Catholic Priests Would Have to Report Child Sex Abuse Under Proposed California Law

February 20, 2019

Sacramento Bee
By Andrew Sheeler

The Catholic seal of confession could lose its legal protection in California, at least as it concerns to knowledge of child abuse.

Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, announced Wednesday that he is introducing a bill that would remove an exemption in the state’s “mandated reporter” law that allows all members of the clergy to withhold knowledge of suspected child abuse from law enforcement if that information is obtained during “a penitential communication,” such as Catholic confession.

“Individuals who harm children or are suspected of harming children must be reported so a timely investigation by law enforcement can occur,” Hill said in a statement announcing Senate Bill 360.

Doctors, police, therapists and social workers are among the 47 kinds of professionals who are required by state law to notify law enforcement about suspected abuse. Clergy also fall under that law, except if they learn about suspected abuse during a confessions.

“The law should apply equally to all professionals who have been designated as mandated reporters of these crimes — with no exceptions, period. The exemption for clergy only protects the abuser and places children at further risk,” Hill said.