State Legislation Could Strip Catholic Churches’ Right To Protect Members ‘Sealed Confessions’

  • Two bills in Delaware and Vermont would seek to remove the religious right of Catholic priests to withhold information during confessions to protect children from abuse, but Catholic advocates say these claim that the bill will only harm the church.
  • Lawmakers argue that mandatory reporting must be extended to everyone, including the Catholic Church, in order to fully protect children from abuse and neglect.
  • “I have not seen evidence that sealed confessions prevented domestic or child abuse prosecutions. [and] As a mother of 10 children, I take my children’s safety very seriously and do not want to take abuse lightly…our church has a terrible history of abuse. “IHE Fellow, mother of 10, and director of the Conscience Project told the Daily Caller News Foundation:

Two bills proposed by state elected officials would remove the Catholic Church’s right to a “confessional seal,” which protects the right of a priest to refuse to provide personal information leaked during confession. Yes, and Catholic advocates warn that it can be a slippery slope to protection. freedom of religion.

Delaware HB74 and vermont Senate Bill 16 It was introduced earlier this year by Democrat Rep. Eric Morrison and Democrat Senator Richard Sears, respectively, to prevent child abuse, according to the bill’s language. The law, which amends state law to bar clergy from claiming privileged speech rights when confessing when information about child abuse or neglect comes to light, advocates: They warn that it will not help prevent abuse and will only deprive the church of its First Amendment rights. (Related: US bishop warns against Catholic doctors performing ‘gender transition procedures’)

“This is not the first time this has happened,” Thomas McKenna, president of Catholic Action for Faith and Families, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. A true persecution of our Catholic Faith, because Confession is not a therapy session…a debate or a therapy group, because when a person makes a Confession, the Priest is acting as a person of Christ. This would be a persecution of the Catholic Church, as priests go to prison before revealing someone’s guilt.”

“Catholics see this as an act between them and God…and their First Amendment right to worship God.” IHE Fellow, Father Aquinas Guilbeau, told the DCNF.

The Catholic tradition of confession is the process by which individuals confess their sins to a priest and then ask God for forgiveness. according to to Catholic doctrine. This practice is considered one of the church’s sacraments, sacred and important ceremonies such as baptism and communion, and revealing information disclosed during confession is punishable by excommunication.

SAN DIEGO – MARCH 1: Protesters stand outside the Jacob Weinberg Courthouse to call attention to victims of sexual abuse by religious leaders within the Catholic Church on March 1, 2007 in San Diego, California. People who are alleged victims of sexual abuse. (Photo by Sandy Hafakar/Getty Images)

The bill appears to be aimed specifically at the Catholic Church in light of findings of rampant sexual abuse of minors by priests. according to to NPR.have been reported multiple times release In the past few years, Pope Francis has repetition accused of abuse and his abuse Predecessor Honorary Pope Benedict.

Sears bill now stalled Although he missed the March 17 committee deadline, he told VTDigger:[i]I’ll be dead this year, but I won’t be dead next year. Morrison Said In a March 21 Facebook post, he said the bill was “in the best interests of our children” and that “every Delawarean is a mandatory child abuse and neglect report.” should,’ he said.

Sears and Morrison did not respond to multiple requests for comment by the DCNF.

Andrea Picciotti Bayer, strategic consultant and media fellow at IHE, mother of 10, and director of the Conscience Project, an organization that advocates for the “rights of conscience” of religious adherents, told DCNF that these said the bill would not help prevent it. abuse.

“I have not seen evidence that sealed confessions prevented domestic or child abuse prosecutions. [and] As a mother of 10 children, I take my children’s safety very seriously and do not want to take abuse lightly…our church has a history of terrible abuse,” said Picciotti-Bayer. Told. “But I don’t think there’s a good reason to remove privileges. I’m actually worried that I’m exposing vulnerable people because confessions are often the first step. [for the abused] Recognize that a crime is being committed. “

Ed Condon, an IHE Media Fellow and Canon Attorney, told the DCNF that while he is confident the bill will not pass, the legal implications of this kind of law set a very vague standard, and the religious He said it could create a slippery slope for freedom. .

“That’s one of the reasons these bills tend to be unenforceable and unsuccessful,” Condon said. “You can’t have the police in the confessional to make sure the priest is reporting a case of child abuse. If so, encourage the person to report the problem to law enforcement.

Condon went on to explain that these kinds of laws were often an effort by elected officials who wanted to “take a hard look at the Catholic Church” in light of abuses from clergy, but that He said it was not an “effective means” to

Brian Birch, president of Catholic Vote, a pro-Catholic nonprofit, told DCNF that he was concerned that state governments were trying to “invade” Catholic practices.

“The goal is to harm the Catholic Church, curtail its role in society, and undermine efforts to serve the needs of its members in favor of a more extreme secular remake of the culture,” Birch said. Told.

Pointing to his congregation and other Catholic churches, Guilbeau said they needed a place where they could lighten their burden without fear of repercussions. Even in the circumstances, they said they always encouraged individuals to speak to the appropriate authorities or speak with a priest outside of confession so that they could confess.

Guilbeau also agreed with McKenna’s earlier statement that Catholic priests have proven time and time again that they want to go to prison before violating the seal of confession.

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