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Children Cannot Revoke Parent's Penitent Privilege

Massachusetts court makes surprise ruling.

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Key point: The clergy-penitent privilege may not be waived by children of the penitent.

• A Massachusetts court ruled that the children of a deceased woman could not waive the clergy-penitent privilege with regard to documents given by their mother to her priest in the course of an ecclesiastical annulment proceeding. A wealthy attorney divorced his wife, and planned to marry another woman. The other woman refused to marry the attorney unless the marriage occurred in the Catholic Church, and this was not possible unless the attorney obtained an ecclesiastical annulment of his previous marriage. The attorney contacted his first wife, who agreed to cooperate in the annulment proceeding. The decision to cooperate was allegedly based on the husband's oral promise to the first wife that he would leave two-thirds of his estate to their four children. The church granted the annulment, ...

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Posted:
  • September 1, 1995

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