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This week Archbishop Jose Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles instructed his priests in their Father’s Day sermons to sound the alarm on the proposed California Senate Bill SB 360, which will remove the exemption of mandatory reporting for Priests that hear of any sexual abuse crime in the confessional.
Here is Bishop Robert Barron writing in Diocese of Madison (Wisconsin) on the matter:
“SB 360, a piece of proposed legislation currently making its way through the California state senate, should alarm not only every Catholic in the country, but indeed the adepts of any religion.
In California, as in almost every other state, clergy members (along with a variety of other professionals, including physicians, social workers, teachers, and therapists) are mandated reporters — which is to say, they are legally required to report any case of suspected child abuse or neglect to law enforcement.
However, California clergy who come by this knowledge in the context of “penitential communication” are currently exempted from the requirement. SB 360 would remove the exemption.
Sen. Jerry Hill, the bill’s sponsor, characterized the scope and purpose of his legislation as follows: “The law should apply equally to all professionals who have been designated as mandated reporters of these crimes — with no exceptions, period. The exemption for clergy only protects the abuser and places children at further risk.”
What SB 360 legislation means
I would like to make clear what the passage of this law would mean for Catholic priests in California. Immediately, it would place them on the horns of a terrible dilemma.
Since the canon law of the Church stipulates that the conscious violation of the seal of Confession results in automatic excommunication, every priest, under this new law, would be threatened with prosecution and possible imprisonment on the one hand, or formal exclusion from the body of Christ on the other. And does anyone doubt that, if this law is enacted, attempts will be made to entrap priests, effectively placing them in this impossible position?
What I hope is clear — not only to Catholics, but to any American committed to the First Amendment — is that we are dealing here with an egregious violation of the principle of religious liberty.
In its stipulation that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, the first amendment holds off, if you will, the aggression of any religion toward the civil state.
But in its further stipulation that Congress shall never legislate in such a way as to obviate the free exercise of religion, it blocks the state’s aggression toward religion.
The framers of the Bill of Rights were legitimately alarmed at the prospect of the government meddling in the affairs of a religious community, monitoring its beliefs and policing its behavior. But such meddling and monitoring is precisely what SB 360 involves.
I realize that non-Catholics and nonbelievers might not appreciate how precious the sacrament of Confession is to Catholics and why the seal of Confession matters so profoundly.
In my last year in the seminary, my classmates and I took a course in the theology and practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (to give it its proper title).
The answer is always ‘yes’
Our professor said something that has stayed with me for the 33 years of my priesthood, burned into my mind and soul. He told us, “If someone asks, ‘Father, would you hear my confession?’, the answer is always yes. Even if hearing that confession puts your own life in danger, the answer is always yes.”
And he went on, “If a person inquires about what was said during a confession, you should act as though the confession never even happened. And if doing so puts your own life in danger, you should still act as though the confession never happened.”
Why do we Catholics take this sacrament with such seriousness? We do so because we believe that through this sacramental encounter, a sinner accesses the healing and forgiving grace of Christ.
In the context of Confession, the priest, we hold, is operating in the very person of Christ, and therefore, the penitent is speaking to and hearing from the Lord himself.
Thus, absolutely nothing ought to stand in the way of a sinner who seeks this font of grace. In light of these clarifications, one can understand the indispensable importance of the seal.
If a penitent thought that the priest to whom he confessed were likely to share with others what was given in the most sacred confidence, he or she would be reluctant indeed ever to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
And this is why the Church has striven so strenuously to protect, at all costs, the integrity of Confession.
And through the entire course of our country’s history, the government has protected the right of the Catholic Church to determine its own sacramental practice and has never sought to compel the violation of the seal.
Given this venerable tradition, grounded in the second clause of the First Amendment, an extraordinary burden of proof, it seems to me, lies with those who would seek to dispense with the exemption.”
SB 360 is a clear assault on the second clause of the First Amendment – that of the “free exercise of religion”
Bishop Barron is rightfully alarmed about the consequences of this bill, even though he resides in Madison,Wisconsin and not in California where the bill would take effect. This bill at it’s core is not about victim’s rights,or steming the tide of sexual abuse, for those are just the excuses for it’s passage. The real goal of the Progressive Atheists behind this bill is to nullify the free exercise of religion first here in California, and then work their way across America, as they have done with other issues, with similar bills to restrict religious freedom across America.
The Right to the Freedom of Religion saved America from the religious conflicts that killed millions in the preceding 150 years before the Constitution, and those heated religious animosities were still very much alive in the colonies at the time of ratification. The Freedom of Religion is thus one the most important hot button and heated issues of the Constitution and that is why the SJW Progressives so want to destroy it, because they want to destroy our most important Constitution Rights and bring about SJW Progressive Tyranny. Let there be no doubt but a withering of your right to the free exercise of religion is seriously on the table if the Progressive grab control of the Supreme Court along with Congress and the Presidency. Make no mistake – the SJW Progressives will stop at nothing to get their way, anyone familiar with the Mueller Special Counsel should now be fully aware of that fact.
The difficult part is that many Americans, even many on the conservative and “religious” side of the spectrum, find it difficult to adhere to the full scope of the Freedom of Religion because it requires every American to respect the religious freedoms of others -even those that you may not morally agree with. ( that is as long as those religious tenets don’t threaten the Republic as does Islam in it’s most orthodox form)
In the abortion debate there are those on the “Pro Life” side who want to impose their religious views onto others in a few Southern States where they think they can get away with it, while admittedly abandoning the religious rights of those in the blue, heavily Pro Choice States. That is how we got California SB 360, and that is only the beginning of the dissolution of religious rights in blue states. Those “Pro Life” extremists want to view and regulate abortion rights, a seminal religious matter to many faiths including my Catholic faith, as a “States Rights” issue. But it is clearly not. It is a religious issue and covered under the First Amendment.
The Tenth Amendment reads:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Freedom of Religion and the Free Exercise of Religion are a part of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution and therefore not to be decided or “reserved” to the States. The right to the Free Exercise of Religion should be same in one state as any other.
As for abortion. Bryan Stephens in one of his posts pointed out that technology likely in the near future will push fetal viability or the ability of the young new born child to live and survive outside the womb to a time period very close to conception. Fetal Viability was sacrosanct even in Roe vs Wade. The legal Constitutional argument forbidding the killing of a new born when it is potentially viable outside the womb is a rock solid one and one that has a very long legal history. It is simply a winning argument and one that polls show that the majority of Americans are coming to believe in. Perhaps abortion foes should put more of their efforts that forbid abortions of viable babies in the womb and bide their time to when that time period pushes the time of fetal viability close to conception.