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Children’s rights versus freedom of religion: the sanctity of the confessional seal

In response to the ongoing cascade of accusations and evidence of systemic and decades long child abuse, the federal government finally announced a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child…

Should the law of God or the law of the land govern the confessional box? flickr/emilio

In response to the ongoing cascade of accusations and evidence of systemic and decades long child abuse, the federal government finally announced a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse on Monday. One possible recommendation is already being mooted, that priests be obliged to report any knowledge of child sex abuse to police. Such an obligation would undoubtedly enhance protection of the rights of children. It would also interfere with the freedom of religion of priests if they are compelled to reveal information conveyed during formal “confessions”. In this clash of rights, which should prevail?

Statutory duties to report exist in other contexts, such as for medical professionals and teachers. In these instances, human rights may be at issue, particularly the right to privacy of a perpetrator, who for example might have revealed child abuse crimes during therapy sessions. It is, however, fairly easy to recognise that the privacy rights of the perpetrator should be subordinated to the rights of child victims of that perpetrator.

The imposition of a duty on Catholic priests to reveal communications imparted during confession raises different human rights issues. The competing rights are not between those of the perpetrator and the victim, but between the victim and the priest who has heard a perpetrator’s confession. Confession is a practice in the Catholic Church whereby a person can confess his or her “sins” to a priest in return for religious absolution. The confession is confidential: the “confessional seal” is a centuries old sacrament of the Catholic Church, and there are no canonical exceptions (see Article 1467 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church). So, for example, confidentiality applies even if vile crimes have been admitted. The breaking of that seal would force Catholic priests to act against their fundamental religious beliefs, even if compelled by law to protect the rights of vulnerable people. The same is true of priests in the Anglican Church.

Freedom of religion is recognised under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Australia is a party. It is not an absolute right so, for example, it can be limited by laws which are necessary to protect “the fundamental rights and freedoms of others”. Clearly, many manifestations of religious belief, such as polygamy or female genital mutilation, may be prohibited due to their impacts on the rights of others. Furthermore, religious practices do evolve. Indeed, formal one on one confession is declining in the Catholic Church.

Freedom of religion is in fact one of the only human rights recognised in the Australian Constitution in section 116. The constitutional provision has been interpreted narrowly, and no law has ever fallen foul of it. In any case, it only binds the federal legislature so such laws could be enacted by the States. Nevertheless, several Australian jurisdictions recognise the privileged nature of priest-penitent communications, exempting a priest from revealing confessional secrets in a witness box.

From a human rights law point of view, I believe that the priest’s deep religious adherence to the inviolability of the confessional seal can be required to give way to the need to protect a child’s right to be free from cruel and degrading treatment. But the former rights cannot be simply dismissed as irrelevant, out-of-date, or irrational. Notions of freedom of religion would have little meaning if they only apply to manifestations of rational beliefs shared by the majority: the very nature of religion is to buy into leaps of faith beyond the objectively provable. The human right to do that is an important one.

Regardless of my views on the appropriate balance here between competing human rights, it seems unlikely that many priests will obey a law which requires them to break the confessional seal. In response to proposed compulsory reporting laws in Ireland, its clergy has stated that they will engage in mass disobedience. And Father Frank Brennan is already on the record in Australia as saying that he would go to jail rather than reveal anything said “under the seal of the confessional”. On Monday, Cardinal Pell also stressed the inviolability of the seal of confession.

If a compulsory reporting obligation for priests is to apply to information revealed during confession, the outcome could well be that many priests go to jail due to their refusal to compromise profound religious beliefs rather than any desire to cover up crimes. Practically, it might be very difficult to prove that such information which was so revealed. It may be that the issue of the confession seal is a furphy, with little likelihood of useful information being attained from a compulsory removal of the seal. Alternatively, it might mean that child sex abuse crimes are simply not “confessed”. Perhaps these factors indicate that such a law would achieve little.

However, there still might be significant utility in such a law. On the weekend, Cardinal Pell made the strange comment that in the past, “they [presumably the Church and the perpetrators] were entitled to think of paedophilia as simply a sin that you would repent of”. Yet paedophilia is and has long been a serious crime and a heinous assault on the bodily integrity of the most vulnerable. Pell’s remark might indicate that the availability of religious absolution for such despicable crimes has exacerbated the institutionalisation of the problem by providing an easy way out for the perpetrator’s conscience.

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  1. Daniel Heath

    logged in via Twitter

    "Clearly, many manifestations of religious belief, such as polygamy or female genital mutilation, may be prohibited due to their impacts on the rights of others"

    I find myself wondering how, precisely, does polygamy impact on the rights of others?

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Daniel Heath

      Ha! I thought someone would ask this. It is an interesting question. First, polygamy has been consistently condemned by international human rights bodies. Second, it generally impacts on the rights of women to be free from discrimination - polygamy is much more common than polyandry. But ... I concede that the IHR bodies have not explained this point well.

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    2. Daniel Heath

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Daniel Heath

      Which specific international human rights bodies?
      Quite a few have a religious bent and allow it to influence their policies.

      I'm aware that polygamy frequently happens where women are being discriminated against, but that is an effect of discrimination, not a cause.

      I have several friends who are involved in polygamous relationships, and the daily discrimination they face for their love is disgusting. Articles which conflate polygamy with abuse are not helping the situation.

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    3. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Daniel Heath

      For some reason I can't reply to your second comment so I'll reply here. The Human Rights Committee under the ICCPR routinely criticises polygamy as does CEDAW. I don't know about the others - probably no reason to comment on it.

      They are criticising the formal institutions of polygamy. There has been no criticism of the toleration by a state of non-monogamous relationships.

      I must confess - I am no expert on polygamy. Years ago I had a student write an excellent essay defending it from a human rights point of view. It is just an example in the article, not its focus at all.

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    4. Adam Richards

      Teacher

      In reply to Daniel Heath

      I agree. Sarah mentions that it is condemned by human rights organisations, but I imagine this is because polygamy is mainly practiced in countries that already have poor records in regards to women's rights. Polygamous relationships would only exacerbate inequality in such circumstances. Could it be different in countries with relatively good women's rights records?

      Also I thought a man having more than wife was called polygyny, woman with more than one husband polyandry, and having more than one spouse, whether male or female is called polygamy. Am I wrong?

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    5. Hugh Young

      independent researcher

      In reply to Daniel Heath

      Sarah's first answer commits the fallacy of Appeal to Authority (http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/appeal-to-authority) Human rights bodies (should) condemn something because it is harmful, not the other way around.

      Her second objection is null if polygyny and polyandry are both allowed, and men and women are both equally free to take multiple partners. But at the same time? Then we are talking of polyamory.

      In practice, polyandry should be economically much sounder, with several working husbands…

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    6. Matt Stevens

      Senior Research Fellow/Statistician/PhD

      In reply to Daniel Heath

      "Second, it impacts on the rights of women to be free from discrimination."

      Sarah, what kind of argument is this. Hypothetical, if i was gay and i chose to have a relationship with another man, then being gay is the problem. This is the most ridiculous statement i have heard in a longttime.

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Riddley Walker

      I didn't discuss the religious rights of the confessor, ie the perpetrator. Perhaps it is arguable that his right to seek absolution would also be affected. But I discount that - he could still confess, but just not without penalty. Nor is there a right to a religious outcome. And in any case, victim's rights would prevail.

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  2. Bruce Mcdonald

    logged in via email @live.vu.edu.au

    Yes people should have the right to freedom of religion, however if those beliefs impact on the wellbeing of others then by law it should be stopped. Confessionals can let some of the most hideous crimes imaginable go unnoticed. So it has come to the point where I don’t think the Catholic Church can justify maintaining their obligation to confessional booths.

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Bruce Mcdonald

      We don't know yet how much these crimes are actually confessed. And protecting sanctity of confessional would not apply to systematic coverups which happen outside confessional (eg moving priests away etc), or to suppression of complaints etc. I guess my point is we don't yet know (or at least I don't - I am no expert on the actual allegations) how much the confessional has obstructed processes.

      Certainly, Pell's comment indicates that it has!

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  3. Zvyozdochka

    logged in via Twitter

    Aren't we missing a step? Isn't confession a primative form of counsel to stop the confessor doing something wrong? Pretty good evidence would be required to suggest it has an effect on the wrong-doer to allow it to continue without reportage of great harm.

    I'm tired of the idea that one set of "rights" (freedom of religion) demands to be respected when those rights are used to perpetrate generational destruction and abuse throughout the world.

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    1. Hugh Young

      independent researcher

      In reply to Zvyozdochka

      It's arguable that breaking the seal of the confessional raises "freedom of religion" issues. People would still be free to confess and get absolution, and priests still free to hear them and give it - they would just (and it's a big "just") not have the security of knowing that confessing secular crimes left them immune from secular punishment. In other words, the freedom of relgion occurs at the confession, not with what might happen afterwards. But it's a moot point. Freedom to practise religion is not unlimited when harm to others is involved, as we see in the case of gential cutting (at least female, so far, but it's only a matter of time before almost everyone sees it for male cutting too.)

      I think a more salient point is the practical one, that if the seal of the confession were broken, those crimes would go unconfessed.

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  4. Alexander Kennedy

    Student

    I know this is a separate issue from whether a priest would indeed break the confessional seal, but I was wondering about the rules regarding the Royal Commission. It's not a judicial body so I doubt that the RC is covered by the Commonwealth Evidence Act (and therefore the protection under s127 for priests not having to give evidence from confession). Further, there is no common law right to priest-penitence privilege.
    So, the Royal Commission Act 1902 only states that legal professional privilege…

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Alexander Kennedy

      Afraid I'd have to do some more research to answer this, and I think I will instead go home soon (apols). It may depend on the Terms of Reference of the Inquiry. At common law there is no priest penitent privilege but that has been altered in Victoria and, I think, at federal level. Check the link I have to that priest penitent communications.

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  5. Dan Abrahmsen

    Public Servant

    I'm curious about the idea of equal application of the law (or is it equal protection under the law? I'm no lawyer, obviously...) Surely, another argument against legally protecting the confessional seal is that it allows a certain "privilege" that non-catholics cannot access. That is, the "privilege" of being able to confess to their priest without fear that the priest could be compelled into disclosure, something a Jew, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Jain, Buddhist or indeed, Atheist could not do.

    Surely, freedom of religion in this country means that one religion cannot be privileged above all others?

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Dan Abrahmsen

      Equality can however mean treating equals equally and treating unequal situations differently. The compulsion to break the seal does interfere with the freedom of religion of a Catholic and Anglican priest. I am no expert on religion but assuming that it does not so interfere with the freedom of religion of Jews, Muslims, Hindus etc, then there is a relevant "difference" in the situations.

      A priest has no general protection from giving evidence. But in some States does not have to give witness evidence re things said in the confessional.

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  6. Daniel Heath

    logged in via Twitter

    We already have a secular category for this: doctor-patient confidentiality.

    Psychiatrists for instance have strict rules regarding when they must / must not disclose things a patient has said.

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to Daniel Heath

      The doctor-patient relationship, however, does not require (or encourage) doctors to hide a tangible risk to the patient or others, nor to cover up criminality.

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  7. Anne Powles

    Retired Psychologist

    A very interesting article. Freedom of belief and speech are very important but our freedom of action has always been limited in our society by the rights of others. As has been said in earlier comments, examples of this can be found in limitations on minority religions in this country in the areas of poligamy and polyandry even though there can be legitimate arguments in their favour. This is because we see that many people can be coerced by their religions into these practices and therefore they…

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  8. Ian Flynn

    High School Teacher

    "But the former rights cannot be simply dismissed as irrelevant, out-of-date, or irrational."
    Why not? As you stated "...the very nature of religion is to buy into leaps of faith beyond the objectively provable. The human right to do that is an important one." Key words 'beyond the objectively provable', ergo, irrational. And this particular form of irrational thinking (religious in origin) is obviously quite ancient in origin, and out of date in our modern society that has developed much more capable…

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Ian Flynn

      The first part of your comment seems to negate freedom of religion as a human right. I'm afraid I can't agree. Religion is very important for & has been a positive force to many people. And what is "rational" anyway? Many in our "modern society" continue to embrace it. And often the manifestation of religion harms nobody. Intolerance of the religious is no more justifiable than intolerance of the non religious.

      Re second part of your comment, it seems we reach the same conclusion.

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  9. Linus Bowden

    management consultant

    Sarah says:

    "First, polygamy has been consistently condemned by international human rights bodies."

    That is NOT an answer, unless and until you can establish the authority and legitimacy of "international human rights bodies", especially as voices of universal moral/legal/political aspirations. They simply are not. They are overwhelming advocates from the same global class - upper middle to oligarch western academics - whose agenda is to use the resources, money, and power of the UN to advance their own class interests. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

    If the truth be told, there is a much tighter case for the legal recognition of polygamous marriages than same-sex marriages.

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  10. Geoff Couser

    logged in via Twitter

    Not sure it's so difficult an issue at all...as a doctor, the law of the land takes precedence and overrides any notion of doctor-patient relationship. I acknowledge you've dealt with that issue, but it influences my opinion.

    Freedom of religion may well be a human right but all human rights exist within the structure of a country's laws. Rather than get into a bidding war of which human right outranks another, they must be all equal before the law. Is genital mutilation a form of freedom of religious expression that must be respected? Of course not. So why should the confessional be respected as a human right? And if the church is keen to stand up for human rights, will it also accept reproductive rights? Or is it just a smorgasbord?

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Geoff Couser

      Afraid I can't agree. Because your answer assumes that all laws are just. They aren't, even if they're enacted by a democratic Parliament.

      There is a well recognized international human right to freedom of religion. Laws can unjustifiably impinge upon it. As I say, I don't think that'd be the case here (though we don't yet know the form of such a law, if It indeed it should come to pass).

      The issue of reproductive rights isn't particularly relevant to my article. Certainly, some religious orgs lobby against such rights. That doesn't mean those same religious people lose their rights. They have no right that their wishes re the lives of others (eg women who want an abortion) be lived according to their tenets. Similarly, the recognition of same sex marriage wouldn't infringe religious rights (it wouldn't be compulsory!)

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  11. Linus Bowden

    management consultant

    Sarah says: "I am no expert on the purpose of confession."
    "I must confess - I am no expert on polygamy."

    I must say, I find it a little disturbing that somebody with up to a decade of university learning, and years of subsequent research surrounded by money, and unimaginable access to information, and the most educated people around, is not on top of two of the most central cultural traditions of global humanity extending back in once case nearly 2,000 years, and in the other case, probably more than 10,000 years. And when we combine both cases still ubiquitous rights across humanity today.

    We really must ask, on what basis can such people claim legitimacy and authority on anything to do with global humanity, let alone "rights'". I would have thought you'd be packed off to basic World History and Comparative Religion classes pretty early on. This stuff is the foundation of everything. Otherwise, your whole cognitive edifice is flimsier than a house of cards.

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    1. Ian Flynn

      High School Teacher

      In reply to Linus Bowden

      "We really must ask, on what basis can such people claim legitimacy and authority on anything to do with global humanity, let alone "rights'"."

      Reading Sarah's bio, I'm pretty sure her being the Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University and
      "Sarah Joseph’s teaching and research interests are international human rights law and constitutional law." means she gets to claim legitimacy when writing about those things...

      and since when do you require your local expert on international human rights law to also be an expert on polygamy? In Australia? Can't say I've ever met a polygamist myself....

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    2. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Linus Bowden

      Given my article isn't about polygamy why would I be an expert on it? I believe I know enough about confession to make the argument I are - freedom of religion is about a person's fundamental beliefs not the mechanics & purpose of the particular manifestation being discussed. I don't believe myself qualified to discuss its actual spiritual process & whether it generally "has an effect on the wrongdoer" (esp when such evidence would be difficult to obtain as it's all covered by the seal), I make no apology for that.

      I am sick of you attacking me & have no idea of why you feel such a need to do so. Everybody else in this forum (so far) has been polite, whereas your posts are, again, attacks upon me. If you think my posts are a waste of time as they're based on a "house of cards", I suggest you stop reading them. You give me little reason to read your posts in the future.

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  12. Tim Scanlon

    Debunker

    The church has to start living in the real world. This isn't about confession, because the complaints indicate that perpetrators were covered up, which is unrelated to confession.

    Priests live in our society, they are governed by our laws. Just as the doctor-patient relationship does not require or encourage doctors to hide tangible risks to the patient or others, nor to cover up criminality, the priests have a responsibility to society to report wrong-doings to the police.

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      The confession issue raises freedom of religion issues, though I argue that freedom gives way in this instance. I don't think there is an issue in talking about any duty to reveal information on child abide obtained outside the confessional. I suspect that's the vast majority of relevant info.

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    2. Tim Scanlon

      Debunker

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      @Sarah, I agree that there is a duty to reveal the information, which is where I think Pell has thrown the red herring into this debate. We end up discussing freedom of religion and the confessional when that has little to do with the systemic cover-up of abuse.

      In terms of freedom of religion and religious practices, it seems we agree that societal laws supersede those of religion. We don't allow ritual sacrifice, drug use, etc, so we're obviously quite happy to draw boundaries on religions, especially if they have less political sway. Personally I don't think religious freedoms is a real argument, it is a tradition, but that doesn't make it acceptable. When a Cardinal stands up and says they won't discuss confession, what they are really saying is that they will cover-up crimes against children. As I said above, this is a politically savvy red herring that Pell has launched into the public sphere, distracting us completely from the real issue.

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  13. Ian Flynn

    High School Teacher

    gah! not a fan of the new comments feature of replies only going 1 deep...

    Sarah first off, great to see an author getting stuck right into the comments- should be more of this on The Conversation!

    "The first part of your comment seems to negate freedom of religion as a human right." I hope not. If it does, I wrote it poorly. Dang. Yes, I wrote it poorly. While I (probably evident by now?!) don't hold religious beliefs in high regard, I most certainly believe in a person's right to hold them…

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Ian Flynn

      Cheers Ian. I agree with that. Though the irrationality of religion doesn't concern me, except where it harms other human rights. But I suspect I can envisage clashes of rights where perhaps freedom of religion should prevail (eg clash with another human right). Though I can't think of example right now ... it's early(!)

      I wonder why The Conversation has made comments one deep? I didn't know that.

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    2. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Ian Flynn

      I concur with you fully on your praising of Sarah Joseph for responding to our replies. I locked horns with her a few times on issues here but at least she does have the courtesy of replying which is more than can be said for many other writers of articles, though I'd bet many of them read the replies.

      I also agree with you about the new comments feature, which is a most generous way of describing it. Let's face it, it's utter crap, and half the time, you don't even get the option of replying to a post. How hopeless is that? Hello out there, is there anyone responsible for this dog's breakfast listening?

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  14. HQ Dinh

    Casual Lecturer in Japanese Social, Political Change; Japanese Studies at University of Technology, Sydney

    As I digest some of the comments, it struck me that most of the discussion and comment revolves around the issues of human rights - confessional rights, rights of the victim, laws and criminality, in short very much a secular approach to looking at the issue. I question whether the basic understanding to the sanctity of the confession have been comprehended by secular society?

    Don't get me wrong, I am not siding with any side, but simply wanting to point out that before we question the legitimacy…

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to HQ Dinh

      You are absolutely right. I am discussing this from a secular approach. And I'm not capable of conveying or even comprehending the depth of religious feeling felt on this issue. A demand that someone act against their religious beliefs is clearly therefore a human rights issue, as it may be requiring them to make deep spiritual compromises.

      At the same time, ones religious beliefs can't be a trump card that absolves anyone from the law (though the law shouldn't unjustifiable compromise them).

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  15. Mark Harrigan

    PhD Physicist

    If the Catholic Church wants to preserve the snactity of the confessional - and I can very much understand and appreciate why they do as it has great value - then they need to come clean about the fact that they have acted like a criminal organisation. Not only have some official members of this organisation committed heinous crimes but the institution has actively aided and abetted them via the well documented instances of moving alleged perpetrators to different parishes (where they reoffend…

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  16. Ken McLeod

    logged in via Facebook

    Sarah's last paragraph needs to be repeated: "Pell’s remark might indicate that the availability of religious absolution for such despicable crimes has exacerbated the institutionalisation of the problem by providing an easy way out for the perpetrator’s conscience."

    Or as I once saw a senior law officer in Qld once say "they (the RC Church) just don't get it. They wipe their consciences clean and feel free to do it all over again."

    If the purpose of a confession is to make the perpetrator feel better, and to feel that he does not need to confess the the Police, then what in God's name is the good of it? It has only served to make things worse.

    It's time to dump the whole institution all together, beginning with the legislated protection it has. (See the NSW Crimes Regulation at http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/sessionalview/sessional/sr/2010-442.pdf)

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  17. John Newton

    Author Journalist

    Two points. As I, a non-catholic understand it, absolution is given to the sinner if penance is made. In the case of admission of serious crimes - paedophilia being just one - absolution can be given by the priest on the condition that the sinner goes to the police and confesses. If he or she doesn't, then the priest can go to the police because the confessee has not obeyed the will of the church. This is clumsily stated but I'm pretty sure a lawyer could make a better fist of it.

    Two, I have no problem with people believing in imaginary friends or deities, until their beliefs impact on my life or rights, the rights of others or the laws of the land.

    And I would add most especially when their beliefs impact upon the rights of children.

    If the church cannot see this, then it is a despicable institution.

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    1. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to John Newton

      Sarah - I'm sure you're right, but I'm talking about a shift in the law, either civil or church

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  18. Luke Weston

    Physicist / electronic engineer

    I think it's pretty well accepted, in any civilised secular society, that "freedom of religion" isn't just some unlimited thing that lets you get away with anything, with no limits, irrespective of how inconsistent it might be with the laws and cultural or moral standards in the society.

    "Freedom of religion" does not give you some sort of exemption from the law. If it did, anybody could just make up their own religious claims and religious beliefs on the fly to completely evade the law, and the…

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  19. Sean Lamb

    Science Denier

    Since this has been pushed to the top, I guess the editors must think this a trending topic. I don't have a problem with requiring priests to abide by mandatory reporting legislation (which are actually are far narrower than most people realize. In brief there has to be a child, who is still a child, who is being offended against).
    But sense of proportion; I understand that Ireland has passed legislation requiring priests to report abuse that learn of in the confessional 5 years ago. I don't have data on how many cases have been brought to light by this legislation, but I suspect it is a round number.

    A very round number.

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      " I don't have a problem with requiring priests to abide by mandatory reporting legislation (which are actually are far narrower than most people realize. In brief there has to be a child, who is still a child, who is being offended against). " - why so narrow?

      What about an adult rapist? murderer? terrorist?

      Why would you narrow it to "there has to be a child, who is still a child, who is being offended against"

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    2. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Mr Shand, this may come as a shock to you, but I played no part in drafting the mandatory reporting legislation currently in force in NSW or elsewhere
      As such I feel no need to defend its manifest inadequacies.

      All I was pointing out that mandatory reporting requirements - as they currently apply - are quite narrow. There is also a more general section in the Crimes Act concerning concealing offences.

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    3. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      @ Sean Lamb

      "In brief there has to be a child, who is still a child, who is being offended against"

      I don't understand what you mean by "still a child". Do you mean if an adult who was sexually abused by a priest while still under the age of consent, no longer has any right to litigate?

      As for the anachronism of "Confession" - time for the Catholic Church to evolve. Do people who confess to priests really believe they are somehow cleansed of their sin, no matter how heinous?

      Religion does not, can not have special dispensation with regard to the health and well being of anyone, especially children.

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    4. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      @Ms Art
      ". Do you mean if an adult who was sexually abused by a priest while still under the age of consent, no longer has any right to litigate?"
      I struggle to understand how any literate adult could have drawn that conclusion. What I succinctly and clearly expressed was that there is no mandatory reporting obligation on priests or anybody else under the current mandatory reporting legislation. There exist recommendations that it should be reported, but it is not mandated. For the obvious reason that the person concerned is now an adult and can make their own decisions.

      I personally think the Catholic Church should have a code of conduct that goes far beyond the legislated mandatory reporting requirements. In fact, I think they do already.

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    5. Hugh Young

      independent researcher

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      (Sorry, this is going to be out of order)

      Sarah Joseph says: "I don't agree that freedom of religion must always give way to the law. What if the law is unjust?"

      Well what if the religion is unjust? (Stoning of non-virgin brides, honour killings, burying gays alive, etc. etc. etc.) This is actually more likely, because the law is (in general) carefully worked out by conscious, humane humans who structure the law intentionally to achieve a particular outcome in society. This is partially true of religion, but the other part is supposedly divinely mandated, from ancient writings and revelations - in other words nobody knows where it really comes from or what its real purpose is. One underlying theme in the monotheistic religions has been the suppression of women. (And gay men get punished for betraying the patriarchy by being "like women".)

      Niether must always give way to the other, but where they are in opposition, my best guess would generally go with the law.

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  20. Russell Walton

    Retired

    Since there's no absolute right to religious freedom, there's no justification for members of any religious institution to claim privileges that are not available to the rest of the population. The probability that most priests would be prepared to go to jail to protect the "sanctity of the confession" is not a logical argument against the implementation of a mandatory reporting law, after all, members of the Mafia are prepared to suffer imprisonment to protect their right to confidentiality. Some Catholic clergy facilitated the escape of Nazi fugitives after WW2 with the notorious "Rat Lines"network, I wonder if they were all devout Catholics who confessed their "sins" and were given absolution as well.

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Russell Walton

      I disagree that "the same rules for everybody" is a principle that shoulda always apply. Revelations of "confessions" interfere with the freedom of religion of priests. Such revelations wouldn't equally interfere with, say, my freedom if religion. So I don't see the situations as equal, so unequal treatment might be warranted. Eg I wouldn't agree with the routine demand that the confessional be broken, though I do think lifting seal in the situation discussed is warranted.

      Like all people, the Mafia & priests have rights to privacy. But it's fairly well established that that right gives way in giving evidence for all people (except re right vs self incrimination). As all privacy rights there are the same, people should be treated equally.

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    2. Alicia Appleby

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Russell Walton

      It sounds like the abusers dont want to let go of their power and control over vulnerable children. The abusers should go to hell!...these adults need protection from institutionalised abuse.

      Family court will be next when abused kids will speak out and seek accountability from the Governments.

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  21. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    Imam gets informed of terrorist attack......does he have special rights?

    A bikie gang claims that they are not a gang but a religious fellowship......do they get special rights as well?

    Should scientologist be allowed to circumnavigate the law when it rubs with their religion?

    This is a silly discussion, of course priest do not have some special rights above an ordinary citizen - they are jst like you and me but with funny hats

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    1. David Hamer

      student

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Priests may not have special rights however in my opinion they are far more likely to take their religious beliefs seriously than a pseudo bikie religion.

      Therefore even if the law requires mandatory reporting a priest is unlikely to compromise their religious beliefs to satisfy the law.

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    2. Mike Flattley

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      It's an interesting dialectic, secular vs religious, particularly when we are talking about a religious institution whose long-established legal systems predate (and inform) those of our secular society. You're right, it's silly to conflate the edifice of the Catholic Church in Australia with less monumentally influential religious bodies (I'm not putting you down, Islam, I'm just saying you haven't had as much historical influence on Australian society and it's direct antecedents other than providing…

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    3. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Michael Shand

      One has to have genuine religious beliefs rather than just "claim" them in order to benefit from freedom of religion. And, even then, the right is not unlimited as I explain. It depends, eg, on what Scientologist practice you're talking about.

      As for the Imam, I'm actually not 100% sure of the legal duties of anyone to report on imminent terror attack, if they aren't an actual conspirator. And it's a big call to assume that that's a religious issue for an Imam.

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    4. Hugh Young

      independent researcher

      In reply to Michael Shand

      "One has to have genuine religious beliefs rather than just "claim" them in order to benefit from freedom of religion."

      Who is to say that someone else's religious beliefs are not genuine? Is to believe that God lives on the planet Kolob any sillier than to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster? We have treated religious belief as, literally, sacrosant, for so long that they have evolved into "endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful" and most ugly and most nasty in almost equal measure…

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  22. Alicia Appleby

    logged in via Facebook

    Religion has not protected children. So the laws must. Kids are vulnerable and have a right to be protected in any institution. Adults abused as kids will agree.
    Trauma is an excuse to not expose the extent of the problem, and these adults abused as kids suffer and rely on non religious systems also for support. They have spoken out, and as a Nation they need to be protected, and the child molestors held to account.

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    1. Alicia Appleby

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Alicia Appleby

      Let us also be mindful that we should expect the church institutions report abuse..and not be side tracked in our conversation about " the priests should report" because they are the abusers!!!...Let us not make it sound like someone outside is abusing the kids............

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  23. Robin Bell

    Research Academic Public Health, at University of Newcastle

    Like your exploration of the competing rights and obligations here Sarah. I'm not sure the sanctity of the confessional is the real issue however. That issue is a position of strength for the church, so I can see why Pell and others are so willing to make it appear a core issue.
    The real issue is the failure of many church institutions to act appropriately within the cannons of their faith, showing not just a failure to report child abuse to the police, but also a failure to protect children in…

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    1. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Robin Bell

      @ Robin Bell

      George Pell is making a lot of noise about this and I too have wondered how much import there is to the vexed issue of the Confessional and suggest that it may be more a distraction from the real challenge of tracking down and holding paedophiles to account for their actions.

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  24. Chris Richardson

    Doctor

    Let's be clear. Saying that there are human rights that are 'absolute' doesn't mean that they are written into the fabric of the universe! Only that we agree to place the importance of some rights ahead of others. As far as I'm concerned, the right to "buy into leaps of faith beyond the objectively provable"should feature near the end of that list of importance.

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    1. Diana Brown

      Parent; language student

      In reply to Chris Richardson

      Seems to me the overwhelming evidence of child sexual abuse by priests over decades and the collusion by senior members of their Church in sheltering those priests from the consequences of their actions suggests that a large number of Catholic priests already ‘act against their fundamental religious beliefs’, whatever those fundamental religious beliefs could possibly be.

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    2. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Chris Richardson

      Well said, Chris Richardson. It's only our language and linguistic vocabulary that we're talking about here. Our placing values upon them, can mean sweet f. a. Look at the American Constitution with its 'inalienable right to bear arms' - what a lot of utter toss and tommy rot that so-called 'right' is, and I've long been cynical about the Geneva Convention in 'wartime' and the 'human rights' of captured prisoners of war. Sounds more like, to me, an insane creature trying to make out that war isn't simply us mudering and killing each other because we're so mad.

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    3. Chris Richardson

      Doctor

      In reply to Chris Richardson

      In fact, to talk about a "right" to believe or not believe something is pretty pointless, since no one can actually stop me truly believing anything I want. Really what we mean is the "right" to justify our actions with our beliefs. That is, the right to behave in certain ways because of our beliefs. And so, when the actions themselves are questionable (i.e. the non-reporting of information, obtained in the confessional box, about criminal activies) and the underlying belief, is at best, based on "leaps of faith beyond the objectively provable", I think we are justified in ranking the right to engage in that activity fairly lowly on the overall rights ranking list.

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    4. Peter Miller

      Digital Artist/Sound Designer/Composer at Scribbletronics

      In reply to Chris Richardson

      Well said. It is strange to me how people in our predominately white Judeo-Christian country seem to be quite willing to defend 'religious freedom' when it corresponds with their own values (the idea of Roman Catholic confession) but not when it doesn't (genital mutilation, say, or stoning). That, of course, is one of the problems with the idea of religion; by putting it 'outside' a system of rationally considered ethical morality, it has carte blanche to play by rules that are conjured from the word of God. And God, by definition, has no accountability to anyone. Which rules are acceptable? Well, that depends on your religion. Which religion is acceptable? Well, that depends mostly on where you were born, and little else.

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  25. Clifford Chapman

    Retired English Teacher

    I can't go along with this here, I'm afraid.

    As an atheist, it's just mumbo-jumbo to me, and while I can admit that, to believers, their religion is important for and to them, it cannot ever, and shouldn't ever, be allowed to impinge or impact on the human rights of others.

    In other words, freedom of religion in the way this article presents it, is made to appear as a human 'right', but that 'right' does not necessarily have any legitimacy where the rights of others are concerned because religious beliefs are based on nothing more than blind faith.

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      And there is a right to believe in blind faith. Just as your right to believe in no god is important too.

      I think the right gives way here but I can't say in the abstract that freedom of religion should never prevail over other rights. Eg I wouldn't agree that a priest always has to reveal what's said in a confession just coz he's subpoenaed to do so, just coz it might be relevant in a trial on some issue.

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    2. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      Clifford, as a former Catholic and now aetheist, I am 100% with you. I think Sarah is barely making sense. The notion of human rights is born from Enlightenment, which itself is pretty much born from the demise of religion!!! I'm not into letting religion then interfere with the protection of fundamental human rights.

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    3. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      Sarah Joseph, you seem to misunderstand me - if a person wants to believe in 'blind faith', as I personally see religious mumbo-jumbo, yes, they can do so, but the real issue is not that right but where that 'blind faith' impacts upon others without those others' agreement and even equal participation.

      Your second sentence here: 'Just as your right to believe in no god is important too', well illustrates the nonsense of such beliefs - as if a person has a right to believe in no god - it's linguistic tomfoolery because I never consider no god.

      On a relatively trivial example, by virtue of what right do I, when booking a hotel room, have to accept a copy of a Gideon's bible in that room? This is not a rhetorical question - those believers are there imposing their mumbo-jumbo on me, and I do not have equal rights in that situation.

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    4. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      @clifford it's really not a breach of your rights as an atheist for there to be a bible in your hotel room. If you feel that strongly, there really are plenty without them. Or just don't open the drawer. Or I'm sure the reception would probably even accept it if you handed it to them and asked them to keep it behind the desk for the duration of your stay.

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    5. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      This new format is irritating because you can't always respond directly to replies to your posts.

      Sarah Joseph, in my example of the Gideon's Bible, I specifically said it was not a rhetorical question, yet you did not directly address or answer it.

      You said: 'it's really not a breach of your rights as an atheist'..etc., 'Or just don't open the drawer' - don't forget I've paid for that room, 'Or I'm sure the reception' etc.

      With your first point above, it is a breach, only it's just that it's not worth making any real fuss over,
      as your other suggestions equally show, but my actual question was: 'by virtue of what right do I, when booking a hotel room, have to acept a copy of a Gideon's bible in that room?'

      It's no good trying to make out this is a level playing field.

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    6. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      @clifford - you have a human right to your atheistic beliefs. And to manifest them by not going to church, by criticizing religion and so on. But you don't have a right that there not be a bible in your hotel room. It's like saying that a vegetarian has a right that there not be neat in the aisles of a supermarket she frequents.

      By the way, a hotelier could leave atheist pamphlets in a hotel room if he/she so wishes. That wouldn't hurt the freedom of religion of a religious person in the room, even if it might offend that person. There's no human right not to be offended.

      There are also issues re the scope of application of human rights in the non govt sphere (presumably it's a hotel room owned by a private person not the government), but I won't go into that, except to say that no law insists on the Gideon's bible being in hotel rooms.

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    7. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      Sarah, I'll have to reply here because this damned, new and greatly irritating system, doesn't give you the option of responding each time.

      Your analogy with the vegetarian is completely invalid because he or she doesn't rent that supermarket in the way I rent that hotel room, and therefore, he or she is fully aware when they freely enter that supermarket that meat products will also be available.

      Of course, I could ask before renting a hotel room if a Gideon's bible is in there, but that…

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    8. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      @ Clifford Chapman
      "On a relatively trivial example, by virtue of what right do I, when booking a hotel room, have to accept a copy of a Gideon's bible in that room? This is not a rhetorical question - those believers are there imposing their mumbo-jumbo on me, and I do not have equal rights in that situation"
      Well, Clifford, by virtue of you having the privilege of living in this community of ours. Elsewhere in this awfully laid out thread I talked about the principle of social contract, or you…

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    9. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      @Clifford Chapman
      I forgot to discuss how nonsensical your example regarding the apparent right Gideons have to place Bibles in hotel rooms. I will demonstrate this through a parody that refers to my own experiences with hotel rooms.
      In my travels last year I booked a hotel room close to Sydney's CBD. Among the pamphlets arranged prominently on the table was a directory to the local gay nightlife spots. I remember the disgust and offense I felt when I saw it, as it had a fairly inappropriate (for me) photo of gay men in very scant attire posing suggestively. I placed it in the trash can, and I don't think a dwelled a minute longer on it. Before I went to sleep I searched for the Gideon Bible, it was in the drawer of the bed side-table.

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  26. Ben Heard

    Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

    "Which should prevail?"

    Protection of the child. It's nowhere near as complicated as this article suggests.

    Children are innocent. They do not believe in Catholicism, it is just a process of indoctrination. I assure you I would know, having been raised Catholic, years as an alter boy and having many times confessed to being mean to my sister.

    The rite of confession is a relic of a religion that should hold no special significance in the modern world. To imagine that the priest hold a more…

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    1. Dan Abrahmsen

      Public Servant

      In reply to Ben Heard

      "I disagree. Human rights aren't just "subject to the law" as what if the law is unjust..."

      This is the crux of your article i.e. would compelling a priest to reveal the contents of a confession be an unjust violation of their right to freedom of religion? In the specific case of an abuser confessing to a priest there are 3 sets of rights and 3 potential sets of injustices interacting that I can see.

      There is the right of the abused to not be abused.

      There is the right of the abuser to have…

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  27. Russell Walton

    Retired

    Dear admin,

    The policy of "One level deep replies" is counter productive, if a commenter can't reply to a reply where's the conversation where's the dialectic? Surely you can discipline the rowdier contributors some other way.

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  28. Phill Wall

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Sarah - I thought this was a good article. One area you dont touch on and which interests me in this debate - is that on the ethics of the seal of confession in cases where priests act on knowledge gained in confession. I believe Ive heard of cases where church members (sometimes clerics and sometimes lay employees) have known about abuse - and allegedly acted - not to minimise harm to the abused but to the church as an organisation. I believe that part of (most of) the anger against the…

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Phill Wall

      Indeed. I don't know enough about that. I know that under canon law the confession is inviolate. So I don't know how much that impacts on what a confessee can do in knowledge of the information. Can he even raise it with the person outside the confession?

      One point: I do think that lots of the coverups, the huge majority of it, may have nothing to do with formal confessions. Eg no confession is at issue if a priest is told of sex abuse by victims or families.

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    2. Phill Wall

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Phill Wall

      Of course many victims of child abuse stay quiet for extremely long periods of time, and given the seal of confession we cant know how many cases there are of confession and action versus complaint and action. Especially given the suspicion the church has not always informed the police of complaint. However there can be unfounded complaints; in any large organisation you will eventually get complains made that are caused by desire for revenge or illness or delusion (admittedly small in number but…

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  29. Stephen S Holden

    Associate Professor, Marketing at Bond University

    The rights of the confessor vs the rights of the victims are indeed a moral issue. However, what seems less of a moral issue is what the church (or any other organisation) ought to do with clergy (staff) who are accused of abuse. It would seem that there is a reporting requirement in this instance, but the church appears to not share this view - as reflected in some of Cardinal Pell's rather strange remarks at his recent press conference. The issue is not about the seal of the confessional, but about the rights of someone accused of perpetrating a crime.

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    1. Mick Mac Andrew

      Rev Father

      In reply to Stephen S Holden

      Stephen, you have 'nailed' it, that is the dualism involved in the discussion. Thereby, much confusion and many people taking it - Catholic Confession the wrong way, ie being a tool of protecting the priest/brother/nun/lay person from bearing the consequences of their crime.
      Confessional Practice - that which governs the 'hearing of confessions' would tell a priest listening to another priest or brother/nun/lay person, confessing child or adult sex assault/abuse, that he, the priest hearing the confession, needs to bring the penitent to the point of handing themselves in to the authorities. This must be done in order to receive God's mercy for the sin, it is technically called conditional absolution.
      In this way the Church upholds the Rights of the child/adult who is the victim over the Rights of the Perpetrator.

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    2. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Stephen S Holden

      @ Mick Mac Andrew
      "Catholic Confession the wrong way, ie being a tool of protecting the priest/brother/nun/lay person from bearing the consequences of their crime."

      Most people do understand that people who confess their sins are encouraged to make amends.

      " the priest hearing the confession, needs to bring the penitent to the point of handing themselves in to the authorities"

      And this has rarely happened. Which is why we require a Royal Commission.

      Also placing too much focus on the confessional system, as George Pell has done, is an area which doesn't work and has little bearing on bringing paedophiles to be held accountable by our secular law.

      The machinations of the Confessional is a red herring.

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  30. Anthony W Collins

    Lawyer

    I have been in the position where I have been asked to advise clients who had not been charged with an offence, but nontheless sought my advice about the consequences of their acts against a child. I was able to give that advice, however, legal professional privilege prevented me from going to the Police and informing them of what I had been told. Neither could I be forced to divulge what I was told. Just because you don't like lawyers would be no reason to abolish legal professional privilege.

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    1. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Anthony W Collins

      You raise, though, very serious ethical and moral questions here, and while I'm well aware of 'legal professional privilege', it's easy to interpret your post as highlighting how money carries more weight than human rights in our society.

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    2. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Anthony W Collins

      That role enables a system of legal justice to function. The placement of confessional above child protection prevents it.

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    3. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Anthony W Collins

      I'm actually replying to Dania Ng's commnet above but this hugely irritating new system, for want of a better word, isn't giving me the direct option.

      Tell me, Dania, as a teacher, though I'm now retired, we were informed that we were to report abuse, if we suspected it was happening to a child. I would have already done so, personally, by the way, irrespective of such an instruction, and once during my teaching career, I prevailed upon a good friend and colleague where a Year 9 girl had confided in him regarding incest by a grandparent, that he had to report it. This he did.

      How does this sit with the thrust of your argument here?

      Should teachers be made to report physical and sexual abuse of students?

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    4. Matt Stevens

      Senior Research Fellow/Statistician/PhD

      In reply to Anthony W Collins

      Enlightened jurisdictions in Australia have mandatory reporting of child sex abuse. You don't report it if you know about then go be charged and go to jail for aiding and abetting a pedophile. Simple, no one regardless of profession of which priests are, is immune from the law. Time to get on with the 21st century of the new enlightenment, one where religion takes its rightful place, that being, fading into the distant past.

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    5. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Anthony W Collins

      @Clifford Chapman
      Regarding your question whether teachers 'should be made' to report abuse - unequivocally, yes! However, if they don't, should we then close all schools disassemble all educational institutions and ban teaching? Because the underpinning argument seems to also include an attack on religion - see my point?
      All I am saying is, be careful for what you wish, and who tells you what you should wish for - ask them, what are your motivations, and why are you using this issue to advance unrelated political activist aims?

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    6. Paul Savage

      Theme Leader, Biotechnology at CSIRO

      In reply to Anthony W Collins

      @Anthony W Collins: Legal professional privilege prevents you from informing the police of what your client told you, but what if that client admitted to you that they were going to continue to commit the offence in the future? Or even if you reasonably believed that they would continue to commit the offence? Under those circumstances would you not be obliged to report this to the police? My issue with the seal of the confessional is that in all possibility the sex abuser priests were confessing week in week out, hence being "absolved of their sin" and continuing to perpetrate the abuse, sometimes for years. That's quite different than breaking a once-off confessional confidence.

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  31. Dania Ng

    Retired factory worker

    Sarah, I really appreciate your article. It is balanced and scholarly; it is also, not surprisingly considering the topic, provocative. Thank you.
    I won't engage with any specific comment, instead I would like to make a couple of general comments. I think there is general confusion around what a right is, and how they should be hierarchised. This can never be answered directly, because of the nature of our civil society and political system. To make any progress, we can only refer to fundamental…

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    1. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Dania Ng

      Yeah, tasers. Apparently priests are to be condemned because they are not responsibly using their singular professional (for a lack of a better term) tools (such as the confessional). The arguments I see made here regularly is that priests should be made to 'report' child abuse. I take it this reporting is to be to the police, which of course seem (from the reports in the media) to use their 'tools' just as aggressively and maybe even for personal gratification - but this seems okay, and not worthy…

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  32. Roger Powell

    logged in via Facebook

    Their code of conduct (all of it) is man-made and they have just made up the rules as they go along.

    Quote: "Father Frank Brennan is already on the record in Australia as saying that he would go to jail rather than reveal anything said “under the seal of the confessional”. On Monday, Cardinal Pell also stressed the inviolability of the seal of confession."

    This is just code for a dispassionate "We are not prepared to help the victims or to prevent more atrocities."

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  33. Clifford Chapman

    Retired English Teacher

    This new format is absolutely irritating - please change it, as I'm not being offered the opportunity to reply directly to posts replying to mine. Why has this change been imposed upon us?

    Sarah Joseph,

    Anthony gives the game away by seeing that person first and foremost as his 'client'.

    He who pays the piper, calls the tune.

    When push comes to shove, I don't really think we have an ethical bone in our body most of the time, and whether it sounds cynical or not, money talks louder than any ethics or human rights.

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    1. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      No other, because he is is client, and the money comes before the wrong-doing, as he well illustrated.

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  34. Matthew Campbell

    logged in via Facebook

    Whilst it is not obligatory for others to believe, there must be an acknowledgment in the discussion of the confessional seal that it derives from a fundamental belief that the priest, to who you are confessing, is not acting as a person in a normal conversation but as the representative of God on Earth. Therefore, your confession is to God not to the Priest. Hence, confession usually begins with "Father, forgive me for I have sinned ..." invoking God, not as a salutation to the Priest. What we…

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    1. Robin Bell

      Research Academic Public Health, at University of Newcastle

      In reply to Matthew Campbell

      Matthew you are describing the notion of "divine right", a right derived from the notion that God's will is inviolable before all else and therefore any laws that disagree are invalid and without power. This notion has no place in any rational modern dialogue about religious practice and society and is the favoured position of radical fundamentalists.
      The choice here is clear. If those who practice religion insist that confession must remain inviolable, to such an extent that child abuse goes unreported, then those who practice those beliefs should not be trusted with the care, supervision or education of children without secular supervision.
      This isn't some intellectual or theological exercise. This is a crisis that threatens the privileged position of the church and religous faiths in the community.

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    2. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Matthew Campbell

      But to an atheist, it is just as valid to interpret that confession as a cop-out or get out of jail free card. Both your paragraphs here, seem to rest on the base that this 'God' exists or is.

      The nonsense that is the confessional can be easily seen if we imagine Hitler asking this 'God' through some priest, to forgive him his sins.

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    3. Hugh Young

      independent researcher

      In reply to Matthew Campbell

      I wonder how many children, or even adults, know that when they say "Father, forgive me,..." they are addressing their supposed Heavenly Father, and not the man through the grille, whom they call "Father" every day. It seems to me that the RCC has been milking this ambiguity for millennia.

      "how would God (or Jesus) act in these situations" Well, if you want to be literalistic, he reportedly gave exact instructions, involving a millstone. Fortunately for paedophiles (though I know many think the Good Shepherd's proposal should be followed), we live in a more enlightened age.

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    4. Hugh Young

      independent researcher

      In reply to Matthew Campbell

      "in our society they have a right to have these beliefs and have them respected."
      No, people are entitled to have any beliefs, however silly they may be, but we have a corollary right to ridicule the silly ones.

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  35. Ben Heard

    Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

    I'm starting to think Sarah Joseph thinks other people are basically stupid.

    I support the protection of the freedom to practice religion. I support the protection of the freedom to believe whatever anyone wants. I support, and am quite aware of the enlightened view that asserts this, and it is a testimony to enlightenment.

    Where that freedom clashes with the law, the law comes first. Where that freedom involves protection those who abuse children, it is impinging on a far more important freedom…

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Ben Heard

      I'm sorry you think that coz I don't. If I misunderstood your Enlightenment comment then I'm sorry. I can hardly know what you really think coz I have no idea who you are.

      But I cannot remotely agree with your contention that Australian laws are automatically "just" coz we're a liberal democracy. Unjust laws arise in all countries. That is a general comment rather than one specifically about child molestation laws.

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  36. Robert Darby

    logged in via Facebook

    There are some interesting parallels here with another controversy that seems to pit the religious freedom of adults against the rights of children - namely, the question of whether religions that traditionally practice circumcision and other forms of genital cutting on children should be permitted to maintain their customs in the face of ethical disapproval. The analogy is fairly close, as both practices - confession and circumcision - emerged long before the development of secular, law-based societies…

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Robert Darby

      Robert, there are plenty of medical arguments that distinguish FGM from male circumcision such that the two aren't considered exactly equivalent in terms of harm or potential harm.

      But yes, that is a live human rights debate which will only get louder. I suspect another reason for the distinction is the fact it's practiced by major religions rather than less well known ones (it's not a major part of Islam, just some pockets of it). Also, MC was quite common in Western world for non religious reasons in 60s, & the trend of human rights debates has often been to target "the other" as in cultural practices outside the West.

      I won't say more here. MC is another issue altogether from the Confessional. There are other Conversation pieces on it though.

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    2. Hugh Young

      independent researcher

      In reply to Robert Darby

      (replying to the item below this)
      Sarah, FGC has a range of severity, and the milder forms (cutting only the clitoral prepuce) are quite comparable to MGC, yet all are outlawed across the developed world. In 2010 the American Academy of Pediatrics "Bioethics" (my scorn-quote) Committee proposed to allow a token ritual nick to girls "much less extensive than neonatal male genital cutting" (sic) by way of harm-reduction, but the public outrage forced them to back down within a month. This is your…

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  37. Phill Wall

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    It seems to me there is a lack of knowledge in this area as to the real impact of actually passing a law to force priests to break the seal of confession in certain cases. Now I understand that its considered important to receive absolution for your sins although there ARE unpardonable sins. (As an aside - Jesus says that those who do not feed the sick, the poor, the hungry and those in Jail - will burn in eternal fire)> Jesus is also pretty tough on those who harm [christian] children…

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Phill Wall

      Interesting post. But confession is a religious practice. Whilst I agree its sanctity can be limited in certain circs, as described in my article, I don't think it's feasible for the meaning of the religious practice itself to be regulated by secular law. Certainly, canon law could regulate absolution. But I don't see that a law of Aust Parlt could meaningfully say "absolution won't be offered except in the following circs ..." ... Religious people would see that as Parlt trying to regulate God, & would probably pay no attention to it. And it would be meaningless to non religious folk.

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  38. Ben Heard

    Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

    "I cannot remotely agree with your contention...". Good, it was not my contention. Where a law is unjust, a liberal democracy has the processes in place to change it, arduous though they may be.

    But this is, again, a red herring. This was not the subject of the article. No one is questioning (are they?) that laws protecting children are just. The question posed by your article seems to be (your turn to correct me if needed), does the right to practice religion freely provide sufficient grounds…

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  39. Lewis Rassaby

    Dr

    I don't understand the distinction you have made between priests and other professionals, such as doctors. I wonder if you might elaborate on that point. Iy seems to me that in both cases a perpetrator might disclose abuse to a third party invoking the question of the comparative rights of the perpetrator and the victim in the same way.
    The medical consultation is highly protected space with some exceptions, notably child abuse. Indeed there are penalties for transgressing confidentiality except…

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    1. Sarah Joseph
      Sarah Joseph is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University

      In reply to Lewis Rassaby

      1. I raise the conflict of rights between priest hearing confession & child & come down on the side of the child, so on that we agree.

      2. The conflict re priest is different to that re doctor. The doctor's human rights aren't involved at all, only the privacy rights of the perpetrator (or alleged perpetrator). Whereas with priest, the conflicting right is that of the priest (his freedom of religion in believing in inviolability of confessional) not the perpetrator. So it's different. Hence the distinction. But then ... Return to point 1.

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    1. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      Been there, done that, know the feeling. I like it when authors hit the comments, thanks Sarah.

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    2. Linus Bowden

      management consultant

      In reply to Sarah Joseph

      As usual, you've been a trooper, Sarah. Go feed that battering ram, for when you next inside the arena! :)

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  40. Richard Ramsden

    Rocket Surgeon

    Priest to priest confessions may be a dangerous work practice. It is hard to imagine there are no ways in which churches can improve this practice.

    One would consider it a likely scenario that, over time, one paedophile priest will confess to another paedophile priest. What (objectively) is taking place when this takes place? What are the potential outcomes of that confession for the child victims of a crime that has been confessed? I cannot imagine other cases of protected privilege where…

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  41. Leo Kerr

    Consultant

    It's an aside to the main focus but I did notice "Clearly, many manifestations of religious belief, such as polygamy or female genital mutilation, may be prohibited due to their impacts on the rights of others. " No mention of male genital mutilation - circumcision - is that an elephant in the room?

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  42. Rhys McKenzie

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    We already accept that freedom of religion is not absolute. We aren't allowed to practice things that are illegal.

    Furthermore, as I understand Catholic confession (I am an Orthodox Christian) it is about admitting a wrong, and accepting the consequences of that action. From my viewpoint these abusers do not seem to be accepting the consequences of their actions if all they do is 'unburden' themselves in a confessional.

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  43. George Greenwood

    Retired

    I am really gad this subject is being aired in a generally sensible and humane way. I also congratulate Sarah Joseph on her staunch defences.

    I would draw attention to a factor that does not seem to have given adequate airing. That is the authority of the priests are is to children and many adults. These people are alpha males within the community and it take a brave member of the congregation to challenge their authority which is backed up by the hierarchy. There are reports of children reporting abuse to their parents an being disbelieved and dismissed because it is inconceivable that priests could commit abuse.

    There needs to be a channel where by children and parents can air their concerns and have them assessed impartially.

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  44. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    @Sarah Joseph, thank you very much for your response.

    I just wanted to say that your comment about "Professing belief" seems silly.

    Who would be the judge of this? it might seem hypocritical to sit and judge others faith when you would be outraged if the same question was put to you. I notice that there is no question about whether the religions you approve of really believe, is this a door you would want to open? - I would

    But also, why does believing something intensely give you rights…

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  45. Lynne Newington

    Researcher

    Diana , it goes beyond the clergy. Many religious women maybe not collude as such, but certainly protect them, not only for abuse but anything that threatens the image of the church or the priesthood.
    The expectations of the laity, are Not the same as the hierarchy.

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  46. Daniel Boon

    logged in via LinkedIn

    A law above the law, answerable to nobody, no taxes to pay ... the only down-side, you have to sell your soul in the protecting of paedophiles ...

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  47. Venise Alstergren
    Venise Alstergren is a Friend of The Conversation.

    photographer, blogger.

    ""Confession is a practise in the Catholic Church whereby a person can confess his or her "sins" to a priest in return for religious absolution.""

    And the children? To whom do they confess what has happened to them, when priests have refused to believe them-even going as far to threaten them?

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  48. Leo Kerr

    Consultant

    and by the way - the Sexual Abuse of Children - is only one aspect to the abuse of children perpetrated by the Catholic church. They have much to answer on the physical abuse of children also - beatings and abuse of children by adults. I haven't heard mention of the sheer physical brutality towards children by orders such as The Christian Brothers and as a child I witnessed much of this.

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    1. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Leo Kerr

      @ Hugh Young. This is terrible, it is nothing but medical malpractice on the basis of a radical religious belief. Thanks for the link Hugh.

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    2. Hugh Young

      independent researcher

      In reply to Leo Kerr

      @Dania Ng The doctors did not withold the "abortion" (postmortem foetal extration) because of their own religious beliefs, but out of fear of the law, so I don't think it can be called malpractice. Nor can mainstream Roman Catholicism be considered "radical". This is straight down the line what the Pope and the Church teaches (though doubtless many humane Catholics are appalled).

      The sad fact is that a heartbeat is a poor indicator of foetal viability. The heart is a self-contained organ, for obvious reasons, and beats independently of the rest of the body - part of its mystique. Doubtless many of you have been as fascinated as I was to see a dissected frog's heart continue to beat. Yet that seems to have been the deciding factor in withholding foetal extraction from Savita Halappanavar.

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    3. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Leo Kerr

      @ Hugh Young. I agree with you. Although I am pro-life, I do strongly believe that a woman's right comes first, especially in respect to her health and well being. I was thinking of the Hippocratic Oath when I referred to malpractice - this always comes first for me, because the law of the land can be wrong. A medical doctor is a doctor because of this oath, he/she should be working to their best of abilities to heal me, they should never be working as agents of the state, but agents of medicine.

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    4. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Leo Kerr

      @Hugh Young
      Just returning to your comment, Hugh, since I came across a fuller and more honest explanation of what actually happened with Savita Halapanavar in Ireland: http://townhall.com/columnists/paulcoleman/2012/11/20/irish_mothers_death_tragicjust_like_using_it_to_promote_abortion_on_demand/page/full/
      As the author notes, "this information is lost on ideologues who never let a good crisis go to waste". I knew I smelt a rat when I read your linked article, and it comforts me that the doctors were guided by their medical expertise and opinion, rather than Catholic dogma as you and others have insinuated. Of course I am not holding my breath for a retraction from you or others who take such delight in using misinformation to promote your hate of religion.

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    5. Hugh Young

      independent researcher

      In reply to Leo Kerr

      Doubtless the facts in the case of Savita Halappanavar will become clear in due course, but it can't have helped the doctors that their hands were tied, and they couldn't legally have extracted her foetal contents even if that would certainly have saved her and had been the only thing that could. And the reason for this law is nothing else but the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church over Ireland.

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    6. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Leo Kerr

      @Hugh Young "Doubtless the facts in the case of Savita Halappanavar will become clear in due course, but it can't have helped the doctors that their hands were tied, and they couldn't legally have extracted her foetal contents even if that would certainly have saved her and had been the only thing that could. And the reason for this law is nothing else but the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church over Ireland"
      See, right there you have lost my respect. Even when faced with evidence that religion didn't have anything to do with it, and that it was a medical decision, you persist with your prejudice. You seem to want so badly to link this terrible thing with religion that you are willing to ignore any evidence that contradicts your stereotypes, or challenges your christophobia.

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    7. Hugh Young

      independent researcher

      In reply to Leo Kerr

      Actually, I haven't been holding my breath hoping I'd keep Dania Ng's respect. She already thinks my husband's and my life together is "immoral", so why should I care what else she thinks about anything?

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  49. Clifford Chapman

    Retired English Teacher

    To The Conversation:

    Will you please do something about this most irritating of changes that have been made without fully thinking them through and seeing if they operate - half the time, I'm not offered the option of replying to a post and I'm sure other people have also experienced this..

    If certain posters flout rules or do not obey elementary standards of behaviour, simply erase their posts and give them a warning, but please let us have the options back of responding to replies and postings.

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    1. Dan Abrahmsen

      Public Servant

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      It took me a while to figure out but the new system does work...sort of. If you want to reply to my comment you'll need to reply to your original post. Likewise, if I want to reply to your reply I need to reply to the original post too.

      It's a bit screwy at displaying the replies in the correct order sometimes but eventually it sorts itself out. The only issue I can see is if someone else gets in a reply before you do then things will be slightly out of order permanently.

      Hope that helps.

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    2. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      To the editors:
      I actually like this format. Like other posters, it took me only a little while to work it out, but once I did this I had no problem with it. It is actually much better than the previous format, as it simplifies navigation and following comments and responses.
      Unfortunately, some individuals want everything set so that it suit themselves, rather than to compromise and try to learn and adapt so that the preferences of the majority are served rather than their personal one.

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  50. Michael Mihajlovic

    Retired

    It is puerile to even contemplate a faulty law taking precedence over religion or any subject for that matter because that would be absurd. A law is only valid for consideration if it is considered right. Other wise it should be challenges and corrected.
    More importantly, however, the whole concept of the sanctity of the confessional in regard to absolution of sins has become an embarrassment to both the Church and the faithful.
    Are we suggesting that a believer can repeatedly commit the most heinous…

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  51. Julie O'Toole

    eating disorder pediatrician

    Priests? How about psychiatrists. In the USA psychiatrists, alone among professionals, are not required to report abuse or suspected abuse, but rather may use their professional "discretion". This makes them de facto secular priests. And as another physician, I feel this is wrong.

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    1. Ken Maynard

      Retiree

      In reply to Julie O'Toole

      The issues are complex, as is inevitable on the nebulous boundary between religious & secular.

      Firstly on the Church & child abuse specifically; speaking as Protestant, & a somewhat independent one; I do not believe the Catholic Church should be required to break the sanctity of confession between Parishioner & Priest. Nor is it possible to compel people to disclose private conversations, when no proof exist they even took place.

      I think the big concern for the Church is when confessors themselves…

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  52. Peter Gerard

    Retired medical practitioner

    Article 18 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, is used to justify some practices inimical to the well being of society and the welfare of animals. Two examples are the sanctity of the confessional and the practice of ritual slaughter.

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  53. Roger Powell

    Engineer (Retired)

    Dania said: " Among the pamphlets arranged prominently on the table was a directory to the local gay nightlife spots. I remember the disgust and offense I felt when I saw it, as it had a fairly inappropriate (for me) photo of gay men in very scant attire posing suggestively. I placed it in the trash can, and I don't think a dwelled a minute longer on it."

    Yup. Put it in the bin.

    That's exactly what I do with the gideons bibles.

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    1. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Roger Powell

      Good for you, Roger. At least you don't seem to have had your sensibilities mortally wounded by its existence, which is always encouraging to know :`)

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    2. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Roger Powell

      Yes, Roger, another sweet reply from Dania Ng, together with its customary insult dressed up in bourgeois morality.

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    3. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Roger Powell

      What is the matter with you, Clifford? What I said means what I said - it's only you that chooses to see something else in it. Go get some help, mate, you obviously have some issues.

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  54. Clifford Chapman

    Retired English Teacher

    @Dania Ng.

    If you think your out-pouring of hot air, punctuated with holier than thou comments as you scramble to occupy the high moral ground - 'it's what gives you the right to call my beliefs 'mumbo-jumb' - cuts any ice with me, thing again.

    You not only fail to address my question accurately and non-emotively, you have the gall to paper over the biggest and greatest confidence trick in human history, which is religion, with the word: 'tolerance'. Even a perfunctory look at religion over…

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    1. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      @Clifford Chapman Lol, the word 'nincompoop' came to mind when I read this insults-infested diatribe. Lack of comprehension was another thought, for which I feel sorry for you. Actually, I have addressed your unintelligent dross already - it can't be dismissed by simply calling me names. It is not emotive or hot air, it is a simple fact that if we don't tolerate difference and different points of view, including things which some of us may feel as inappropriate - like the insults you hurl at me…

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  55. Hugh Young

    independent researcher

    @Dania Ng. Nobody has a right not to be offended, but I don't think people are so much offended by Gideon bibles as object to the privileging of one evanglicical stream of Protestant christianity their placement gives. Would hotels allow the Qu'ran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Book of Mormon, Science and Health, The Gospel According to the Flying Spaghetti Monster (an excellent book), Dianetics, The God Delusion, God Is Not Great etc. etc. to be placed as well? There'd be no room for the tiny bottles of shampoo!

    There have been many creative suggestions for what to do with the Gideon Bible. Bin it, hide it, highlight the hateful parts, put a warning sticker on it. I stole one, with a nice binding. I found it very useful. until all the excellent online variorum editions came along.

    If you found too-explicit gay material in your hotel room, maybe you were in the wrong kind of hotel.

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    1. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Hugh Young

      Lol. Yes, I agree that there is privileged status for the Gideons' Bible in motel rooms. But then our society is mainly Christian, the Gideons have started this tradition decades ago, and those who pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster are just as entitled to place their holy doctrines in motel rooms. And I now see the Holy Koran in motel rooms, which is fantastic. And no, I wasn't in the 'wrong kind of hotel' - it's a well known upper-end and business-type hotel. So what the heck is your argument…

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    2. Hugh Young

      independent researcher

      In reply to Hugh Young

      I am not the person who originaly objected to the Gideons, and I only object in principle. If I cared at all, I might take it up with the management as I left.

      "Our socity is mainly Christian". The word "mainly" is ambiguous. Numerically, Christians are a bare minority, but "mainly" suggests an exaggerated importance to that unimportant fact. There is no particular reason why any religion should have privileged rights to proselytise in the privacy of a hotel room.

      "the Gideons have started…

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  56. Ken Maynard

    Retiree

    If this proves to be a duplicate posting I apologize, it is just that I suffered a little confusion working out your system.

    ............................................

    The issues are complex, as is inevitable on the nebulous boundary between religious & secular.

    Firstly on the Church & child abuse specifically; speaking as Protestant, & a somewhat independent one; I do not believe the Catholic Church should be required to break the sanctity of confession between Parishioner & Priest…

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    1. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Ken Maynard

      @Hugh Young. Well, the ABS figures seem to say that we are mainly Christian (61% of people nominated a Christian affiliation on the last Census night). Here are the (rounded off) figures: 5439200 Catholics (25.3%), 3680000 Anglicans (17.1%); 1065800 United Church (5%); plus other smaller Christian denominations. By contrast, there are about 4.8 million who said they don't affiliate with any religion. So Christians are not a bare minority, but a significant majority, otherwise they would not identify…

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  57. Clifford Chapman

    Retired English Teacher

    @Dania Ng

    For your superficial imagination, Philosophy was one of my two major subjects at University, not teachers' college, despite your unchristian little swipe. I neither need nor desire your pity - and I note your reply is laden with the believers standard mixture of saccharine and bile.

    The only mystery to me is that you do not seem to realise that underneath your sanctimoniousness, your insults come across as clear as day.

    But I'll wear your infantile lables proudly because at least I'm aware of irony and hypocrisy. I mean, just look at the nastiness of your response to Hugh Young. It beggars belief!

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    1. Michael Mihajlovic

      Retired

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      Lady and Gentlemen,
      How about a little tolerance?
      There are many things in hotel rooms that may not interest an individual. There is tea and coffee for instance and if you are not a tea drinker you just ignore the tea and have coffee. why not do the same with the bible? Besides is not the subject of discussion the rights of children v freedom of religion?
      It may be more productive to explore how the ministers of Christian religions can explain their faith in God's forgiveness of sins through confession and "repentance" when they themselves repeatedly commit those sins and aid and abet others to repeatedly commit them.

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    2. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      Philosophy, no less? Sorry, but it doesn't show and I still pity the outcome, Cliff. My superficial imagination is capable of envisioning that if only you were polite to start with, it would possibly have been a positive exchange despite our differences, because respect rather than christophobia would have been the basis for it. And I don't see any nastiness in my response to Hugh's posting, I simply corrected the erroneous statement about Christians being a minority and took you to task for using a simplistic example as a basis for making a gratuitous attack on Christianity. And when you referred to my views as hot air, then I think you have no basis for claiming civility from me. I am glad that the insults came across loud and clear.

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  58. Peter Gerard

    Retired medical practitioner

    Sarah Joseph,

    I was unable to post a comment recently because it presumably offended the rules regarding what is acceptable criticism of religious beliefs.' The Conversation' supposedly gets its title from the Dialogues of Plato in which Socrates is cast as the principal interlocutor. Socrates was prepared to die for his freedom to criticize aspects of Athenian society during his life time. Religious faiths of all persuasions must be subject to unfettered questioning, as they can still have a distorting influence on public affairs. Please inform me what is acceptable and not acceptable in respect to making comments on religious faith. of any denomination, including Islam.

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  59. Hugh Young

    independent researcher

    (I've given up on the hopeless reply system.)
    @Dania Ng:
    "@Hugh Young. Well, the ABS figures seem to say that we are mainly Christian" (61% of people nominated a Christian affiliation on the last Census night). Here are the (rounded off) figures: 5439200 Catholics (25.3%), 3680000 Anglicans (17.1%); 1065800 United Church (5%); plus other smaller Christian denominations. By contrast, there are about 4.8 million who said they don't affiliate with any religion."
    A different "we". I am in NZ, where…

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    1. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Hugh Young

      Hugh, by polarising the issue in the way she does, Dania Ng reflects and reveals the under-lying intolerance of religion, and any ism, for that matter, that brooks no real criticism or questioning. The irony of her posts arguing for sweet reason and for personal respect for one's beliefs while delivering barb after barb to others, takes some beating.

      The question of the Gideons bibles in the hotel rooms, was one that I didn't even originally address to her - it was to the author of this article and I prefaced that question to Sarah Joseph with the words: 'On a relatively trivial example, by virtue of what right do I' etc. I'm simply referring there to the view or belief that the assumption of the socialisation process of the confidence trick that is religion, is based on stronger grounds than mere personal opinion, even blind faith. Since there's not a shred of real evidence for the existence of any 'God', on what else are such beliefs based?

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    2. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Hugh Young

      So you are saying there is underlying intolerance of religion, or is it a Freudian slip, Clifford? Thanks for the compliments, by the way; do you think you deserve the barbs, though? I happen to believe that God exists, so what are you going to do about it? Is that the basis on which I should be exempted from having a say in anything that matters to me, my family and my community? And do you actually think that it has taken 'a confidence trick' to create my spirituality, or socialise me into the…

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    3. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Hugh Young

      @ Dania. It's not religion OR the religious we hate. Religions offer many people a sense of purpose and meaning and religious communities can, and do, act to help others less fortunate.

      It's the special pleading that those who profess a faith have a right to special treatment combined with the notion that somehow their faith gives them right to dictate to others, or society, what is right or wrong, permissiable or not.

      Especially when too often religious institutions are found, as in this instance, to have been the most vile perpetrators of evil. That's why childrens rights should trump the confessional seal and that's why religions and the religious need to recognise they have no special status in our world - either above or below any other group of people.

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    4. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Hugh Young

      @Mark Harrigan. Mark! Fancy meeting you here, and making a bee line for my post. Not due to prejudice, I hope?
      Well, lemme put it as plainly as I can: it isn't really the religious institutions, it is the priests. I am forwarding the thesis that in the instance of Catholic priests, it could be due to pederast rings which have entrenched them within the institution. Now, why, even in light of the evidence, don't we look at this? Let me pre-empt the usual response you tend to give. I have given the reasons for proposing this thesis elsewhere, I am therefore not interested in explaining it to you here again. Unless you want to provide an informed response, I am going to ignore you.

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    5. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Hugh Young

      Hugh. Sorry, but you don't make much sense. I will try to reply to what I think you're asking or commenting about. I will try as hard as I can not to be influenced too much by your christophobia and other prejudice against my point of view, though there may be some instances where I couldn't help it. Nevertheless I hope you'll be stoic, and make it to the end.
      In respect to the first part, you did say that Christians are a bare minority. I addressed this proposition. Instead of acknowledging this…

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    6. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Hugh Young

      @ Dania :)

      I see on this thread you continue to demonstrate your adherence to christs guide to "love thy neighbour as thyself" by the venemous barbs and sarcasm you use to answer others rather than address their points.

      Nothing you have said refutes in any way my point that it is the instittion rather than the faith or the faithful (or at least those who really do show love for their fellow humans) that attracts the ire and disgust.

      Your comments about "rings of pederasts" again shows your…

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  60. Clifford Chapman

    Retired English Teacher

    @Dania Ng

    Almost by definition, every infantile 'ism' is intolerant of other views.

    The playing field is not level, and it does the believers' cause little or no good to make out that it is.

    If I can illustrate my basic views about this confidence trick, I need only quote from an article that appeared in today's W.A. newspaper, 'The West Australian'.

    It is about a visiting New Zealand Catholic priest, a Father John Rea, who doctors are concerned about because of his apparent claims to…

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    1. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      Yeah, I am really devastated that my 'barbs' missed the target; I shouldn't have used dum-dums. Pity you can't return them, eh?
      Tell us, if you don't care then why do you respond? What have you to gain by declaring that you don't care what I think? What bizarre thought created for you the notion that I have anything to gain from trying to 'convert' you to anything? Rest assured that I get it that your religion won't permit you to escape the narrow set of prejudices which enable you to practice…

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    2. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      @Dania Ng

      Is there any chance that you can rise above this Readers Digest level and consider that not everything is either/or?

      You made a choice to reply to a post of mine that was not directed at you.

      I am not the slightest bit interested in Christianity and religion, any religion, and despite your words, I don't think I've even mentioned Catholic priests, let alone raved on about my hatred of them, as you fanicifully put it. It's like a programmed response each time from you, with gibberish…

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    3. Clifford Chapman

      Retired English Teacher

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      Oh, God, I've just realised I mentioned a Catholic priest yesterday pretending to be healing people through faith, so despite doctors raising their concerns about him, which is why I quoted the article, someone not a million miles from here is going to interpret my reference to him as my raving on about my hate of Catholic priests, note the plural.

      Given that article's emphasis is not on the priest but on the doctors' concerns, because some of the medical conditions are really serious ones, it's comforting to know that my reference to him, rewarded the person with much mirth.

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  61. Clifford Chapman

    Retired English Teacher

    @Dania Ng

    'Philosophy, no less. Sorry, but it doesn't show.'

    Well, you said it. Who wants the superficiality of appearance and ostentation?

    Even with your: 'I am glad that the insults came across loud and clear', you seem to think that means they do little more than draw attention to your delivery of them.

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  62. Michael Mihajlovic

    Retired

    @Nadia Ng

    Nadia could you please explain how you reconcile your faith in a religion in which the guardians of the religion (Ministers) can perpetrate the most heinous of sins (abuse of helpless children) repeatedly and be absolved of those sins by repeated confession and "repentance"?
    What of the Ministers who aid and abet those sinners who hear their repeated confessions and conceal them "because of the sanctity of the confessional?
    Do you believe the ritual of absolution is man made or God made?
    If God made, what kind of God of compassion and justice is it that is party to such depravity and ritual?
    If man made should it not be changed to avoid this embarrassment to the Church and more importantly to the faith?

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    1. Dania Ng

      Retired factory worker

      In reply to Michael Mihajlovic

      Michael. I am Dania, not Nadia. And I have no idea what you're talking about. I am not Catholic, so I can't explain the rituals you describe. I am not defending the priests or the religion, if you read carefully what I have written. I am simply asking why this attack on religion (whatever that religion happens to be) when it is individuals who use the cover of religious institutions to commit these dreadful deeds? Simplistic propositions do nothing to advance reasoned discussion, and address the…

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    2. Hugh Young

      independent researcher

      In reply to Michael Mihajlovic

      Oh boy. Objecting to institutionalised child abuse and its cover-up, is just "a cover to silence one of the strongest voices objecting to abortion and gay marriage"? As if we aren't quite capable of answering the RCC on those two subjects on their own terms? What an inefficient way to trying to silence anyone!

      I dare Diana to say that to a large group of the abuse victims.

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  63. Michael Mihajlovic

    Retired

    Dania,
    Apologies about the name faux pas. It should not have happened.
    Apologies also for my presumption that you are a Christian.
    I was not suggesting pederasts do not exist in other organisations (indeed maybe even in non-Christian religions), but, was merely sticking to the topic of the “Conversation”.
    As you probably know most Christian…

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  64. Hugh Young

    independent researcher

    @Dania Ng:

    "In respect to the first part, you did say that Christians are a bare minority."
    My mistake, I meant "bare majority", as the context makes clear. Nothing magical happens when the proportion of Christians crosses from 49.9% to 50.1%.

    "I addressed this proposition. Instead of acknowledging this, you chose to attack me and misrepresent me"
    That was an attack? I pointed out that here in NZ, the Christian majority is even slimmer.
    "by saying that I ignored your "point about majority…

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  65. Clifford Chapman

    Retired English Teacher

    @Mark Harrison

    I've long thought that many believers have the hide of a rhino and, boy, is that being proved on this thread.

    It beggars belief, really.

    The Conversation has erased some people's posts in the past, yet her posts are allowed to remain, despite many being laden with snide insult after insult, some of them most offensive, rude and personal, and virutally all of them accompanied by this veneer of saccharine Christianity. It is rank hypocrisy.

    Although I first posted to her…

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    1. Diana Brown

      Parent; language student

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      @ Clifford Chapman, well said. I've been watching with increasing bemusement as the thread has been hi-jacked by someone who's evidently suffering a great deal of anger, or something. The whole 'conversation' has gone totally off topic (Gideons bibles?!) and moreover has degenerated into a display of vituperative bitterness which would probably work better on a daytime soap. And meanwhile the editors don't intervene or apparently mind this rude and boring tosh drivelling onto the screen day after day, when actually the topic is massively important and interesting.

      Life's full of mysteries, Clifford, and editorial inaction is just one of the minor ones, hey. Prob the best thing to do with trolls is ignore them, though. Game over then.

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    2. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      @ Clifford alas you can find the homophobic Ms Ng on here https://theconversation.edu.au/protecting-the-abused-from-further-trauma-during-the-royal-commission-10761 villifying same sex attracted people again by confusing homosexuality with pedophilia - despite the fact the article is about protecting abused people from further trauma they will experience during the royal commission process.

      I can only pity the poor woman that, whilst professing christianity, she has so much anger hatred and mean…

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    3. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Clifford Chapman

      The majority of contributors to TC are reasonable, however it takes only a minority of people like Dania Ng and a couple of others I could mention, who do not respect others, who persistently drag any topic off onto their pet complaints, all of which wrecks any conversation.

      Dania if you were at a social function would you speak to people the way you write to them here? Well if you do, you must have a lonely life. It is possible to have a difference of opinion and still listen to another's POV.

      It is the trolls who quite successfully silence many people who have valid thoughts and opinions. I don't know what the solution is but I know I have better things to do than argue with people who have no intention of looking at a different perspective or even contribute something of worth.

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  66. Clifford Chapman

    Retired English Teacher

    To Diana Brown, Dianna Art and Mark Harrigan.

    I very much appreciated your individual responses and I do apologise to you, Mark, regarding your surname.

    I'd admit in my replies to her, I used sarcasm and made some pretty strong comments in return, but I'd challenege anyone to find examples, and not just from my posts, either, of her first responding to a person without villifying them in some way, if they're adopting a position which she doesn't hold or they have views opposed to her own…

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  67. Clifford Chapman

    Retired English Teacher

    Thank you, Alicia.

    Mind you, this new and supposedly improved way of replying, means that I do not know to which of my posts you are responding and neither am I given the option of actually replying to your post directly.

    Is The Conversation taking any notice of people's concerns and comments regarding this dog's breakfast?

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