The Australian Catholic Bishops recently decided not to adopt all the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and rejected a recommendation that reports of abuse disclosed to priests during confession be reported to police.
Three Australian states have already adopted laws making it an offence for priests to fail to report the confessions of child sex abuse. However some priests in these states have said that they are “willing to go to jail” rather than break the seal of confessional.
It seems extraordinary that the highest standards of safeguarding within most secular institutions should not be adopted by the church.
There is on old puzzle that is still presented to theology students: Are God’s commands good because he commands them, or does he command them because they are good? The thinking behind it is that as God cannot be subjected to anything, to say that he commands things because they are good would suggest that God was being subject to standards of goodness.
The crucial and most telling point is this. Anything that we consider to be less than the highest level of morality cannot be of God. Consequently we should have no hesitation in adopting what after careful consideration we think best for our children. The search for goodness is surely by definition a seeking after God. We should begin not by asking what God wants (which makes the extraordinary claim of knowing what God is thinking) but what is the best we can do.