State senators in California have voted to approve a law that would require priests to violate the seal of confession. Senate Bill 360 passed Thursday by an overwhelming margin, with legislators voting 30-2 in favor of the measure.
The bill would require priests to report any knowledge or suspicion of child abuse gained while hearing the confession of another priest or colleague.
In a statement released Friday, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez said he was “deeply disappointed” by the result and insisted that strong child protection measures did not require the violation of the sanctity of the sacrament of confession.
A previous draft of the law would have compelled the violation of the sacramental seal any time a priest came to suspect abuse from any penitent. In a statement released Monday, Gomez acknowledged the changes but said that “no government, for whatever reason, should violate the privacy and confidentiality of that sacred conversation.”
“SB 360 still denies the sanctity of confession to every priest in the state and to thousands of Catholics who work with priests in parishes and other Church agencies and ministries.”
The sacramental seal is covered by civil law in many jurisdictions around the world. The “clergy-penitent privilege” is widely regarded as a fundamental exercise of religious liberty.Canon law describes the seal of the confessional to be “inviolable”, and priests are “absolutely forbidden” to disclose the sins of a penitent “in any way, for any reason.” Violation of the seal by a priest is a grave crime against the faith and is punished by an automatic excommunication which can be augmented with other penalties, including dismissal from the clerical state.
Full story at Catholic News Agency.