CV NEWS FEED // Priests who learn about ongoing child abuse while hearing a confession could be allowed to report it to the police without fear of civil or criminal liability, according to a newly proposed bill in Utah.
As the language of the proposed bill currently stands, the government still respects the seal of confession and does not require priests to provide the information. However, Republican Rep. Anthony Loubet’s bill opens the possibility for priests to go to the police with information about child abuse obtained in the confessional.
The bill would also apply to clergy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Utah’s predominant faith.
Loubet told The Salt Lake Tribune that protecting priests from civil or criminal liability in these instances is a way to “reward those who are already reporting abuse and neglect, and it will incentivize others who want to report.”
The Diocese of Salt Lake City does not oppose the legislation “as it is originally written,” since the current language of the bill acknowledges that the government has no power to require priests to break the seal of confession.
However, the diocese told The Salt Lake Tribune that it is “concerned about the possibility that the language could be changed to require that Catholic priests report such abuse even if they have learned about the abuse solely during the sacrament of confession.
“If this requirement were to become law, Catholic priests would face the untenable choice of breaking the law or being excommunicated,” the diocese added.
The bill is currently up for hearings and debate before Utah’s Legislature. A similar bill, proposed by Democratic Rep. Brian King, is also being heard.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, King’s bill could apply to earlier cases of child abuse, not just ongoing situations. In addition, it does not mention freedom from civil or criminal liability.