I can understand why Premier Barry O’Farrell struggles with the fact that the Catholic Church might enable pedophiles to hide behind the secrecy of the Confessional. Barry, like most modern thinking people, sees the danger that represents.
We in the western world have created a system of laws for our citizens to live within, a system of courts to dispense justice and a penal system for those society needs to punish or have protection from. In other words we have laws, courts, and gaols.
Our system is intentionally secular. It is there for all our citizens regardless of status, race, gender or religion. All citizens are expected to live within its laws.
This system has evolved over long centuries and contains great wisdom. The wisdom resulting from years of contemplation, the continual examining of mistakes within it and its gradual extension to include all citizens.
Contrast this with the Confessional. It grew up in a time when the system of law, if it existed at all, was much less developed than today and society was much more fragmented. In many ways the Confessional grew out of a society that was inherently much more lawless and less democratic, where the Devine Right of Kings ruled and powerful institutions held sway. In other words – a bygone age and place.
In the past the Catholic Church could, with impunity, demand penance from confessors and it had the authority to ensure it was carried out. In other words the institution that was the Catholic Church could deal with both the spiritual and the criminal.
Now though, the Confessional is a spiritual act – and act intended to be good for the soul.
To me it is simply medieval thinking to expect the Catholic Church to be above the law with regard to criminal behaviour disclosed in the Concessional. Criminal behaviour should be dealt with by the courts. The Church should not have the power to in any way protect a criminal. The crime and the Confessional are separate matters. Sure Confession is good for the soul but it should not protect the confessor from the penalty the law prescribes.