Bill to make priests report abuse put on hold in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A bill that would require California religious leaders to report their co-workers' confessions of child abuse or neglect has been put on hold amid opposition from the Catholic church.

California law already requires clergy to report knowledge of child abuse and neglect. But they can keep it a secret if they learned about it during a confession.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, a Democrat from San Mateo, wrote a bill this year to change that, but only if the confession was from another religious leader or someone who works at the church. It passed the Senate by a vote of 30-4 in May.

On Tuesday, Hill announced he was putting the bill on hold because it did not have enough support to pass the state Assembly. But Hill said the issue remains important to him, and he vowed to continue his efforts to pass it.

"Senate Bill 360 has one purpose only, not to restrict faith, but to ensure the protection of the most vulnerable of the faithful: children," Hill said in a news release. "I strongly believe that for any institution self-policing and self-investigation are not effective ways to combat alleged abuse, as our own state Legislature has found."

The state Legislature recently reformed how it investigates sexual misconduct claims against its own members after facing intense criticism.

The Catholic Conference of California had opposed the bill. The organization gave written comments to the legislature saying the church "agrees with the general principle that all youth should be protected from sexual abuse."

But the conference added everyone has "the right to confess sins anonymously and confidentially," saying the bill would deny that right to thousands of the church's employees "based solely upon their particular religious a...

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  • Richard Kensinger, MSW
    commented 2019-07-11 16:45:56 -0500
    There is an editorial opinion by the Altoona Mirror that calls for more Church transparency to ID predators and protect youth across the world. In the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese where i live, 3 more suspected predators are identified and banned from active ministry. This now makes 54 predators named, of which 50 are clergy. This diocese is under federal investigation and no announcement of findings to date.This diocese initiated a victims compensation fund and has spent $21M since 1999.

    I suspect that the Church will go to greater lengths to avoid real transparency to avoid additional litigation liability.
    Rich, MSW

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