Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. California SB 360 and the “Seal of the Confessional”

 

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.

There are 26 comments.

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  1. Clavius Thatcher

    Thanks for sharing this. This is a serious attack on religious freedom.

    One note, Bishop Barron is part of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. 

    • #1
    • June 16, 2019, at 1:37 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  2. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHillJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I don’t think many people appreciate the burdens the church puts on its priesthood. The confessional is an awful weight. The secrets some people carry are enough to push one to a breaking point and I cannot fathom knowing the secrets of an entire congregation. 

    To look out from the pulpit and to see adulterers, abusers, addicts, and worse and all the while greeting them as if nothing is wrong – and being absolutely handcuffed in responding to it. 

    No wonder some priests drink. 

    • #2
    • June 16, 2019, at 1:56 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    The answer is simple. Priests need to stop doing confessions and thus remove themselves from this risk.

    • #3
    • June 16, 2019, at 3:01 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. Unsk Member
    Unsk

    FakeJohn: The answer is simple. Priests need to stop doing confessions and thus remove themselves from this risk.

    Confessions are a holy sacrament in the Catholic Church and an essential tool in the asking of forgiveness of sins from God. What you are asking is that the Church after 2000 years change it practices to fit the whims of the SJW Progressives. In that case, they win.

    No, this is a clear issue of the free exercise of religion, and those who want to relegate such issues to the States do this country a great dis-service. One believes in the Constitution or one doesn’t. There is no “cafeteria menu” where one can pick which rights you like and which you don’t.

     

    • #4
    • June 16, 2019, at 3:38 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  5. Clavius Thatcher

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    The answer is simple. Priests need to stop doing confessions and thus remove themselves from this risk.

    Our Pastor said that he and the other priests in the parish will ignore the law if it is passed.

    • #5
    • June 16, 2019, at 4:56 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. EB Thatcher

    Unsk (View Comment):
    What you are asking is that the Church after 2000 years change it practices

    With due respect (and agreeing that this law or decision has negative implications for freedom of religion) individual confession to a priest is not 2000 years old. The doctrine of penance in the form of an individual confession (bringing confession of sins and reconciliation together) can be traced back to 11th century.

    In the 1st century, St. Paul tells us that there is one mediator between God and man and that mediator is Christ. (I Timothy 2:5) There is nothing preventing a person from confessing his sins directly to God and asking forgiveness in Christ’s name. That forgiveness is given if the person is truly penitent.

    • #6
    • June 16, 2019, at 7:34 PM PDT
    • Like
  7. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Clavius (View Comment):

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    The answer is simple. Priests need to stop doing confessions and thus remove themselves from this risk.

    Our Pastor said that he and the other priests in the parish will ignore the law if it is passed.

    Then he will be jailed. The Church is not above the law, no matter what it thinks internally. Sadly the Church through its preference and covering up of gay boy sex has given up any right to claim righteous indignation.

    • #7
    • June 16, 2019, at 9:03 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. Unsk Member
    Unsk

    “Then he will be jailed. The Church is not above the law, no matter what it thinks internally. Sadly the Church through its preference and covering up of gay boy sex has given up any right to claim righteous indignation.”

    Wow! Glad to see you love the Constitution so, Fake. 

    So nice to see you want to indict an entire church over the behavior of some bad apples. It’s not hard to see how the SJW will conquer with attitudes like that. 

    • #8
    • June 16, 2019, at 9:39 PM PDT
    • Like
  9. Full Size Tabby Member

    I find mandatory reporting laws offensive in general. They further the notions that “government knows best” and the “one size fits all” ethos that is necessary to a government operating “fairly” in resolving an issue. 

    Mandatory reporting of suspected abuse deprives people of the opportunity to find their own solutions. I realize that organizations and families have failed in their obligations to solve the problems they encounter. But government has messed up a lot too, so I also don’t believe that the government is necessarily always the best solver of problems.

    • #9
    • June 17, 2019, at 9:54 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Scott Wilmot Member

    EJHill (View Comment):
    I don’t think many people appreciate the burdens the church puts on its priesthood. The confessional is an awful weight.

    I disagree. The confessional is not a burden, it is a place of grace. Your characterization sounds like bad V2 theology. It is Jesus Christ, acting through the priest, who forgives sins. Most priests I have talked to speak of the joy they get in hearing confessions. Sure, it’s nasty stuff – but the priest is the one who is there to enable the sinner to reconcile with Christ. Rejoice!

    • #10
    • June 17, 2019, at 6:36 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. Scott Wilmot Member

    Fake John/Jane Galt (View Comment):

    The answer is simple. Priests need to stop doing confessions and thus remove themselves from this risk.

    Why? We are a militant Church here on earth and I imagine most priests are willing to fight for Christ. 

    • #11
    • June 17, 2019, at 6:38 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Scott Wilmot Member

    EB (View Comment):
    In the 1st century, St. Paul tells us that there is one mediator between God and man and that mediator is Christ. (I Timothy 2:5)

    Yes, and Christ is the one mediating in the confessional, acting through the priest. John 20:

    19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

    How could the disciples (priests) forgive sins if they had not heard what the sin was?

    • #12
    • June 17, 2019, at 6:45 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Scott Wilmot Member

    Why does the California Senate attack the Church in SB360? Wouldn’t one want to also go after attorney/client privilege in seeking out abusers?

    • #13
    • June 17, 2019, at 6:48 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. The Reticulator Member

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    I find mandatory reporting laws offensive in general. They further the notions that “government knows best” and the “one size fits all” ethos that is necessary to a government operating “fairly” in resolving an issue.

    Mandatory reporting of suspected abuse deprives people of the opportunity to find their own solutions. I realize that organizations and families have failed in their obligations to solve the problems they encounter. But government has messed up a lot too, so I also don’t believe that the government is necessarily always the best solver of problems.

    If mandatory reporting was good enough for Stalin, why isn’t it good enough for us?

    • #14
    • June 17, 2019, at 6:55 PM PDT
    • Like
  15. EB Thatcher

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):

    EB (View Comment):
    In the 1st century, St. Paul tells us that there is one mediator between God and man and that mediator is Christ. (I Timothy 2:5)

    Yes, and Christ is the one mediating in the confessional, acting through the priest. John 20:

    19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

    How could the disciples (priests) forgive sins if they had not heard what the sin was?

    Well, you are ignoring the fact that they didn’t actually begin to formalize this particular ritual until the 11th century.

    However, I find these two notions, to varying degrees, appalling:

    1. Apparently, I can’t go directly to God to confess my sins and receive forgiveness.
    2. That a criminal (because that’s who we are talking about in the above situation) can go to a priest, confess his crime, receive absolution, and then go on his way with no consequences – and with no justice for the victim.

     

    • #15
    • June 17, 2019, at 7:33 PM PDT
    • Like
  16. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Unsk (View Comment):

    “Then he will be jailed. The Church is not above the law, no matter what it thinks internally. Sadly the Church through its preference and covering up of gay boy sex has given up any right to claim righteous indignation.”

    Wow! Glad to see you love the Constitution so, Fake.

    So nice to see you want to indict an entire church over the behavior of some bad apples. It’s not hard to see how the SJW will conquer with attitudes like that.

    Some bad apples? Give me a break. We are decades into this thing and it is still going strong. The Church hierarchy has covered up forever and has given up any moral authority in the process.

    • #16
    • June 17, 2019, at 7:46 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Unsk Member
    Unsk

    “Why does the California Senate attack the Church in SB360? Wouldn’t one want to also go after attorney/client privilege in seeking out abusers?”

    Scott, You know the answer. This law contrary to Fake John’s and EB’s assertions is not about sexual abuse; it is about destroying the church. 

    • #17
    • June 17, 2019, at 11:09 PM PDT
    • Like
  18. EB Thatcher

    Unsk (View Comment):

    “Why does the California Senate attack the Church in SB360? Wouldn’t one want to also go after attorney/client privilege in seeking out abusers?”

    Scott, You know the answer. This law contrary to Fake John’s and EB’s assertions is not about sexual abuse; it is about destroying the church.

    Well, just to be clear, I personally think murder confessions should be reported, too.

    However, more learned men than any of us have argued these doctrines for centuries. I don’t think there will be any consensus here. We will just have to agree to disagree and pray about it.

    • #18
    • June 18, 2019, at 5:19 AM PDT
    • Like
  19. Unsk Member
    Unsk

    EB, I wasn’t referring to your objections specifically but was referring to the driving arguments among our California representatives. You must remember California is a one-party state and what the general populace or an individual thinks on almost any issue is irrelevant to our State Senate. They only listen to Progressive commands from on high. 

    • #19
    • June 18, 2019, at 9:21 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Unsk (View Comment):

    “Why does the California Senate attack the Church in SB360? Wouldn’t one want to also go after attorney/client privilege in seeking out abusers?”

    Scott, You know the answer. This law contrary to Fake John’s and EB’s assertions is not about sexual abuse; it is about destroying the church.

    I never said the law was about sexual abuse.

    • #20
    • June 18, 2019, at 9:46 AM PDT
    • Like
  21. Scott Wilmot Member

    EB (View Comment):
    Well, just to be clear, I personally think murder confessions should be reported, too.

    I would suppose that most murder confessions take place prior to execution or when one is in prison. And I would hope that the priest who hears a confession of murder or sexual abuse or of any felony crime would make it part of the penance for the sinner to turn himself in to the authorities. This way, if he doesn’t fulfill his penance, he is not forgiven. And the priest is not forced to break the seal of the confessional. Hell or prison, make your choice.

    And if you think murder confessions should be reported, should the defense attorney defending a guilty murderer also be forced to admit this in court?

    • #21
    • June 18, 2019, at 2:08 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph StankoJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    EB (View Comment):

    However, I find these two notions, to varying degrees, appalling:

    1. Apparently, I can’t go directly to God to confess my sins and receive forgiveness.
    2. That a criminal (because that’s who we are talking about in the above situation) can go to a priest, confess his crime, receive absolution, and then go on his way with no consequences – and with no justice for the victim.

    How about if a criminal goes “directly to God” and confesses his sins, will he receive forgiveness with no justice for the victim?

    • #22
    • June 19, 2019, at 2:36 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  23. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph StankoJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):

    Why does the California Senate attack the Church in SB360? Wouldn’t one want to also go after attorney/client privilege in seeking out abusers?

    Because there’s lots of lawyers in the Senate but not, so far as I’m aware, a single priest.

    • #23
    • June 19, 2019, at 2:38 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  24. EB Thatcher

    Joseph Stanko (View Comment):
    How about if a criminal goes “directly to God” and confesses his sins, will he receive forgiveness with no justice for the victim?

    First of all, a criminal would only receive forgiveness from God if he were truly penitent. God is the only one who actually knows a man’s heart, something no one else, not even a priest can claim.

    Secondly, in that case, the priest is not aiding and abetting a crime. That has to be a better result, especially for the priest.

    Thirdly, I wonder how many people we are actually talking about. Are there reams of child abusers and murderers lining up at confessionals? I somehow doubt it.

    And this gets back to the point that some have made and that I can agree on – this is a slippery slope regarding freedom of religion. Unfortunately, as long as the Roman Catholic Church defends the absolute seal of the confessional, they will be aiding and abetting and subsequently open to attack from people who are more interested in the rights of the victim than the criminal (and those others who are interested in attacking religion.)

    • #24
    • June 19, 2019, at 3:01 PM PDT
    • Like
  25. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph StankoJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    EB (View Comment):
    Thirdly, I wonder how many people we are actually talking about. Are there reams of child abusers and murderers lining up at confessionals? I somehow doubt it.

    All the more reason the law is unnecessary and pointless.

    • #25
    • June 19, 2019, at 3:07 PM PDT
    • Like
  26. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph StankoJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    EB (View Comment):
    Well, you are ignoring the fact that they didn’t actually begin to formalize this particular ritual until the 11th century.

    Well the debate in the early centuries was over whether forgiveness of serious sins was even possible, there was a faction that held that those of the baptized who had committed apostasy in the face of the Roman persecutions (e.g. burned incense to the Emperor to avoid being fed to the lions) were simply damned and had thrown away their one and only chance at salvation. This is why some (such as the Emperor Constantine) were baptized on their deathbeds, since baptism was seen as the only means of forgiving mortal sin, and since you can only be baptized once, it was best to be baptized right before you died and went to face judgement.

    The formal Sacrament of Penance grew out of the need to find a way to formally reconcile and readmit repentant members back into the Church. This was happening in ancient Rome so it’s much older than the 11th century, I assume you’re referring to rules formalizing the routine practice of confessing sins including venial sins to a priest in private as that was a later refinement of the sacrament.

    • #26
    • June 19, 2019, at 3:48 PM PDT
    • 2 likes

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