What lawmakers concerned about child abuse get wrong about church confessions

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Tuesday, January 2, 2024 - 11:44am

Audio icon Download mp3 (11.3 MB)

The Arizona Supreme Court dismissed a high-profile child sex abuse lawsuit against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints late last year, ruling in favor of church officials because of Arizona's clergy-penitent privilege. The justices said the officials had no duty to report that a church member had been abusing his daughter because the information was received during a confession. 

The ruling sparked outrage from some, and at the same time, one Democratic lawmaker tried to introduce a bill in the Arizona Legislature that would make it mandatory for clergy to report child abuse even if they learn about it in a confessional setting. The bill was blocked by Republican Rep. Quang Nguyen, who said, as a Catholic, he saw it as an affront to an essential sacrament in his faith. 

So what is the religious defense of this clergy-penitent privilege? And why is it to essential to many faiths? 

For some insight into those questions, The Show got a hold of Dr. Michael Mazza, a Catholic canon and civil lawyer as well as a professor at Marquette Law School in Milwaukee. 

More stories from KJZZ

PoliticsThe ShowLaw Enforcement Social Justice