Nevada lawmaker may withdraw confession disclosure bill

Sen. Dina Titus said Thursday she may withdraw her bill to force Roman Catholic priests to disclose details of child abuse or neglect that they hear in confessions.

Titus, D-Las Vegas, said she'll consult later this month with representatives of the Catholic Church and the Nevada Coalition Against Sexual Violence, the 160-member, Las Vegas-based child advocacy group that sought SB223.

Depending on what she hears about the bill, Titus said she may "choose to withdraw it altogether and work on alternatives to better protect children from abuse or neglect."

After SB223 was introduced, Titus said she got calls from many Catholics who said they share her concern about protecting children but fear the affect the bill would have on their religious practices.

"Certainly, we want to find ways to prevent child abuse and neglect and to get abused children out of that abusive situation as quickly as possible," Titus said.

"On the other hand, we want to preserve the sanctity of the confession in the Catholic Church."

SB223 would remove an exemption in the law shielding priests from reporting the cases.

Jodi Tyson, director of the coalition that sought the bill, said it's needed "to level the playing field," because other people -- lawyers, doctors, social workers, employees of child care centers -- must report cases of child abuse and neglect.

The bill comes in the state's first legislative session since several priest sex abuse cases rocked the Catholic Church, including the case of a former Henderson priest, Mark Roberts, who pleaded guilty Jan. 2 to open and gross lewdness and four counts of child abuse and neglect.

The Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas opposed the bill, saying it would violate the sacred relationship between believers and their God.

Brother Matthew Cunningham, chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Reno, said priests throughout church history have been executed for refusing to reveal what took place in the confessional.

Cunningham also said he'd be surprised if the bill passes, and that the church would challenge the bill in court.

SB223 would apply to confessions made after Oct. 1 this year. Failure to make the reports would be a misdemeanor, and the reports would have to identify the child and the alleged offender.

Legislatures in Arizona, Iowa, Maryland, Washington, Florida and West Virginia are considering similar bills.


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