Saint Mateo Correa Magallanes was a priest and a Knight of Columbus. During the persecution of the Church in Mexico in 1927, he had a choice to make.
He was in the jails hearing confessions from prisoners rounded up by the government. Now, a general was pressing a gun to his head, threatening to kill him if he did not disclose what prisoners had told him in confession.
Mateo said, “You can do that, but just know that a priest must keep the seal of confession. I am willing to die.” Shortly after that, he was taken to the outskirts of town and killed.
Every priest takes his obligations as a confessor seriously.
We know it is a beautiful duty and a privilege to guide souls and grant forgiveness in God’s name. Mateo and many priests down through the centuries have chosen to suffer rather than betray the confidentiality of what they hear in confession.
Confession is sacred — to every priest and every Catholic.
That is why I am greatly disturbed by a bill that is moving through the California legislature. Senate Bill 360 would order priests to disclose information they might hear in confession concerning the sexual abuse of minors.
Sometimes the best intentions can lead to bad legislation. That is the case with SB 360.
Child sexual abuse is a horrible sin and crime that afflicts every area of our society. In the Catholic Church, we have grappled with this scandal for many years.
Across the state, dioceses have put in place policies and programs to keep children safe. We fingerprint and do background checks on Church personnel, we have staff who help victims, and we have strict protocols for dealing with allegations against priests and others who work for the Church.
As a result, new cases of child sexual abuse by priests are rare in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and other dioceses in California.
Every case is one too many. And the Church remains vigilant in protecting children and we are committed to helping all victim-survivors find healing.
From a public policy standpoint, if the goal is to prevent child sexual abuse, it does not make sense to single out Catholic priests and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, which is the formal name for confession.
Read more from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles