In 33 States, Clergy Are Not Mandatory Reporters of Child Sex Abuse

In the majority of states in this country, clergy are not required to report the sexual abuse of minors.  This would seem an obvious requirement since it is mandatory for healthcare workers and teachers, why are clergy exempt?  The reason is simple-clergy/penitent privilege.  The main proponent of the privilege is the Catholic Church with confidential confession as a sacrament but all religions enjoy this privilege. 

The question remains however why such a privilege trumps the security and protection of minors.  The powerful lobbying influences of churches such as the Baptists, Catholics, and Mormons have successfully fought any legislation that would overturn the privilege and require clergy to report child abuse.  In one infamous incident in Maryland, the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick wrote his priests decrying the proposed legislation and vowed to go to jail in an act of civil disobedience if the law was enacted.  Of course, we now know the rest of the story with McCarrick.  He has been defrocked and the subject of numerous civil lawsuits for the sexual abuse of minors and adult seminarians.

The other major player in maintaining the status quo is the Mormons whose influence is far reaching in states outside of Utah as well as in our nation's capitol.  In Utah, recent legislation to overturn the privilege was shut down quickly and never really had a chance of becoming law. 

We know that child sexual abuse is able to thrive in secrecy and such laws only make it that more prevalent.  Any religion that is not willing to forego such a privilege for the sake of protecting children has to be questioned.  If we allow the status quo, we are failing our children. 

Categories