California confession bill won't stop abuse, but threatens religious liberty, critics say

Catholic News Agency | 5/15/2019 | Staff
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Sacramento, Calif., May 15, 2019 / 10:47 am (CNA).- The appropriations committee of California’s state senate will hold a hearing Thursday on a bill that would require priests to violate the seal of confession if they became aware of allegations of child abuse or neglect while celebrating the sacrament of penance. Critics say the bill would deny Constitutional religious liberty protections, and that there is no evidence it would actually prevent child abuse.

The bill, California SB 360, requires clergy members to report to law enforcement knowledge or suspicion of child abuse or neglect, “including when the clergy member acquires the knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect during a penitential communication.”

Clergy - California - Knowledge - Suspicion - Child

Clergy in California are already required to report knowledge or suspicion of child abuse in most circumstances, though penitential conversations like sacramental confession are exempted, as are other kinds of privileged conversations, among them those covered by attorney-client privilege.

The bill’s sponsor, California state Senator Jerry Hill (D-Calif. 13), has claimed that “the clergy-penitent privilege has been abused on a large scale, resulting in the unreported and systemic abuse of thousands of children across multiple denominations and faiths.”

Senator - Abuse - Investigations - Attorneys - Government

The senator has claimed that such abuse has been revealed through “recent investigations by 14 attorneys general, the federal government, and other countries.” Hill’s office declined to respond to requests from CNA for clarity or specific instances of the abuse cited.

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said in a May 15 column that Hill’s claim is “simply not true. Hearings on the bill have not presented a single case — in California or anywhere else ­— where this kind of crime could have been prevented if a priest had disclosed information he had heard in confession.”

Claims - Crisis - Gomez

“SB 360 claims to solve a crisis that does not exist,” Gomez said.

While priests are forbidden from...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Catholic News Agency
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