Clergy as Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect - California

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The Requirement for Clergy to Report 

Citation: Penal Code § 11165.7(a)

A mandated reporter includes a clergy member and any custodian of records of a clergy member.

As used in this article, 'clergy member' means a priest, minister, rabbi, religious practitioner, or similar functionary of a church, temple, or recognized denomination or organization.

Privileged Communications

Citation: Penal Code § 11166(d)

A clergy member who acquires knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse during a penitential communication is not required to make a report. For the purposes of this subdivision, 'penitential communication' means a communication intended to be in confidence—including, but not limited to, a sacramental confession—made to a clergy member who in the course of the discipline or practice of their church, denomination, or organization is authorized to hear or is accustomed to hearing those communications and under the discipline, tenets, customs, or practices of their church, denomination, or organization, has a duty to keep those communications secret. 

This subdivision does not modify or limit a clergy member's duty to report known or suspected child abuse when a clergy member is acting in some other capacity that would otherwise make the clergy member a mandated reporter. 

A clergy member or any custodian of records for the clergy member may report to an agency specified in § 11165.9 that the clergy member or any custodian of records for the clergy member, prior to January 1, 1997, in their professional capacity or within the scope of their employment, other than during a penitential communication, acquired knowledge or had a reasonable suspicion that a child had been the victim of sexual abuse and that the clergy member or any custodian of records for the clergy member did not previously report the abuse to an agency specified in § 11165.9.