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

Disclosure to Civil Authorities

§ 3.08.10
Key point 3-08.10. The clergy-penitent privilege does not prevent clergy from disclosing confidential communications to the police. Rather, it prevents clergy from disclosing the content of privileged communications in court. Clergy who choose to inform the police about information shared with them in confidence are providing no more than a "tip." The police will need to confirm the information through their own investigation, since the minister will be prevented by the privilege from disclosing the information in court.

Clergy sometimes feel morally obligated to inform the police about a confession of criminal activity made to them in confidence. They often resist doing so, however, out of a desire to honor the confidential nature of the communication. ...

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