Religious Confession and Evidential Privilege in the 21st Century
Edited by Mark Hill QC and A. Keith Thompson
A Shepherd Street Press Title
Paperback, 320 pages, $39.95
A. Keith Thompson, Robert Natanek, Patrick Parkinson, Monica Doumit,
Mario Ferrante, Mark Hill QC, Christopher Grout, Andreas Henriksen
Aarflot, Stephen Farrell, Gregory Zubacz, Giorgio Morelli and Eric
This collection by editors Mark Hill QC and Keith Thompson raises
many questions about recent challenges to religious confession privilege
whether through legislative enactment or otherwise. Is confessional
practice protected by international human rights instruments and
domestic constitutional norms? Is there a social benefit from sinners
using confession as a means of reformation of character? How do we
decide which confidences should be protected by law? Are children and
the vulnerable any better protected by making inroads into the doctrinal
practice of confession?
While these questions are not all answered here, the different US,
European and Australian contexts enable wider comparative insights not
always considered within a single jurisdiction. While religious
confession privilege law has evolved differently in countries with
established churches, it seems that the need to accommodate other
religions has led to increased tolerance of diverse belief and practice.
There are also some surprises here - including the confessional nature
of auditing practice in Scientology and that, until recently, it was a
criminal offence in Norway and Sweden for a religious minister to
As former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams says in the
Foreword, no community of faith can exist without a foundation of trust.
That bond is shattered when religious authorities betray trust, such as
by physical or mental abuse, but confession requires confidences to be
maintained for the sacrament of penance to be meaningful. This volume
seeks to stimulate discussion and to inform a deeper understanding of
this tangled and urgent issue.