Anti-Catholicism strikes again

by Sal on February 1, 2006

in Politics,Religion

The State of New Hampshire, this time, is attacking the beliefs of the Catholic Church head-on. In what is probably a well-intentioned proposal, the NH State Legislature is requiring all Catholic Clergy and other employees of Catholic Churches to report any and all instances of possible sexual abuse, no matter what. This sounds rather straightforward and something most people would agree with. However, the law would also require Catholic Priests to even disclose the contents of a Confession to law enforcement. For those of you who are not Catholic or familiar with Church practices, the practice of Confession is considered to be a Sacred act, where a Penitent confesses their sins to God, with the Priest as a mediator, and receives absolution and forgiveness for those sins. In order to encourage people to be open and honest in this Sacrament, the Catholic Church does not allow priests to ever divulge the contents of the Confession. In fact, the Church takes this belief in the sanctity of confession so seriously that an automatic penalty of excommunication exists for any Priest to violate this seal of confession.

One interesting thing to note is that the new law does not apply to Doctor-patient privilege, attorney-client privilege, or any other existing privilege, only priest-penitent privilege.

This example of blatant prohibition of the free exercise of the Catholic Church’s religious beliefs is wrong, and needs to be stopped.

Thanks to Mrs. Sal for the link.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike February 1, 2006 at 5:22 pm

Even if this proposed law applied to other privileges, a priest would be duty bound to oppose it. That would make for some interesting drama.

How some could have more respect for lawyers and shrinks than men of the cloth is beyond me though.


Lisa February 2, 2006 at 7:54 am

I completely agree with your point regarding the Priest-Penetant privilege–but also, in most states, there already are mandatory reporting laws regarding child (or sexual) abuse of any kind revealed to Doctors, as well as mandatory reporting of anyone who poses an imminent threat to himself or others. If a patient tells us he is planning to kill someone, Docs are required to violate patient confidentiality and report that person to the authorities to protect their intended victim.
Not that I think that it really matters; what is the important part is that the State of New Hampshire is seeking to violate a Sacrament of the Catholic Faith. I’m not a lawyer or anything, but wasn’t that officially declared “not a good idea” back when that whole separation of church & state thing happened?


Cannon February 2, 2006 at 9:24 am

I wouldn’t worry TOO much about this one. There has to be a Free Exercise challenge here. The Seal of the Confessional is unbreakable for Catholics, and I think that the Court would be receptive to this (especially since the Court is now majority-Catholic).

Second, the Court has favorably cited the idea of a priest-penitent privilege. It has never expressly held that one exists, but it has mentioned it in dicta (as an aside). In any case, I think the Supreme Court would invalidate the statute as it applies to the confessional, provided it is ever enforced that way.


Sal February 2, 2006 at 9:45 am

I agree Cannon, but one thing to remmeber is we shouldn’t rely on the courts to undo the mistakes of the legislature. Courts have a habit of bein unpredictable, and I could see a 5-4 decision in this matter being handed down (Kennedy could easily switch — his Catholicism doesn’t exactly show up in his opinions).

Remember, everyone said that the Supreme Court would overturn Campaign Finance as well, which prompted enough Republicans to vote for it, and the President to sign it. What did the court do? It shocked everyone by upholding basically the entire law.


Mike February 2, 2006 at 10:42 am

Law school teaches students the results of honest applications of law. Reality is often different.

The Church should not have to embark on the road to the Supreme Court. The newly constituted Supreme Court probably would reach that result Cannon. But there are many courts below the Supreme Court. There are prosecutors who wouldn’t hesitate to try to break the seal. We know this because there are legislators who seem to think it would be acceptable.

The constitution and precedent clearly suggests the law would be unconstitutional as applied to the confessional, but when has teh constitution ever stood in the way of judges?


rightonoz February 5, 2006 at 7:04 pm

I’m not a catholic, but certainly respect your rights the same as any religion.

As gauvin said, why lawyers and doctors would be exempt if such a law was passed beggars belief.

IN THEORY no one should be exempt from reporting something that might clear or prevent a murder or child molestation case, but to demand that someone risk ecommunication from the church of his/her deeply held beliefs is a tough call.


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