CV NEWS FEED // Lawmakers in Washington state have submitted a new version of a past bill requiring priests to act as mandatory reporters of child abuse or endangerment.
The Senate Bill 6298 introduced on January 30 requires priests to report instances of child abuse, this time with an exception allowing priests to maintain the seal of Confession, which did not exist in the previous, failed version.
According to local reports, Democratic Senator Noel Frame, D-Seattle reintroduced the bill in “hopes a compromise regarding whether clergy should still report information obtained during a confession,” could be reached with Catholic authorities, who opposed past versions of the bill.
The new version of the bill does not require priests to violate the seal of confession, but would require them to “warn” authorities if they have knowledge that minors are in danger.
Although the Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC) – the lobbying arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, has not yet commented specifically on the new version of the bill, an official statement early in this year explained that among the legislative priorities related to religious freedom in the state, the WSCC supports:
Policies that permit the Catholic Church and Catholic organisations to follow the teachings of the Church [including] legislation that protects children, the sacrament of reconciliation, and the clergy-penitent privilege. Catholic priests are mandatory reporters, except for when an individual is confessing sins to a priest during the sacrament of reconciliation.
So far, 45 states require clergy to act as mandatory reporters of child sex abuse. Six of those states, including New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, and West Virginia require priests to break the seal of the confessional to report abuse.
Last year, Bishop Thomas Daly of the Spokane diocese told the Washington Examiner that “priests and bishops will go to jail rather than break the seal of Confession.”