No more confessions: Priest banned for supporting bill to require reporting child abuse

(As originally published with bells and whistles, Mon, March 27th 2023, 2:30 PM EDT)

MILWAUKEE (TND) — A Catholic priest in Milwaukee has been banned from hearing confessions. The controversy started when he endorsed a bill that would require priests to report any child abuse or neglect.

That bill is not being discussed in Wisconsin. HB74 is actually in the Delaware legislature, and it would also force priests to testify in court in abuse and neglect cases.

Delaware HB74 on mandatory reporting by Lenny Cohen on Scribd

The bill’s text says it would take away any privilege “between priest and penitent in a sacramental confession,” leaving the only “legally recognized privilege” between a lawyer and client.

FILE – Father James Connell has been banned from hearing confessions for supporting requiring priests to report any child abuse or neglect they hear. (KMEG file)

Father James Connell is retired from active ministry, according to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Two weeks ago, he wrote an op-ed supporting the bill.

Unquestionably, secrets have a proper place in our lives,” he wrote. “But, if secrets contribute to the abuse or neglect of a minor, that form of secrecy is immoral and detrimental to the common good of the society.

But Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki strongly disagreed, writing in a statement there is no situation “for the removal of the legal protection of the confessional seal.”

Such assertions are gravely contrary to the definitive teachings of the Catholic Church about this sacrament,” he wrote. “The Catholic Church firmly declares that the sacramental seal of confession is always, and in every circumstance without exception, completely inviolable.

“The Archdiocese of Milwaukee remains fully committed to the protection of all people from acts of abuse and neglect,” Listecki continued, without offering any examples as to how.

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