Proposed laws could require priests to report on abuse heard in confession

Proposed laws could require priests to report on abuse heard in confession December 27, 2018

This bears watching.

From The Washington Post: 

In response to recent Catholic Church clergy sex abuse scandals, lawmakers in the District and Virginia say they will soon propose legislation that adds clergy to the list of people mandated by law to report child abuse or neglect.

Both efforts hit at the hot-button intersection of child protection and religious liberty, but lawmakers are expected to give them an open reception at a time when recent sexual abuse scandals in churches and others involving athletes have prompted conversation about broadening legal responsibility to extend beyond positions such as teachers and doctors.

The ideas under consideration by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine include not exempting confidential conversations for any mandatory reporters, possibly including those that occur in the Catholic Church’s confessional. Texas, West Virginia and a few other states do not exclude the confessional in mandatory reporting laws, but it has been a stumbling block in many other places.

Under D.C. law, anyone 18 or over who knows or has reason to believe that a child under 16 is a victim of sexual abuse is required to report it to civil officials. But the requirements of mandated reporters are more extensive, and Racine is considering taking them much further.

…In both Virginia and the District, some faith groups have had the chance to weigh in with concerns, and most are generally supportive of new requirements.

The Catholic Church’s primary issue is protecting the confidentiality of the confessional. Some other, non-Catholic faith leaders have expressed concern about the religious liberty of Catholics, and have suggested society will lose a resource if people – victims or perpetrators – don’t know for sure whether they can speak candidly to a cleric without fear of criminal repercussions.

Howell has been unsuccessfully proposing similar measures since 2003. She called the issue a “major brawl” in the past, with Catholic and Baptist organizations opposing such measures – for either the protection of the confessional or because, she said in the case of Baptist clergy, they felt it was a secular intrusion and “they answered only to God.”

Read it all. 


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!