Is California’s governor headed for a canonical rebuke?

Canon lawyer Ed Peters says Gov. Gavin Newsom could face severe penalties under Church law if he signs bill requiring priests to violate seal of Confession

Gavin Newsom

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is and acknowledges himself to be Roman Catholic. His external conduct is, in several respects, gravely at odds with important Church teachings as in, for example, his long-term support for ‘same-sex marriage’ and his recent open invitation to pregnant women to come to California to abort their babies. He also appears to have been married in the Church but later divorced and subsequently attempted a civil marriage, in which relationship he apparently remains. In light of these public factors, Newsom already is, in my view, ineligible to present himself for holy Communion per Canon 916 and, if he presents himself for the sacrament anyway, he should be refused per Canon 915.

My concern here, however, is not for sacramental discipline as it impacts Newsom, but rather, with his vulnerability under penal canon law for his threatened role in attacking the seal of Confession.

California is considering legislation that would require Catholic priests to disclose, in certain cases, information they acquired in sacramental Confession. Setting aside a raft of interpretation questions and practical problems of application, serious obstacles to enforcement, and the certainty of protracted legal challenges, the bill itself threatens priests, bound by divine and canon law (CCC 2490, 1983 CIC 1388) to protect the seal of Confession, with State punishment if they do so. Newsom has signaled that he would sign such a bill into law.

In my view, such an executive act by Newsom would be to “impede the freedom of ministry” making him liable to “a just penalty” under Canon 1375. Besides the plain text of that canon, note that the Pio-Benedictine predecessor norm on which the current law draws expressly sanctioned those “who issue laws, mandates, or decrees contrary to the liberty or rights of the Church” (1917 CIC 2334). Attempting to coerce priests into betraying the seal of Confession under any circumstances unquestionably violates the divinely-conferred rights of the Church to pursue her mission freely and of her priests and people to celebrate their faith correctly.

In addition, should Newsom sign such a bill into law, I think he can be rightly seen as causing “scandal or a grave disturbance of [ecclesial] order” such that he would be liable to “formal rebuke” under Canon 1339.

Full story at Canon Law Blog.


  1. Testa Duro says

    Governor Newsom will probably be immune and insulated from any canonical sanctions, given that the two metropolitan archbishops in California, Cordelone and Gomez, do not have the backbone. Any of the other bishops and auxiliary bishops in California are either beholden to Gomez or Cordelone, or under their direct authority. None of these bishops or auxiliary bishops have the backbone either.

    • Iggy Ant says

      The issue is entirely moot. Governor Newsome has already abandoned the Church. He may have been validly baptized as a Catholic, but his behavior indicates that he is not interested in projecting a Catholic identity, except, of course, when it is necessary to get votes.

  2. I have two questions. Why not simply excommunicate the Gov? Also, if a Rebuke occurs, who would drop the hammer on the Gov?

  3. Elizabeth T. says

    And to add to his many many stances that are OUT OF COMMUNION with the Church’s teachings…..

    The latest he proclaimed that people from other states where abortion in the future has been abolished…….come to CALIFORNIA!!!!!! How SICK can you get??????

  4. West coast says

    Also drop the hammer on his alma mater, Jesuit Santa Clara University, which also produced raging pro-aborts Leon Panetta, Zoe Lofgren and Janet Napolitano.

  5. St. Christopher says

    Not likely that anything will happen to the Governor. All bishops in the USA (a couple of exceptions) are entirely cowardly when it comes to actually defining and enforcing the Catholic Faith. Bishop Paprocki should be Pope, but God has given us a test by imposing Francis on practicing Catholics.

    • There doesn’t appear to be a bishop in this state worth the cost of keeping him. Apparently they don’t know that discipline as outlined by Peters would do wonders for faithful Catholics and the general public in restoring respect for the Church and for its episcopacy here.

  6. helen wheels says

    in my unhumble opinion’
    it would be good if GN were
    canonically RE – BUKED but
    when was he initially “BUKED?”

  7. Marty Martins says

    ha! He’s about as Catholic as his aunt Nancy. She is likely already excommunicated latæ be her vocal and public pro-abortion positions and he should be.

  8. This is an incredibly informative YouTube about Gavin Newsome, his aunt Nancy Pelosi, and the Pat and Jerry Brown dynasty. Enjoy.

  9. Would it matter to him at all ? he by all evidence has chosen the world , in his own mind he may believe , as appears pelosi, kaine, biden , etc that they are doing God’s will or the will of the people .A properly formed
    catholic conscience does not appear to influence any of his decisions , so he to my mind would use it as a badge of honor among the progressive set and not as a chance for redemption. This is not the model of a Catholic gentleman , I feel bad for his wife and children.

  10. Terry Avila says

    Canonocal sanctions are only effective when the object of those sanctions believe in the Church and her teaching authority, and want to be reconciled. Thus, Governor Newsome must first be concerned with the state of his immortal soul.

    Since the governor remains obstinant, he demonstrates that he has already lost his soul to tje “enemy.” Therefore, sanctions will have little effect on his behavior.

  11. Anonymous says

    I just read that California is the abortion capital of the nation– with 104 abortion centers– and more soon to open!! Satan’s address for the U.S.– is surely California! Poor St. Junipero Serra and all of the Spanish Mission Padres– must be rolling over in their graves!

  12. Anonymous says

    Today’s cowardly, hypocritical Church leaders don’t care any more, about Catholic teaching, practice and discipline. Waste of time, to become a Canon Lawyer– or even to take one course in the subject! Today’s Church leaders have lost their mission for Christ! Will Gov. Newsom finally get a little slap on the wrist, from the Church, for his latest mortal sins? I doubt it!

  13. Anonymous says

    There are plenty of Democrats who are Catholic that follow their party not their faith, The church is on a little less firm ground given that priests in CA are sometimes already “agents” of the state of CA. AS a public school teacher I understand that as an “agent” of the state I sometimes have to “participate” and act in ways my faith conflicts with. My school distributes both condoms as well as “advising” on abortion services and I think distributing morning after pills. I “knowingly” send students upon request for these “services”, Priests in CA are licensed by the state tp o perform on the state’s behalf civil marriages. They are also permitted by the bishop to witness the sacrament of marriage. Two events occurring at…

    • Anonymous says

      Given what the Democrat Party is today, by definition a Catholic Democrat follows the party instead of Catholic faith.

  14. Anonymous says

    California is hopeless

  15. Ernest Gargas says

    All these so-called “Catholic” politicians who are pushing these bills or voting for them show be barred from Holy Communion and from being buried in a Catholic Cemetary or on Holy Ground. If our bishops do not have the guts to do something, then our Cardinal should step up to the plate.

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