A bill put forth in California would have required members of the clergy to report to police any information they learned about child abuse during private confessions.
Unfortunately, the bill, SB360, has been pulled by its author, state Sen. Jerry Hill, a Democrat from San Mateo.
Hill pulled the bill after California Catholics fought hard against it. A letter was read at every Mass in San Francisco and San Mateo counties on June 23rd that read, "For Catholics, confession is sacred, and the ability to confess our sins confidentially is essential to our religious belief and practice." Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone encouraged his congregations to send letters to legislators to fight the bill.
In a letter in May, Cordileone said, "I will go to jail before I obey this attack on our religious freedom."
Right, wanting to protect children from abuse is an attack on religious freedoms. The Catholic Church's priorities are once again on full display.
The letters sent by Cordileone's flock were not alone. Other bishops across California also sent letters. In all it is estimated 125,000 letters and emails in opposition were sent to legislators protesting a bill designed to protect children from abuse.
So despite the bill passing the state Senate on May 23rd with a 30-4 vote, it would not be able pass into law due to all this hostility. So Hill withdrew it.
In response, Hill said that the bill "had one purpose only, not to restrict faith, but to ensure the protection of the most vulnerable of the faithful: children."
The "seal of the confessional" is something I wrote a little about in August 2017, when Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, Australia also refused to violate the seal to protect children from abuse. He, like Cordileone, said that he would rather go to jail.
According to church doctrine, the seal of the confessional requires that priests do not disclose anything to anyone that they hear in private confession.
So, again, archaic religious tradition trumps efforts to protect children from abuse.
Hill is reportedly down, but not out. He said, "This issue remains important to me and I will continue to champion it. The bill is on pause — it has not been withdrawn."
I wish him luck. We need more people who are willing to stand up to religious bullying and dangerous traditions.