When Your Religious Confession Is Not Protected

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Apr 13, 2023 | 0 Comments

In the Catholic Church, the act of confession is a sacrament – the first step toward reconciliation, restitution, and, ultimately, redemption. Historically, anything shared with a priest during the act of confession was protected by law. Confession is considered a “sacred space” – and even if the penitent admitted to the most heinous crime, a priest could not break the seal of confession under any circumstances. In fact, many states have laws on the books that exempt both priests and attorneys from having to report even the most despicable crimes. Some even extend to protect communications between penitents and pastors in other religions, too.

Now, however, those laws may be changing. In the state of Delaware, for example, state lawmakers have introduced a new bill that would require priests to break confession in cases where the confessor reports details of alleged child abuse or neglect and report the details to law enforcement or state child protective services. If they don't, they could face a heavy fine. In the wake of the Catholic Church's Abuse Scandal – as well as a number of abuse scandals across other denominations in the United States and abroad – it is expected that other states will follow suit.

Is Your Confession Protected?

That depends on where you are located. For example, some states continue to have a confessional exception in its child abuse and neglect reporting law. New Jersey, however, does not. The state statute reads that “Any person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to child abuse or acts of child abuse shall report the same immediately to the Division of Youth and Family Services or otherwise.”

That means, if you have confessed that you or someone you know may be abusing or neglecting a child, your priest or religious advisor must, under the law, contact the Division of Youth and Family Services to report the matter. It is likely your name will be included when they make that report.

Make Sure Your Rights Are Protected

Your faith is an important part of your life – and confession, as they say, is “good for the soul.” You should not have to change your religious practices or fail to say what you need to in order to receive your penance so you can receive forgiveness. That said, it's important to understand that if you share confidences regarding potential child abuse or neglect in the state of New Jersey, what's said in the confessional may not stay in the confessional. You may be contacted by the authorities and asked to provide more information on the matter.

If this occurs, you should engage experienced representation to help you communicate with the authorities – and deal with any related charges. When you retain attorney Joseph D. Lento and his criminal defense team at the Lento Law Firm, you will have someone on your side who will fight for you every step of the way and make sure your rights are protected. Contact Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today to discuss your case at (888) 535-3686 today.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in New Jersey and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.