Bishop Oscar A. Solis is requesting that Utah Catholics contact their legislators to ask that they oppose the three proposed bills that would require priests to violate the Seal of the Confessional if, during the Sacrament of Penance, a penitent confesses to sexually abusing a child.
While there is no doubt that child sexual abuse must be prevented, there is no proof that the proposed legislation will help to do so. What the proposed legislation would do, however, is violate our free exercise of religion, as Bishop Solis explains in his article on this page.
Contacting your legislator is simple.
Visit https://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp and type in your street address. This will bring up your representative and senator. For their contact information, click on the tab showing him or her.
When sending an email or letter, or calling with a message, it is best to keep it brief and polite. An example follows.
Dear Representative [Name],
I am writing to ask you to oppose the three proposed bills that would rescind the clergy-penitent privilege. Not only would this legislation violate the First Amendment, which guarantees the free exercise of religion, but there is no evidence that it would prevent even one case of child abuse.
I am a Catholic, and the Sacrament of Confession is central to my faith. Legislation that would require a Catholic priest to reveal what was said during the Sacrament of Confession would force him to choose between breaking state law or being excommunicated by the Church – the penalty for violating the Seal of the Confessional. Throughout history, priests have endured torture and died rather than break their solemn vow. Requiring them to break this vow would violate the free exercise of religion.
Not only that, but there is the question of whether such a law would be effective. The Sacrament of Confession is anonymous, and priests have no way of knowing any information about the penitent. Even were a priest willing to break the Seal of the Confessional, he would have no useful information about the penitent to pass on to law enforcement.
Like all people of good will, I believe that children must be protected from any kind of abuse. However, rather than this proposed legislation, there are other, better, ways to prevent child abuse, such as developing prevention strategies, as suggested by the CDC. Therefore, I ask that you oppose the three bills that would rescind the clergy-penitent privilege.
The legislature already is considering these bills, so please contact your legislators as soon as possible.