Washington, DC, Attorney General Karl Racine proposed legislation Wednesday that would include clergy in the list of mandatory reporters—people who are obligated by law to inform law enforcement of any suspected child abuse or neglect.
This bill is a response to recent sexual-abuse scandals in the Catholic Church. Enactment of this law will require pastors, rabbis and other clergy members to report abuse to the appropriate authorities and leaders of their respective organizations.
An exception is provided for the confessional, which means that priests would not have to report suspicions of child abuse if they learn about during confession. The bill states:
Ministers shall not be required to report if the basis for their knowledge or belief is the result of a confession or penitential communication made by a penitent directly to the minister, or of any personal observations made by the minister in the course of that communication, if: (i) The penitent made the confession or penitential communication in confidence; (ii) The confession or penitential communication was made expressly for a spiritual or religious purpose; (iii) The penitent made the confession or penitential communication to the minister in the minister’s professional capacity; and (iv) The confession or penitential communication was made in the course of discipline enjoined by the church or other religious body to which the minister belongs.