Pope Francis ordered a note to be published after California passed Senate Bill 360

The Vatican has published a note rejecting potential new legislation that would mandate clergy members to report instances of child abuse heard during the sacrament of confession.

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The note comes after California passed Senate Bill 360 on May 16, which, as Crux Now reports, "would compel priests to disclose information about child sexual abuse that they learn when they are hearing the confession of another priest or a co-worker.”

The Washington Examiner reports that in California, while clergy members are already mandated to report instances of sexual abuse, there is an exemption for "penitential communications," or crimes heard during the act of confession. SB 360 looks to remove that exemption.

The bill is expected to be considered by the State Assembly in September.

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In June, San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said in a statement: "SB 360 would take away from priests and from everyone who works with priests in parishes and Church agencies across the state the full right to confess their sins with the assurance of confidentiality."

"The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is protected by the seal of confession. Under no circumstance can a priest disclose anything he hears during confession. This protection afforded to our Catholic people assures them that what they say in confession will never be revealed, so that they may have full confidence in attaining peace of conscience. It is a protection the Church has respected from time immemorial."

He added: "Importantly, this legislation will do nothing to protect children. Priests and Church officials are already mandated reporters of sex abuse of children. In our Archdiocese and in all California dioceses, strict policies are already in place to protect children and to require and facilitate reporting to law enforcement of any suspected abuse. Any violation of a child is unconscionable, and the Church is committed to protecting all children from abuse of any kind."

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On July 1, The Vatican published an official note which was approved for publication by Pope Francis on June 21. The letter is signed by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court dealing with matters of conscience.

La Croix International, an independent Catholic publication, reports that the note, published in Italian, says: "We must be watchful that the sacramental seal is never violated by anyone and that the necessary reserve connected to the exercise of church ministry is always jealously safeguarded, having as its only purpose the truth and integral good of the person."

"Any political action of legislative initiative aimed at breaking the inviolability of the sacramental seal would be an unacceptable offense against the liberty of the church, which does not receive its legitimacy from individual states, but from God.”

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Crux Now reports that the note asserts that the potential new legislation would "constitute a violation of religious freedom, legally fundamental to every other type of freedom, including the freedom of conscience of individual citizens, both penitents and confessors."

Cardinal Piacenza said the goal of the note's publication is “to instill greater trust, especially in these times, in penitents who come to confess themselves… and ultimately to advance the cause of the sacrifice of Christ who came to take away the sins of the world.”

After the note was published, Cardinal Piacenza clarified: "the text of the Note cannot and will not be in any way a justification or a form of tolerance for the abominable cases of abuse perpetrated by members of the clergy.”

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