• 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. The victim attempted suicide a month later. The victim later sued her former priest and church. She claimed that the priest failed to report her abuse to the civil authorities, and that as a result the abuse continued and her injuries were aggravated. She conceded that the priest was not aware that abuse had occurred, but she insisted that he should have been aware of the abuse based on her statement to him that her father had "hurt her". The victim also sued her former church, claiming that it was responsible for the priest's failure to report the abuse. She also alleged that the church negligently failed to provide training in child abuse detection for its pastor and the teachers at the church—operated school the victim attended. A trial court dismissed the claim against the priest on the ground that he was not a mandatory child abuse reporter under state law and as a result had no duty to report the abuse even if he suspected it. The court also dismissed the claim against the church. The victim appealed. The state supreme court agreed with the trial court's decision. With regard to the victim's claims against the priest, the court observed: