• Key point. In some states ministers are mandatory reporters of child abuse, but they are not required to report known or reasonably suspected incidents of abuse that they learn of in the course of a privileged conversation.
The California legislature has enacted a statute making clergy mandatory child abuse reporters. However, ministers who learn of abuse in the course of a conversation protected by the clergy—penitent privilege are not required to report. The law took effect January 1, 1997. Here are the relevant provisions (all of which appear in the California Penal Code):
§ 11166. Report; duty; time
(c)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) and subdivision (d), any clergy member who has knowledge of or observes a child, in his or her professional capacity or within the scope of his or her duties, whom he or she knows or reasonably suspects has been the victim of child ...