The Weekly host Charlie Pickering took aim at the Catholic Church.
The Weekly host Charlie Pickering took aim at the Catholic Church.

‘I’m not allowed to say on TV what I think’

AN ANGRY Charlie Pickering has taken aim at the Catholic Church.

The host of The Weekly took exception to comments made by the acting Archbishop of Adelaide Greg O'Kelly this week, who said, the church would not abide by legislation forcing priests to report confessions of child abuse to police.

"Politicians can change the law, but we can't change the nature of the confessional, which is a sacred encounter between a penitent and someone seeking forgiveness and a priest representing Christ," Bishop O'Kelly said.

Pickering told viewers on Wednesday night that the church was "protecting predators in God's name".

"In response to the royal commission … here we have a religious organisation saying publicly, with a straight face, that it considers itself above the law," he said.

"Now, Greg … is the acting Archbishop because his predecessor was convicted of covering up child abuse. (He) said the seal of confession is sacred. Well, it is a sacred seal the church has used to protect serial child abusers who landed them in the royal commission in the first place.

"Like Rockhampton priest Father McArdle who confessed 1500 times to molesting children to 30 different priests over a 25-year period. He was forgiven 1500 times and told merely to go home and pray.

"That, according to the church, is sacred and none of our business."

He slammed the Catholic Church for abiding by some laws but not others.

"The church is fine with laws that protect it from paying tax but refuses to abide a law designed to protect innocent children from abuse," Pickering said.


"If O'Kelly has his way, victims could be left without proper justice while abusers are able to alleviate their guilt and shame. Rather than protecting victims from predators, they are protecting the predators and doing it in God's name."

Pickering said he could not say what he really wanted to say "because I am subject to the law (but) "maybe I should swing by his confessional because apparently there I can get away with anything".

Under the new law, set to take effect in October, priests who hear confessions about child abuse will have a legal obligation to report the matter to police.

But Bishop O'Kelly told ABC Radio Adelaide on Friday that "it doesn't affect us".

The law forms part of the South Australian government's response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, released by Attorney-General Vickie Chapman last Tuesday.

It was widely publicised by Attorney-General Chapman last month when Archbishop Philip Wilson stood aside amid public outcry after his conviction for covering up child sexual abuse.

Canon (Church) law lays down that "it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason".

The penalty for violating the seal of confessional is excommunication, as every priest knows. The law also stipulates that anyone else who happens to hear or overhear someone confessing sacramentally is also obliged to observe the seal.

Not reporting abuse will carry a maximum $10,000 fine, and brings expectations of priests in line with those of social workers, teachers, medical professionals and others in positions of authority.

Bishop Greg O'Kelly. Picture: Keryn Stevens
Bishop Greg O'Kelly. Picture: Keryn Stevens

- with AAP