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HB74 – Removing the Priest/Penitent Testimonial Privilege relating to Child Abuse

House Bill 74, a bill introduced by State Representative Eric Morrison, would eliminate the evidentiary Priest-Penitent privilege that protects a penitent (the person confessing or getting guidance from the priest) from having their communications or statements with the priest disclosed if those communications or statements involve child abuse and neglect. It further requires priests to report child abuse and neglect and to testifiy in judicial proceedings relating to those communications.

Delaware law already requires every state agency, organization and entity, as well as professionals — including doctors, psychiatrists and teachers — to report child abuse. Child abuse can include physical, sexual and emotional abuse as well as neglect. Failure to report this is a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 for the first violation and not to exceed $50,000 for subsequent violations.

Needless to say, the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington is opposed. “No Catholic priest or bishop would ever break the seal of confession under any circumstances,” said Robert Krebs, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington. “To do so would incur an automatic ex-communication that could only be pardoned by the Pope himself.”  

If Delaware were to pass this law, it will become the seventh state to do so, joining New Hampshire, West Virginia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Texas. The Delaware Attorney General’s Office, the Office of the Child Advocate, Children & Families First, and the Delaware Alliance Against Sexual Violence support this legislation.

If I were a betting man, I would not expect this bill to get a vote on the floor.

House Bill 74 – Removing the Priest/Penitent Testimonial Privilege relating to Child AbuseCurrrent Status – House Judiciary 3/2/2
House SponsorsMorrison, Minor-Brown, Baumbach, Johnson, Phillips, RomerSenate SponsorsPoore, Gay, Hoffner, McBride, Sokola
House Yes VotesSenate Yes Votes
House No VotesSenate No Votes
House Absents or Not VotingSenate Absent or Not Voting

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1 comment on “HB74 – Removing the Priest/Penitent Testimonial Privilege relating to Child Abuse

  1. Pingback: States weigh child abuse reporting vs. clergy’s duty of confidentiality - The Keystone Gazette

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