Confessional Seal under Attack in Several States

Catholic News Service
Downloaded March 7, 2003

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The clergy sex abuse crisis in the U.S. Catholic Church has sparked a variety of state legislative initiatives to strengthen child abuse laws, including efforts in five states to force a priest to violate the seal of confession if he learns about abuse of a child during a sacramental confession. Legislatures in Maryland and Kentucky have rebuffed those attempts, but in early March new bills were introduced in Nevada and Florida. A New Hampshire bill introduced in January was due to be reported out of committee in late March. "This is of great concern to us," D. Michael McCarron, the Florida Catholic Conference's executive director, said March 5 of bill H1321, filed in the Florida House the previous day. "As it's written now, it will eliminate the clergy confidentiality privilege and thereby directly impact the seal of confession in the sacrament of reconciliation," he told Catholic News Service. Church law says if a priest directly violates the seal of confession -- revealing something said in confession in a way that the penitent is or can be identified -- he is automatically excommunicated.


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