Pope Francis has made it mandatory for Roman Catholic clergy to report cases of clerical sexual abuse and cover-ups to the Church. In a motu proprio entitled Vos estis lux mundi [scroll down for the English text], he declares that
“The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful. In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church, so that personal sanctity and moral commitment can contribute to promoting the full credibility of the Gospel message and the effectiveness of the Church’s mission.”
Critically, under Art. 2 – Reception of reports and data protection:
“§1. Taking into account the provisions that may be adopted by the respective Episcopal Conferences, by the Synods of the Bishops of the Patriarchal Churches and the Major Archiepiscopal Churches, or by the Councils of Hierarchs of the Metropolitan Churches sui iuris, the Dioceses or the Eparchies, individually or together, must establish within a year from the entry into force of these norms, one or more public, stable and easily accessible systems for submission of reports, even through the institution of a specific ecclesiastical office. The Dioceses and the Eparchies shall inform the Pontifical Representative of the establishment of the systems referred to in this paragraph.”
“Art. 3 – Reporting: §1. Except as provided for by canons 1548 §2 CIC and 1229 §2 CCEO, whenever a cleric or a member of an Institute of Consecrated Life or of a Society of Apostolic Life has notice of, or well-founded motives to believe that, one of the facts referred to in article 1 has been committed, that person is obliged to report promptly the fact to the local Ordinary where the events are said to have occurred or to another Ordinary among those referred to in canons 134 CIC and 984 CCEO, except for what is established by §3 of the present article.
§2. Any person can submit a report concerning the conduct referred to in article 1, using the methods referred to in the preceding article, or by any other appropriate means.
§3. When the report concerns one of the persons indicated in article 6, it is to be addressed to the Authority identified based upon articles 8 and 9. The report can always be sent to the Holy See directly or through the Pontifical Representative.
§4. The report shall include as many particulars as possible, such as indications of time and place of the facts, of the persons involved or informed, as well as any other circumstance that may be useful in order to ensure an accurate assessment of the facts.
§5. Information can also be acquired ex officio.
Art. 4 – Protection of the person submitting the report: §1. Making a report pursuant to article 3 shall not constitute a violation of office confidentiality.
§2. Except as provided for by canons 1390 CIC and 1452 and 1454 CCEO, prejudice, retaliation or discrimination as a consequence of having submitted a report is prohibited and may constitute the conduct referred to in article 1 §1, letter b).
§3. An obligation to keep silent may not be imposed on any person with regard to the contents of his or her report.”
The provisions of the Motu Proprio enter into force on 1 June 2019. They are approved ad experimentum for three years.
What is not clear to me is whether this will apply to information acquired by a priest during a religious confession. It is also interesting that reports are to be made to the Church, not the police. Australian jurisdictions are considering whether to ‘break the confessional seal’ by requiring religious confessors to report such information to secular authorities. Some, such as the Australian Capital Territory, have already decided to do so. An issue that has hampered public debate is the apparent lack of consensus amongst Australian Catholic Church leaders as to the extent of the confessional seal in this context.
I read it as not disturbing the seal of the Confessional which is explicitly set out in another section of the Code of Canon Law The Australian Bishops have been clear that priests cannot breach confessional secrecy whatever Civil Law says