Proposed Law on the Confessional Seal Withdrawn by the California Senate

July 15, 2019

California’s bill to force priests to break the seal of the confessional was withdrawn by its sponsor on the eve of its review on July 9, 2019 in Sacramento, California.

Senate Bill 360 was passed by a large majority of the California State Senate in May 2019; it would have required every priest to violate the seal of sacramental confession in cases of mistreatment of minors or vulnerable persons.

The decision to withdraw the bill by Senator Jerry Hill—the sponsor of the controversial plan—came on July 8, 2019, following the release of the Public Safety Committee’s report. The report raised a number of concerns relating to the First Amendment, which protects religious liberty in the United States. It emphasizes the difficulty of enforcing such a law and applying it in reality.

The withdrawal of the plan is also the result of the unprecedented mobilization of California Catholics: more than 100,000 letters of protest were sent to the Senate in Sacramento.

The Catholic hierarchy also did not fail to react: Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland declared in May 2019 that he would prefer “to go to jail rather than obey this attack on our religious freedom.”

This abandonment of the controversial bill also comes after the publication, on July 1, 2019, of a decree by the Apostolic Penitentiary, approved by the pope, which restates the inviolability of the sacramental seal of confession.