Pope replaces Australian prelate who opposes sex abuse norm
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Melbourne’s archbishop, who said he’d prefer jail to telling civil authorities about any sex abuse of children that might be revealed to him in the confessional.
The Vatican said Friday that the pontiff has appointed Monsignor Peter Comensoli, 54, to head the archdiocese, replacing Archbishop Denis Hart.
At 77, Hart is two years older than the age at which all bishops must offer the pope their resignation.
Last year in an interview, Hart objected to a recommendation from Australia’s Royal Commission on child sexual abuse that priests be required to report cases of abuse heard in the confessional to authorities.
Then head of Australia’s bishops’ conference, Hart defended the special nature of confession as part of religious freedom.
The Australian church has been stung by sexual abuse scandals involving prominent clergy.
Next week, a magistrate is due to sentence Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson. The magistrate in May found Wilson guilty of failing to report to police the repeated abuse of two altar boys by a pedophile priest during the 1970s. Wilson is the most senior Catholic cleric in the world to be convicted of covering up child sex abuse.
Australian Cardinal George Pell, who served at the Vatican as one of the pope’s top aides, faces trial in his home state of Victoria on sex abuse charges. Pell has denied wrongdoing. Details of the allegations haven’t been made public.
Francis has insisted top clerics be held responsible for failing to crack down on pedophile clergy.
Melbourne archdiocese’s new leader is a native of New South Wales who has been based in the Broken Bay diocese since 2014. Previously, Comensoli served as an auxiliary bishop in Sydney.