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Pastor, Church & LawMember access only

by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Acting in a Professional Capacity as a Spiritual Adviser

§ 3.07.04
Key point 3-07.04. 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.

Most clergy-penitent privilege laws require that the communication be made to a minister acting in a professional capacity as a spiritual adviser. Certainly there can be no expectation of confidentiality—and therefore no privilege—unless a statement is made to a minister acting in such a capacity.

To illustrate, a California court ruled that confidential statements made by a church treasurer to an Episcopalian priest were not "penitential communications" exempted by law from involuntary disclosure in a civil court. Late one night, the treasurer arranged a meeting with the priest after informing him that she "had done something almost as bad as murder." The treasurer, after requesting ...

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