Clergy granted decision whether to report child abuse confessions

Clergy will be allowed to “listen to their own conscience” in deciding whether or not to report a case of suspected child abuse or neglect, according to action taken May 7 at the 2004 General Conference.

Except in cases where mandatory reporting is required by civil law, clergy will be allowed to maintain all confessional confidences.

Those speaking against the motion stressed the greater duty of the clergy to children rather than to confidentiality.

Those opposed to making it mandatory to report such cases said it would be damaging to the pastoral role if people knew the pastor was being forced to disclose confidential information.

“The pastor must make the tough call on whether or not to report suspected cases of abuse or neglect,” said the Rev. Rebekah L. Miles, a delegate from Arkansas, speaking for the Higher Education and Ministry Legislative Committee.

“This gives the pastor the right to listen to his or her own conscience and the higher authority of God.”

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer.

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