A STAWELL priest will not break the confessional seal, despite a new law requiring him to do so.
Eric Bryant said he would uphold the law of God - not a law imposed by the state government.
"I have to believe that as a priest I have no right to divulge that," Father Bryant said.
"I would be the very first person to report a child abuse, but not after hearing it through the sacrament of confession."
However, Father Bryant, who is the parish priest at Stawell and formerly worked at Port Fairy and Koroit, said he believed it would be very unlikely he would find himself in that situation.
"In all my 45 years as a priest I've never had anybody confess to child abuse or abuse of a wife or partner because they're gutless people and they don't come to confession," Father Bryant said.
He said if he did hear a confession, he would implore person to report the crime they had committed to police.
"If there was any other way of getting him to confess out of the confessional, I would do that," Father Bryant said.
He said he was disappointed the state government had brought in a law that went against "the law of God".
Victorian parliament has passed laws making it mandatory for priests to report child abuse, including when it is revealed to them during confession.
Child Protection Minister Luke Donnellan said the law made Victoria a safer place for children.
"We can't undo the harm to so many children in the past, but this will help ensure it never happens again," Mr Donnellan said.
Under the laws, priests and religious leaders face up to three years' jail if they don't report child physical and sexual abuse allegations.
The Catholic Church has insisted priests would be obliged to defy the laws, with Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli previously stating he was prepared to go to jail rather than break the confessional seal.
"For Catholics, confession is a religious encounter of a deeply personal nature," he said. "It deserves confidentiality."
Clergy are already subject to mandatory reporting laws in South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Western Australia and Tasmania have announced plans to compel religious leaders to disclose knowledge of abuse.
Teachers, police and medical practitioners are already legally required to report child physical and sexual abuse allegations.