Even if you’re not Catholic, you probably already know that confessions made to Catholic priests are protected both by the church and the government. But that doesn’t mean that anyone of any religion can tell their religious leader about past crimes and expect those same spiritual and legal protections. Here’s what you should know about religious confessions and their status under the law courtesy of Fallbrook criminal lawyer Peter M. Liss.
The Catholic Church is very dedicated to the sanctity of confession and priests can actually be excommunicated from the church if they reveal something heard during confession. While a priest may urge someone to confess or warn police that a person is in danger, he may not reveal information regarding the confessor’s identity. In one case in Oregon, when the police secretly taped a confessional booth, the Church not only insisted the tape be excluded from evidence, but also pushed for the recording to be immediately destroyed. The bottom line is that if you feel the need to confess to a crime but don’t want to risk getting caught, any criminal defense lawyer in Escondido will agree that you can always attend confession at a Catholic church -even if you are not actually Catholic yourself.
When it comes to confessing to religious leaders of other faiths though, things are not nearly so black and white. Each organization has its own rules about the sanctity of confessions to spiritual leaders and while some protect such conversations, others establish policies they believe will help those who have “gone astray.” In fact, some churches have written doctrines that require spiritual leaders to inform other members of the church -in some cases the full congregation, when they feel someone has sinned. The First Amendment’s protections of religious freedoms allow churches to handle confessions however they see fit, whether that means keeping them entirely secret from everyone else, like the Catholic church, or telling all other members of the church. Even for Catholics, evidence of child abuse acquired when the communication is not confidential makes the priest subject to mandatory reporting. That is why San Marcos criminal attorneys urge anyone who wants to speak to their spiritual leaders about a crime to do some research first and only confess where your admissions are safe. If you are not 100% certain that your church protects confessions, then do not confess unless you are prepared to handle the consequences of your confession being shared.
If you still aren’t sure whether you should talk to your religious leader about a crime you have committed, please call Rancho Bernardo defense attorney Peter M. Liss first. You can schedule a free initial consultation by calling (760) 643-4050.
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