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Author's Identity of Anonymous Letter Not Protected by Clergy-Penitent Privilege

Key point 3-07.4. In order for the clergy-penitent privilege to apply there must be a communication that is made to a minister acting in a professional capacity as a spiritual adviser.
Key point 3-07.5. In some states the clergy-penitent privilege only applies to communications made to a minister in the course of "discipline." While most courts interpret this requirement broadly to cover statements made in the course of spiritual counsel and advice, others have interpreted it narrowly to apply only to confessions made to Catholic priests.

An Illinois court ruled that a church could be compelled to disclose the identity of the writer of a confidential letter sent to the pastor so that the writer could be sued for defamation. In October 2013, the pastor of a Catholic church received an anonymous letter containing the following allegations:

  • an adolescent male engaged in the sexual touching of another minor;

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  • October 24, 2016

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