Politics

California Bill Would Force Priests To Violate Seal Of Confession

Vatican Media/Handout via REUTERS

A proposed law in California would attempt to tackle sexual abuse by requiring Catholic priests to violate the seal of confession.

Senate Bill (SB) 360, the “Removing Clergy Exemption from Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting,” was introduced Wednesday by Democratic State Sen. Jerry Hill. The bill would remove a religious exemption from the state’s “mandated reporter” law, which punishes individuals who are negligent in reporting child abuse to the authorities. (RELATED: Court Forces California To Pay Nearly $400K To Crisis Pregnancy Center)

Roman Catholic Cardinal Emeritus Theodore McCarrick, part of a U.S. clerical delegation, looks on during a meeting with the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran on Sept. 17, 2011. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Roman Catholic Cardinal Emeritus Theodore McCarrick, part of a U.S. clerical delegation, looks on during a meeting with the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran on Sept. 17, 2011. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

The proposed legislation would remove long-held protections for Catholic priests, who are forbidden under church doctrine from revealing sins confessed under the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If passed, the law would likely be challenged on First Amendment grounds.

The California Catholic Conference has come out against the bill.

“Inserting government into the Confessional does nothing to protect children and everything to erode the fundamental constitutional rights and liberties we enjoy as Americans,” Steve Pehanich, the organization’s director of communications and advocacy, told the Los Angeles Times.

The Catholic Church has faced a public outcry over a global sexual abuse scandal that has plagued the church for decades. The Vatican recently defrocked Theodore McCarrick, a once popular former Cardinal in Washington D.C., who rapidly fell from grace following a plethora of allegations that he abused young seminarians and altar boys over the span of decades.

The Vatican is holding a summit on sexual abuse Thursday to attempt to find solutions for the crisis that has marred the Catholic church for years.

Follow William Davis on Twitter