‘Dangerous’ bill on seal of confession withdrawn before key hearing

By Catholic News Service
Wednesday, July 10, 2019

LOS ANGELES — In a last-minute twist, a California bill that would have required priests to break the sacramental seal of confession was shelved by its sponsor amid a remarkable grassroots campaign mounted by the state’s Catholics, members of other faith groups, and religious liberty advocates from across the country.

S.B. Bill 360 was withdrawn the day before a scheduled July 9 hearing in the California Assembly Public Safety Committee, effectively removing it from any further consideration this year.

“S.B. 360 was a dangerous piece of legislation,” said Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, who had led the California bishops in opposing the bill.

“If any legislature can force believers to reveal their innermost thoughts and feelings shared with God in confession, then truly there is no area of human life that is free or safe from government,” he added.

The bill’s author, state Democratic Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo decided to shelve his bill after learning that it did not have enough votes to pass out of the committee.

Hill’s decision came on the same day that the Public Safety Committee released a staff report raising serious First Amendment and enforceability concerns about the proposed law, while noting that no other state had taken such an approach to the sacrament.

In its original form, S.B. 360 would have ordered priests to disclose any information they might hear in confession concerning the sexual abuse of minors.

An amended version of the bill — which would deny confidential confessions to priests and church personnel who work with priests — passed the California Senate in a 30-2 vote May 24.

Archbishop Gomez had previously called the proposed legislation “a mortal threat to the religious freedom of every Catholic” in a May 17 column for Angelus, and was joined by the rest of the state’s Catholic bishops in asking faithful to urge their state representatives to oppose the bill.


  • religious freedom
  • confession

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