It wasn’t even close

Despite repeated pleas from state's bishops, California Senate votes 30-2 to adopt measure requiring priests to break seal of confession in some child-abuse cases

California State Capitol building in Sacramento. (Via Shutterstock)

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.


  1. Clinton R. says

    Will this cause the bishops to realize Democrats are no friends of the Catholic Church?

  2. If a person in counseling reveals abuse of a minor by self or other, threatens harm, the priest must report. The sacrament of Penance is sacred. The priest, in the person of Christ, receives the sins, so Jesus receives the sins. States can then go to Jesus for a report. I don’t remember confessions when you leave. Many Catholics go to priests who don’t know them, so it would be impossible to violate the seal. It is time to bring back the confessional screen with no more face to face. I will not violate the seal of confession. Henry VIII is back with persecution of the Catholic Church. Stay tuned. They’re not done with us.

    • Fr. John Higgins says

      I agree. I just nailed the sliding window shut in my Confessional a couple of weeks ago. I won’t be hearing Confessions in my office or anywhere else from fellow Priests, Deacons, Bishops or any employee of the Catholic Church and most of the time not from anyone else either. If they want to go to confession I’ll put a cloth over my head so I cannot see who they are.

      • Frank Johnson says

        Then your violation of your sacred ordination is the worst of all.
        Shame on you for refusing to forgive sins in the Confessional.
        Perhaps you should just hang your stole up and go and get a job at Lowe’s.

        • Gabriel Espinosa says

          Frank, you misunderstood Father. I think he meant that he will not hear confession his office which has become the norm and where he can see whom it is. He will only hear confessions in the confessional with the screen fixed sonit cannot be solid open.

        • Augustine says

          You seem to have missed his point entirely. No more face to face confession in his office. Back to behind d the screen inside the confessional. Don’t be so eager to castigate a priest simply because it’s the en vogue thing right now.

          • Anonymous says

            Augustine– if the priest is in the Confessional (not face-to-face) and has no idea in the world who the penitents are, then he cannot be accused of breaking the new law!

    • Lou Varini says

      Fr. Perozich,

      I do not claim to be any sort of expert; however, are not certain sins committed by the clergy reserved for absolution solely from the :Apostolic Penitentiary? That is to say, for grave sins committed by the clergy, a diocesian priest, unless he has special faculies to hear and grant absolution for such sins, must withhold absolution and advise the penitant to seek absolution from the Apostolic Penetiantary?

      Your comment is welcome.

      • Yes, Mr. Varini, mainly for sins of priests, such as solicitation of sex in the confessional. Abortion used to be reserved to the bishop, but that power has been given to priests now. Abuse of a minor results in dismissal. The difference is, the priest hearing the confession might have to say to the penitent that absolution could not be given. He would not report it to Rome or to a state authority. The sin is brought to light by the victim, and the case referred to Rome, not the priest hearing confession. See canons 1387, 1388 1394. I write from reading of canon law, not from my experiences. The seal is sacred.

  3. This bill rips away your religious rights to open our sacrament to others than our. God and savior Jesus Christ. (Bill 360) This is another assault on our religious freedom fought for from the beginning of our country. Attorney client privilege is the next step. State senators and local representatives are my target for voting them out of office because they are not representing our rights. Supreme Court hopefully will reverse Ca liberal encroachment.

  4. I am Amalia Bringas from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in La Quinta, CA and I am disgusted with SB 360
    denying the sanctity of confession. I would have voted NO, A THOUSAND TIMES. I am so sad . I thought that
    our constitution states church and government are separate.

  5. I agree with our freedom of religious is being slowing eliminated from our constitutional rights. We need to get on our knees & pray diligently to our Father for forgiven and pray for the wisdom that we lack in today’s California & USA society. We have to reach out to our children, teach & model to them about moral issues and doing the right thing in our lives. We are leaving all these character traits to society, which is led by Satan, instead of the family who are our first teachers in life. My local priest is my counselor who I trust and feel comfortable in telling him my shortcomings and weaknesses in confidence & to God. It is a sacred conversation between Jesus & I & not to be shared with anyone else. It would be a violation to…

  6. As Fr. Higgins has suggested, these same bishops, in spite of glaring warning signs of other anti-religious attacks, have CONTINUED down the primrose path of giving award to leftists in our churches, despite their support of anti-life/family policies, and countenance to voters “voting their conscience” (leftist) well, you REAP WHAT YOU SOW and you’ve sown the whirlwind COMRADE GOMEZ, Mahony, et al.

  7. Anonymous says

    Catholic lawmakers who create or vote for laws that violate this– should not be simply begged by their bishops to stop– they should be excommunicated for their horrific disrespect for God!

  8. Anonymous says

    Perhaps Rome needs to change the Code of Canon Law, to require that any priest hearing the confession of someone who has committed a terrible crime (murder, rape, incest, robbery, etc.) should require the penitent to turn himself in to police, and the priest should help with the crime report???

  9. Thomas More. Esq. says

    The person making the confession is usually anonymous to the priest. Also, even if the person making the confession is known to the priest, that person can always go to another confessor.

    With such difficulty in application and practicality, the objective will never be met.

  10. When the bishops, priests and a majority of Catholics in California continually vote these people into office (and I mean Democrats), this is what happens. You dance with the devil and he is going to turn on you,

  11. Stephanie Hart says

    I wrote to Jerry Hill, the author of this ugly bill. He never answered.

  12. One more thing: If we had strong Bishops none of this stupid Legislation would ever be thought of. Bishop Gomez had a feeble response. I haven’t heard much from any of the others.

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