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Mandatory Reporters and the Clergy-Penitent Privilege

Are confessions of abuse protected?

California
State:
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Key point. Ministers who enage in pastoral counseling are not necessarily subject to a state law that makes "counselors" mandatory reporters.
Key point. Ministers who are not mandatory reporters of child abuse, and who do not report known or suspected abuse, are not necessarily liable for a minor's continued abuse.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a priest was not legally responsible for damages suffered by a victim of child abuse as a result of his decision not to report the abuse to civil authorities. A child (the victim) and her parents met with their parish priest on a number of occasions for family counseling. The priest was not a licensed counselor. The victim did not tell the priest that her father had sexually abused her but did tell him that he had "hurt" her. The physical and sexual abuse of the victim stopped when her father left home when she was in eighth grade. ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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Posted:
  • March 3, 1997

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