Priests and pastors would be required to report suspected child abuse under legislation introduced by four legislators. Democrat Representative Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines is one of the bill’s four sponsors.McCarthy says he’s be lying if he said the sex abuse crisis within the Catholic Church wasn’t a primary motivation for the bill, but he says it does fill a couple of voids in state law. Thirty-three other states require members of the clergy to be so-called “mandatory reporters” of child abuse but more importantly it requires the Catholic Church to turn over child abuse investigations to authorities. The bill, however, lets priests keep silent about any child abuse that’s admitted in the confessional. Republican Representative Kent Kramer of Johnston says that’s crucial. Kramer says it’s important to allow people to come to people they trust in the confessional booth, a communication the Catholic church considers sacred. Republican Representative Willard Jenkins of Waterloo talked about the proposal with his Presbyterian minister. Jenkins’ paster said she’d welcome the law because it would allow her to explain to folks she’s counseling that she is required by law to report suspected abuse. Stephen Scott, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, says members of the clergy are often asked to respond to problems in families.The bill is sponsored by two Republicans and two Democrats. In addition, two of the sponsors are Catholic, the two others are Protestants.
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