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Catholic Conference of KY Opposes Assault on Religious Freedom

Frankfort, KY (January 7, 2003) – The Catholic Conference of Kentucky announced today its opposition to proposed legislation before the 2003 Kentucky General Assembly. Representative Susan Westrom of Lexington has introduced a legislative proposal, House Bill 58, which would remove the clergy-penitent protections in reporting instances of child abuse or neglect. CCK views the proposed legislation as an assault on the First Amendment’s guarantees to practice one's religion free of government interference.

According to Vincent E. Senior, CCK’s Executive Director, "The confidentiality of the confessional is at the very heart of the Catholic faith and must not be infringed upon by state government. If this legislation passes, it would seriously damage the historical inviolability of the seal of confession." In fact, a priest may not violate the seal of confession even to save his own life. Any priest who violates the seal of confession faces automatic excommunication from the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 1467) cites the Code of Canon Law (No. 1388.1) in addressing this issue, which states, "A confessor who directly violates the seal of confession incurs an automatic excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; if he does so only indirectly, he is to be punished in accord with the seriousness of the offense."

The right of each American to practice his or her own religion, or no religion at all, is a fundamental freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. CCK is calling on Kentucky’s General Assembly to recognize the Constitutional issues that HB 58 presents. According to Senior, "Americans enjoy a degree of religious freedom unlike any in the world and I doubt if this legislation would pass a Constitutional test."

The Catholic Conference of Kentucky is the public policy agency of the state’s four Roman Catholic Bishops.

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Catholic Conference of Kentucky

1042 Burlington Lane

Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

502-875-4345 502-875-2841 Fax cckstaffATccky.org

Last modified: October, 2010