The New Hampshire legislature has revived a bill that would require priests to violate the seal of the confessional if child abuse is confessed to them. If they think this is going to root out abuse, they’re sadly mistaken. The first trial of a priest charged with breaking this law will be appealed up to the Supreme Court which will overturn it. This is discriminatory against the practice of religion.
Notice that no other privileged relationship is affected: attorney-client, doctor-patient, husband-wife. Only the priest-penitent privilege is singled out. Of course, singling out the Church is becoming commonplace.
In Colorado, a bill has been proposed that would lift the statute of limitations for filing lawsuits or criminal charges (WARNING: PDF format) for sex abuse, one-time only for a 40-year window, but only private institutions, like the Church. Public institutions, such as schools, would remain protected by the limitations. Colorado’s bishops have spoken out against this discriminatory bill.
First, why can a victim of teacher or clergy abuse in a Catholic school or parish wait a lifetime before initiating such litigation, while the victim of exactly the same and even more frequent abuse in a public school setting loses his or her claim by waiting 181 days? Second, why should a Catholic institution that is sued for such conduct be liable for massive, community-crippling damages, while guilty public institutions—even if sovereign immunity were waived—would face a mere $150,000 damages?
Think they’re just trying to divert attention from the Church? The sexual abuse of students in public schools is a much bigger problem, in terms of numbers, than the Scandal in the Church. (Yes, the moral impact is worse from the Scandal because the Church should be better because she is the Bride of Christ.)
The stats on sex abuse of students