Child abuse legislation will not cite Confession

The Irish Times – Thursday, September 8, 2011

STEPHEN COLLINS, Political Editor, in Galway

THE LEGISLATION covering mandatory reporting of child abuse will not contain any reference to Confession, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said.

The Minister described the controversy over Confession as “an entirely bogus issue” and said he did not anticipate any reference to it in the Bill.

Mr Shatter was speaking to reporters during the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting in Galway yesterday.

The issue of Confession arose in July after Mr Shatter published the heads of a Bill making it a criminal offence to withhold information relating to sexual abuse or other serious offences against a child or vulnerable adult.

Questioned by journalists at the time, Mr Shatter and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said there would be no exceptions to the rule, including information given to priests in Confession.

Asked yesterday if there would be a reference to the confessional in the full Bill, Mr Shatter said: “This is an entirely bogus issue. The focus of the Bill, the heads of which were published at the end of July, is to ensure that where there are what we describe as arrestable crimes, which include child sexual abuse committed against a child, and where an individual has material information that would assist the gardaí in the investigation of that crime, that they provide it to the gardaí, unless there is a reasonable excuse not to do so.”

He added that the context of the legislation is to ensure that those who know children are being abused inform the Garda; that those who are the abusers are brought to justice; and that other children are protected.

“The central focus of this Government and my colleague Frances Fitzgerald and myself is child welfare and child protection,” he said.

“And this [Confession] is an entire divergence from the central focus of what we’re seeking to address, and I think it would be helpful if those who are focusing on that issue focused to a far greater extent on the protection of children.”

Asked about the referendum on children’s rights, Ms Fitzgerald said the wording was currently with the Attorney General and she expected to see substantial progress in the next few weeks.

“We will then be looking at the wording and the Cabinet will decide on a date. At the moment we don’t have a date, but it remains a high priority for the Government once we have a wording agreed.”

The Minister said there had been some difficulties with the wordings which had been in the public arena and the Government wanted to get it right. “There have been some difficulties with those. But we are committed to wording along the lines originally proposed by the all-party constitutional committee on children,” she said.

    “If a small group of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals have their way at a conference this week, pedophiles themselves could play a role in removing pedophilia from the American Psychiatric Association’s bible of mental illnesses — the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), set to undergo a significant revision by 2013. Critics warn that their success could lead to the decriminalization of pedophilia.”

    Dear Paddy, I feel it is right that people learn what is being proposed at the moment and if passed will mean child rapists will be free to rape any child they want. We all know there is no cure for pedophilia and normalising it is simply giving child rapists total freedom to rape and abuse any child they want.

    So much for child protection.

    Children are still seen as less than human- born of Eve ill women, tempting these adults just like Eve supposedly did. Once again adult men are not expected to be able to exert self control, so blame the children for the crimes of adults.

    it is still this failure to accept responsibility for the crimes against children.

    Dehumanise children and you can do as you please.

    We have seen it over and over in his story, and it keeps repeating itself, like we never learn from the past.

    Sinead O Connor was light years ahead when she tore up the picture of the pope.

  2. What child rapist would go to confession if the man in the dress was obliged to inform authorities? Exactly.
    No man in a dress can forgive anyone else of any crime.

    Only the victim can forgive.

    Yes pauline, the whole idea of god and devil was created to scare people from birth and keep them in fear and under control.

  3. When it comes to raping children ‘there arent any reasonable excuses. so priests or not its the sanctity of childhood that needs protecting. Children are not attracted to adults. Thay arent devils either. So its about time that the popes bishops and all get this through thier heads. the devil is only an idea someone had to frighten children. it is not an excuse.

  4. The issue of child abuse alone does not do anything to hold ‘institutions’ more accountable for abusing children. This has always been the weakness in law, same design, different day.

  5. It was bogus because when it was first announced it was Fitgerald, not Shatter, who went to the media with it, championing its introduction.

    Why would the Minister for Children be involved as opposed to the Minister for Justice? One can only guess because everyone else in the country knew it was a non-starter aside from Fitzgerald. Shatter stayed well away from it.

    It was another attempt by Fitzgerald to gain credibility in her newly created role as Minister for Children. Other such attempts including parading on the streets with Senator Jillian van Turnhout and a hand-full of anti-trafficking protesters, her voicing dismay at the number of rapes in the country following her visit to the Rape Crisis Center. What this proves is that Minister Fitgerald is confused and has no idea what her role really is. Hint – it has to do with children.

    There is also the obvious confusion as to the purpose of the revelations of the confessional. It seemed to be the wrong way around. The current investigations are of the clergy, not their congregation.

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