The Catholic League is urging New Hampshire state legislators to reject a bill that would remove the priest-penitent privilege that has traditionally been granted by legislators and mandate all members of the clergy to report instances of suspected child abuse to the authorities.
House Bill 1127 is sponsored by Representative Mary Stuart Gile. A similar bill had been proposed in January 2003, but it was not passed.
"The priest-penitent privilege has been honored by the courts for over 200 years,” said Catholic League president Bill Donohue. “The Sacrament of Reconciliation is conditioned on confidentiality, much like lawyer-client, doctor-patient, reporter-source relationships.”
“Neither Rep. Gile, nor anyone else, has one scintilla of evidence suggesting that child abuse would decrease if what is heard in the confessional were made public,” he stated, adding that the bill was flawed in three ways.
“It is an unconstitutional encroachment by the state on religion; it is based on the superstition that child molesters are going free because priests are shielding them from the authorities, and; it is premised on the fatuous notion that priests would violate the seal of the confessional before ever going to prison,” he said.