A bill that would require clergy in Iowa to report suspicions of child sexual abuse is on the debate schedule in the Iowa House next week. House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Democrat from Des Moines, says if the bill becomes law, clergy would be added to a list of "mandatory" reporters of child sex abuse.
"So that if clergy becomes aware that another colleague of theirs in the clergy had committed a form of sex abuse, they would be required to report that to the law enforcement authorities — like teachers do, like doctors do — under the law," McCarthy says. McCarthy expects some legislators may raise objections, as a similar bill was debated in 2004 and failed to pass the legislature. But McCarthy says he’s read reports of hundreds of confirmed cases of clergy abuse and that’s why he’s pushing the bill forward for debate.
"It’s an issue that’s been out there enough that I think it makes sense for the protection of children," McCarthy says. The proposed bill would not force clergy to reveal child sex abuse incidents which they learn about through confession or in confidential sessions.
"Penitential communication" are the legal words used in the bill to describe those two exceptions. The Iowa Catholic Conference has registered in favor of the bill, along with Prevent Child Abuse Iowa. Opponents include the Iowa Bar Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa.