Lesson 2 - Ethical and Legal Considerations


It is generally expected that personal matters divulged to clergy are held in confidence, but a moral as well as legal obligation to report exists when there is the possibility that a child is being harmed. In California, penitential communications are exempt from the requirement to report suspected abuse or neglect. However, the clergy-penitent privilege is typically interpreted narrowly by the courts in the context of child maltreatment. In addition, California Evidence Code Section 1032 provides a qualification to this exemption: “As used in this article, "penitential communication" means a communication made in confidence, in the presence of no third person so far as the penitent is aware, to a member of the clergy…”.

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