California's bill would be a striking reversal of long-standing legal precedent preceding even the foundation of the United States. The state would be the first to explicitly revoke religious confidentiality while keeping protection for other kinds of confidential conversations in place.
Gomez' May 15 column noted directly that the proposed measure "only targets Catholic priests."
While the bill's sponsor insists that's not true, the bill was introduced shortly after the release a Pennsylvania grand jury reporting detailing decades of clerical sexual abuse allegations, and after the scandal that began June 20, 218, when credible allegations of abuse against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick were made public.
Gomez also said this week that "from a public policy standpoint, if the goal is to prevent child sexual abuse, it does not make sense to single out Catholic priests and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, which is the formal name for confession."
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, California's largest, has faced two allegations of child sexual abuse by priests in the last ten years. According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, there are seven allegations of clerical sexual abuse made each year, across the United States.
Although all educators in California, as in most states, are mandated reporters, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 10% of public school students in the U.S. will experience sexual misconduct by a school employee before graduating from high school. 6,220,413 students were enrolled in California public schools in 2017-2018, according to the state's department of education. If California does not significantly deviate from national statistics, 622,041 of those students are likely to experience sexual misconduct by public school employees before graduation.
Hill, himself a licensed teacher, has not weighed in publicly on another California bill that would remove the civil statute of limitations for lawsuits involving sexual abuse claims against employees of public schools and other California institutions.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, along with five other California dioceses, established May 14 an independently managed compensation program, which would provide compensatory payment to those alleging to be victims of priestly sexual abuse, regardless of what that abuse is alleged to have happened.
Gomez, for his part, has called Catholics to oppose the confession bill, which he called "a mortal threat to the religious freedom of every Catholic."
"The privacy of that intimate conversation - our ability to speak with total honesty from our lips to God's ear - is absolutely vital to our relationship with God," Gomez wrote.
At the same time, the archbishop encouraged Catholics to pray for the healing of abuse victims and their families.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
"Let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us bring healing to every victim-survivor of abuse and help us build a society where every child is loved, protected, and safe."