The “seal of confession” is one of the most sacrosanct of Catholic beliefs and penitents rely on this unbreakable guarantee to freely confess and seek reconciliation with God. A priest who breaks the seal is automatically excommunicated (Canon 1388)
Yet now, the California Legislature is debating SB 360, a bill proposing to eliminate the penitential communication exemption when it comes to child sexual abuse. The state Senate has already approved of SB 360 by a vote of 30-4, and it is now before the state Assembly. Clergy and ministers are already “mandated reporters” - which means that when they hear information about suspected abuse, they are required to report this to law enforcement. There is no evidence that breaking the seal of confession would provide any greater protection for our children.
Examine the issue with Archbishop José H. Gomez who explains how, “Confession is sacred — to every priest and every Catholic.” In his articles on the subject, Bishop Robert Barron says: “What I hope is clear—not only to Catholics, but to any American committed to the First Amendment—is that we are dealing here with an egregious violation of the principle of religious liberty.”
[ adapted from the California Catholic Conference website (cacatholic.org) ]
LATEST UPDATE (July 9, 2019): Bill 360 was withdrawn the day before its July 9th hearing in the California Assembly Public Safety Committee. This effectively removes the bill from further consideration this year. Thanks to all who joined in the protest, letting your assembly person know. The Safety Committee noted more than 125,000 people expressed their opposition to the bill. This number however seems low given the Diocese of Los Angeles ran a campaign that delivered 140,000 letters to the State Capitol and another 16,700 e-mails to representatives in LA.
Not only were Catholics opposed to this bill, but also our religious brothers and sisters. Muslim, Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, and Baptist faith leaders signed a statement declaring “we are all one with American Roman Catholics in condemning the attack on religious freedom that the current version of California Bill 360 represents.”
Andrew Rivas, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, expressed his thanks, saying, “An amazing number of people spoke to their legislators to explain the sacred nature of the sacrament of Reconciliation. It is important to our spirituality and our relation to God and to others. Our thanks go to all who played a part.”