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California’s war on Christianity, part #723: Bill would force Catholic priests to break the seal of confession in child-abuse cases

March 18, 2019

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From my latest for First Things:

On February 20, California Democratic State Senator Jerry Hill, whose affluent, liberal-leaning district encompasses the San Francisco Peninsula and portions of Silicon Valley, introduced a bill to abolish legal protection for the Catholic Church’s sacramental seal of confession, at least as regards confessions of child abuse.

Specifically, the bill would remove an exemption for “penitential communications” in an existing state law that designates more than forty categories of professionals—clergy, physicians, teachers, counselors, social workers, and the like—as “mandated reporters” who face criminal penalties if they fail to report sexual and other mistreatment of children that they learn about in their professional capacities….

The penalty for any priest who divulges anything heard in confession—or even a penitent’s identity—is automatic excommunication. Eastern Orthodox churches do not have such an explicit rule, but they do have the same expectation of absolute secrecy surrounding sacramental confession. Since the Middle Ages it has not been unusual for priests to risk—and occasionally endure—martyrdom from secular authorities rather than break the seal, as did several priests executed by militant secularists during Mexico’s Cristero uprising of the 1920s and the Spanish Civil War a decade later. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1953 film, I Confess, involves a priest who risks conviction for a murder he did not commit after the true murderer confesses the crime to him and he is bound not to reveal it…..

California….is notorious for open hostility to Catholicism from many of its elected officials and for being dominated by ultra-liberal Democrats. California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, has spearheaded litigation to force the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious order, to pay for contraceptives for its employees in violation of Catholic moral teaching—even after the U.S. Supreme Court shielded the Sisters from such requirements in 2016. A new wave of allegations in 2018 of past coverups of clerical sexual abuse has likely not helped the Catholic Church win friends in California.

In 2018 several Australian states and territories passed laws that require priests to break the seal of confession to report cases of sexual abuse of minors. Several Australian priests have openly vowed to defy the laws and risk jail if they must, citing the inviolable nature of their duty of secrecy under a law they regard as more binding than any secular statute. If SB-360 becomes the law in California—and if Catholicism-hostile law enforcers decide to trap priests in their confessional boxes—we could well see another round of, if not martyrs, men willing to risk all for their faith.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

From → Uncategorized

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