PA Includes Clergy Members as Mandatory Child Abuse Reporters

Exemption made for penitent privilege conversations.

Church Law and Tax 1995-11-01 Recent Developments

Sexual Misconduct by Clergy and Church Workers

Key point: Some states exempt ministers from the duty to report child abuse if they learn of the abuse in the course of a privileged conversation.

The State of Pennsylvania amended its child abuse reporting law to include “members of the clergy” as mandatory child abuse reporters. However, the law exempts clergy from reporting abuse they learn of in the course of privileged conversations. Amended title 23, section 6311, of the Pennsylvania statutes, which took effect July 15, 1995, includes “members of the clergy” among those persons who are “required to report” cases of child abuse when they have “reasonable cause to suspect” (in the course of their employment or profession) that abuse has occurred. However, the amended statute adds: “Except with respect to confidential communications made to an ordained member of the clergy which are protected under [state law] the privileged communication between any professional person required to report and the patient or client of that person shall not apply to situations involving child abuse and shall not constitute grounds for failure to report as required by this chapter.” Pennsylvania is the 18th state to adopt such an approach to child abuse reporting by clergy. For a list of the other 17 states, see the feature article entitled “Personal Liability of Clergy for Failure to Report Child Abuse” that appeared in the September-October 1994 edition of this newsletter. Pa. C.S.A. Title 23, § 6311.

See Also: Failure to Report Child Abuse

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