Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
The Liability of Knowing but Not Acting
Key point 4-08. Every state has a child abuse reporting law that requires persons designated as mandatory reporters to report known or reasonably suspected incidents of child abuse. Ministers are mandatory reporters in many states. Some states exempt ministers from reporting child abuse if they learned of the abuse in the course of a conversation protected by the clergy-penitent privilege. Ministers may face criminal and civil liability for failing to report child abuse.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the felony conviction of a priest who worked in an administrative position with an archdiocese for "endangering the welfare of a child" for failing to take steps to protect children from a priest who had molested children. In 1992, a Catholic priest (the "defendant") was appointed Secretary for Clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where he served for 12 years, until 2004. As Secretary for Clergy, he was responsible for ensuring that parishes were filled with enough priests, resolving disputes among priests, and handling clergy sexual abuse issues. It was his responsibility to collect and assess information concerning allegations of sexual abuse against priests in the Archdiocese, discuss the allegations with the accused priests, participate in deciding how to address the allegations, and make recommendations to the Cardinal about the priests against whom allegations were made.

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Posted: August 19, 2015
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