Following the recent children sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church, the California state lawmakers are now working on a bill to require Catholic priests report child sex abuse cases revealed in confession.
The Democratic State Sen. Jerry Hill introduced the ''Removing Clergy Exemption from Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting'' on Wednesday. By this, the state would remove the exemption in the domestic ''mandated reporter'' regulations allowing all clergy members to withhold knowledge of potential child abuse from the authorities if they obtained that information during a ''penitential communication'', for instance during Catholic confession.
In general, priests below to a particular professional category required by the authorities to inform the law enforcement about the alleged abuse. However, while teachers and therapists are free to do so, the members of the clergy have now an exception if they learn about the suspected abuse during confession.
In Hill's view, this should change as soon as possible, and there should be no exceptions as long as children safety is concerned. In his official statement presenting the bill, Hill also added that the silence only protects the abuser and puts more children at risk.
The Golden State is not the first U.S. state to face the issue. For instance, Connecticut, Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia have already established similar statutes to protect children.
The news comes in challenging times for Pope Francis. This week, he called 190 bishops and other prelates from 130 countries in the Vatican city for an unprecedented meeting on the protection of minors in the Catholic Church.
The first of its kind, the meeting is a clear sign that the Vatican officials are finally acknowledging the children sex abuse crisis that has spread all around the world in the recent month. Scandals have erupted in Australia, South America, France, Germany, Ireland, and the United States.
However, the Vatican representatives have been cautious with promises for immediate measures. They said the meeting would be more about responsibility, accountability, and transparency.
Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna, the archbishop of Malta and one of the Vatican’s longtime top investigators of sexual-abuse cases, already confirmed the four-day event would not do miracles. Instead, he emphasized the importance of the follow-ups.
Pope Francis is under international severe scrutiny and pressure to provide leadership and come up with a workable solution to what is turning into the most crucial crisis the modern Church has faced in the last decades.
Do you agree that the child protection should come first and the priests should report possible child abuse cases even if they obtained the information during confession?