North Dakota Bill Threatening Seal of Confession Withdrawn

The co-sponsor of SB 2180 in the North Dakota legislature, a bill that would require Catholic priests to break the seal of the confessional and report cases of child abuse learned of while administering the sacrament of Reconciliation, has withdrawn the bill.

State Sen. Judy Lee (R – West Fargo), requested that the bill be withdrawn from consideration because it had become a “distraction” and claimed a “lack of understanding of the goal” of the bill.

This is good news. Other states, such as California and Utah, have had similar bills introduced, but none have been passed so far.

No legislator or state prosecutor has come forward with any evidence that the sacramental seal of Confession has proved an obstacle to the reporting of child abuse in any state. As such, rather than actually protecting children, it serves more as a cynical political means for legislators to demonstrate to constituents their desire to protect for children. Furthermore, it is unlikely that any priest would break the seal of Confession, even if threatened with fines and/or imprisonment. If such a law were passed, priests could (and should) simply return to the practice of only hearing confessions behind a screen, thereby providing plausible deniability regarding the identity of anyone confessing. If invading the confessional can be justified in cases of child abuse, it can be justified in other matters as well, such as murder, rape, or any crime that prosecutors and state legislatures choose. This would render the seal of the sacrament effectively useless. Finally, the bill is an obvious violation of the Constitutionally protected freedom of religion.

There are better, more effective ways of protecting children. Legislators should put their efforts there.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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