With a vote on SB 360 coming to the State Senate this week, Bishop Jaime Soto has released the following statement:
"The State Legislature is attempting to limit the freedom of Catholic laity to approach with confidence the Sacrament of Penance. The government has no understanding what the sacrament means for Catholics. The priest's duty to protect the seal of the confession is for the benefit of the penitent. Urge your State Senator to vote 'no' on SB 360 to protect the seal of confession."
The following is the Action Alert from the California Catholic Conference:
For Catholics, the sanctity of the confessional is unquestionable. It is central to our faith and to our constitutional right to the free expression of religion.
SB 360 Mandated reporters: clergy (Hill, D-San Mateo), as proposed, attempted to undermine the seal of confession for all the faithful. Now, even though amended, SB 360 still denies the sanctity of confession to priests and to thousands of Catholics who work with priests in parishes and other Church agencies and ministries. (Read Archbishop José Gomez's statement.)
Clergy and ministers are already mandated reporters of abuse when it comes to their administrative duties. That is right and important. It must continue unabated. But inserting the government into the confessional is not going to help children.
Abusers are notoriously meticulous, secretive and deceptive. They would not likely seek spiritual reconciliation or counseling but rather go to great lengths to conceal their hideous crimes.
In addition, Canon law is very clear that any priest who violates the seal of confession is automatically excommunicated. That will not change. In fact, several priests have been martyred rather than violate the seal.
The free exercise of religion has been recognized for centuries by nations around the world. SB 360 would undermine that, create confusion, deter counseling and discourage spiritual counseling without gaining any protection for children.
Please urge a NO vote on SB 360 unless it is amended. Any law that does not keep this unique form of religious communications private and available to every person, is wrong and violates Californians' rights to practice their religion freely.