The California senate has dropped a state bill that if signed into law would have forced priests to violate the seal of confession.
Last month, the California senate considered a bill that would remove the reporting exemption for priests. Forcing them to break the seal of confession, failure to divulge what they learned in the confessional from fellow priests or coworkers as it pertains to abuse would constitute a crime if passed.
Known as California Senate Bill 360, the legislation was removed Monday from the agenda of the Public Safety Committee by the bill’s sponsor, following First Amendment concerns and questions of how the law would be enforced if passed.
The California Catholic Conference thanked Catholics across the state that voiced their opposition to the proposed legislation, with more than 140,000 letters and nearly 20,000 emails coming from just Los Angeles alone.
“The action follows the delivery of tens of thousands of letters, emails and phone calls from Catholics and others concerned with the free expression of religion. An amazing number of people spoke to their legislators to explain the sacred nature of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is important to our spirituality and our relation to God and to others. Our thanks go to all who played a part.”
In a statement, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles called SB360 a “dangerous piece of legislation” that threatened the value of religious freedom.
“It can never be acceptable for government to interfere in how people pray or worship or live out their beliefs in society. And a threat to the freedom of one faith will always be a threat to the freedom of all of us.”
While the sponsor for SB360 has said the bill is not technically dead and could be voted on next year, lack of support has de facto ended its chances to be put to vote.
“Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons, the Church declares that every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him. This secret, which admits of no exceptions, is called the ‘sacramental seal,’ because what the penitent has made known to the priest remains ‘sealed’ by the sacrament.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1467