how many people participate.[2] A Church of England working party on the seal of the confessional has stated that confession is regarded “by a significant part of the Church of England as an extremely important pastoral ministry”.[3]

3. Some – in particular victims and survivors and their representative groups – have suggested that there should be some form of mandatory reporting duty.[4] This would impose an obligation to inform statutory authorities if an individual admitted that he or she had sexually abused a child. It would, in effect, break the seal of the confessional. The duty might be supported by a criminal offence for anyone who failed to report allegations as required.[5] This report deals with reporting in the context of the Church of England, including one case where concerns were raised about the perpetrator’s use of the seal to silence his victims. The issues of the seal of the confessional and mandatory reporting will form part of the Inquiry’s final report as they have arisen in several of the Inquiry’s investigations.

References

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