The Confessional can enable a priest to abuse a young child

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article posted on 15 September 2018

After being silent for eighty years, an elderly Australian woman ("Pamela") has revealed how the Catholic ritual of Confession enabled a priest to indecently assault her in 1938 when she was aged eight. Pamela contacted Broken Rites in 2018 after noticing media reports about Catholic bishops who were defending the secrecy of the Catholic ritual of Confession.

Pamela (born in 1930) lived as a child in East Victoria Park, Perth, Western Australia, where her family attended the local Catholic church (the Our Lady Help of Christians parish).

At the age of eight, she says, she was sexually abused by a priest (name not known) who was visiting this parish to conduct a "mission" program. This mission included going to Confession, during which the children were required to reveal any of their sins.

Here is a summary of what Pamela told Broken Rites:

"Already, at the age of eight, I was being sexually abused by my own Dad. This was making my life an absolute horror. Therefore, when the missionary priest took me for Confession, I told him about the sins that were being committed during what my father was doing to me. I believed that what my father was doing to me was a very serious sin that I needed to confess.

"I gathered my strength and dutifully entered the confessional and told the visiting priest what my father was doing to me. The priest said he would need to know more and he could meet with me  in private.

"He took me to a room, where I told him more about what my father was doing to me. The priest responded by forcing his hand into my underwear and touching my private parts and at the same time asking me: 'Is this what your father does?'

"The priest then told me that is was a very normal way for a father to express love for his daughter. This reinforcement by a priest that my father was doing no wrong not only confused me but made me believe that I had to obey and respect my father. This response sealed my fate and enabled my father's abuse to continue for seven more years.

"The scars of what the visiting priest did to me, a child crying out for help, have stayed with me. Until telephoning Broken Rites, I have remained silent about the Confession and the abuse but I now realise the damage this priest did.

"Why did the Catholic Church enable a priest to step so low to use the so called secret of Confession just to abuse a vulnerable child?"

The seal of Confession was of no assistance to Pamela, just the opposite. Therefore, Pamela is no longer observing the secrecy of the Confessional.