Thu, 12 Jul, 2018Danielle McCarthy

Waleed Aly and Lisa Wilkinson clash in fiery debate on The Project

Waleed Aly and Lisa Wilkinson clash in fiery debate on The Project

Last night’s episode of The Project saw hosts Lisa Wilkinson and Waleed Aly clash in a fiery debate about a proposed law requiring priests to report confessions of child sex abuse from other clergy members.

While the segment showed how there has been a push for Victoria to follow similar South Australian legislation, Wilkinson said it was a “matter of urgency” for this change to take place.

“For me it’s a no-brainer — there are children, many many many generations of children, who have suffered at the hands of priests who know better,” she said.

However, Aly questioned how effective the law would be in making priests report confessions of child abuse and if it would “actually stop any of this happening”.

“I’m not a Catholic. I have no interest in defending the confession or the institution of the confession or whatever, but breaking the seal of confession for them — not for me or you, but for them — is an excommunicable offence. It means eternal damnation for them,” he said.

“So now you are giving them a choice between eternal damnation or a $10,000 fine. I just can’t see any of them making the decision to avoid a $10,000 fine for the sake of that.”

Wilkinson disagreed with Aly’s stance, saying the law “removes the perpetrator’s chance of absolution”.

Aly replied: “But it doesn’t, because if the priest believes enough to be a priest and cares about the confessional seal they’ve already said they will maintain that seal.”

“But what’s the alternative?” Wilkinson asked.

“You can’t let it continue, the Church has been a rule unto itself … if altar boys in particular are seen as prey for priests then we have to step in and in a major way,” she said.

“Stepping in in a major way is fine, but that doesn’t mean that every form of stepping in will work,” Aly rebutted.

“I get the appeal of legislating for that, but I can’t imagine the scenario in my head where it works,” he said.

Wilkinson concluded the heated exchange between the two by saying: “I can’t imagine the Church continuing the way it has when we know what we know.”

One of the key recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was to make it mandatory for Catholic priests to report suspicions about abuse or admissions of guilt from church clergy.

Last month, South Australia introduced laws that will see Catholic clergy receive a $10,000 fine if they do not report admissions of abuse made in the confessional.

Similar legislation in Victoria has been stalled by the possibility of national legislation being drafted, reported the ABC