CA Bill Requiring Priests to Report Child Sex Abuse Moves Forward

SB 360 to State Senate for vote

The first quarter of 2019 witnessed Senator Jerry Hill of California filing a bill which will remove all clergy members who are at present exempt from reporting abuse done to any child. This is a sea-change from the current state of affairs. The bill has already overcome its first primary hurdle-the Senate Appropriations Committee based on four for and two against the bill. It will now be voted in by full State Senate.

Right now, as the law stands where although a priest and a school teacher has the same influential position in the eyes of a child, the teacher will be compelled by law to report any person who has confessed to molesting a child or similar heinous crimes. A priest, on the other hand, has no such compulsion. He may listen to the information and do nothing about it.

The Church naturally is not pleased with such a development. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said that the amendment to the CA confession bill marks unacceptable violation when it comes to religious freedoms. He issued a statement to convey his concerns stating at the outset that he has studied-and will continue to do so -the amendments done to SB 360. Senate Appropriations Committee did the editing on the bill during the third week of May. He stated that he is grateful of Senators hearing the demands of Catholic Californians and who comprehends that confession is regarded as sacred space and is the place for an intimate dialogue which presumably takes place between the living God and the believer in question. It is understood that no government on the excuse of any reason, should violate the confidentiality and privacy of the sacred conversation.

Archbishop Gomez then appreciated the fact that the committee accepted a number of recommendations made by the Church to strengthen the compulsory clergy reporting requirements. He reminded the reader that the amendment SB 360 continues to deny the sanctity of every confession to every priest in California and to the thousands of Catholics who partner with priests working in the parishes and applicable other church ministries and agencies. In conclusion, Gomez wrote that SB 360 unacceptably violates all religious freedoms and it will do nothing when children are attacked. He then asked his individual reader to ask his or her State Senator to give the “No” vote when it came to SB 360.

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