THE Project's Lisa Wilkinson and Waleed Aly have clashed in a fiery debate about a proposed law requiring priests to report confessions of child sex abuse from other clergy.

After a segment aired on how a push for Victoria to adopt similar legislation to South Australia had stalled, Wilkinson argued it was a "matter of urgency" that changes to the law happen.

Waleed Aly and Lisa Wilkinson clashed while discussing proposed laws requiring priests to report confessions of abuse. Picture: Channel 10
Waleed Aly and Lisa Wilkinson clashed while discussing proposed laws requiring priests to report confessions of abuse. Picture: Channel 10

"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.

But Aly was unconvinced, questioning how a law requiring priests to report confessions of child abuse 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."

But Wilkinson disagreed, saying the law "removes the perpetrator's chance of absolution", prompting this heated exchange.

Wilkinson disagreed with Aly’s argument that the law wouldn’t work. Picture: Channel 10
Wilkinson disagreed with Aly’s argument that the law wouldn’t work. Picture: Channel 10

Aly: "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."

Wilkinson: "But what's the alternative? 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."

Aly: "Stepping in in a major way is fine, but that doesn't mean that every form of stepping in will work. … I get the appeal of legislating for that, but I can't imagine the scenario in my head where it works."

Wilkinson: "I can't imagine the Church continuing the way it has when we know what we know."

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

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

Plans for similar laws in Victoria have stalled in favour of national legislation being drafted, the ABC reported.

The Project airs 6.30pm Sunday to Friday on Network 10.


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