‘Clergy privilege’ study shapes proposed law on protecting abused children

University of Buffalo

April 25, 2019

By Charles Anzalone

Research studying “clergy privilege” by UB School of Law Associate Professor Christine Pedigo Bartholomew heavily influenced legislation proposed by Assembly Member Monica Piga Wallace to add clergy to the list of people in jobs required to report suspicions of child abuse.

Bartholomew studied clergy privilege — the legal rule shielding confidential communications of priests and clergy — and found priests often wanted to divulge information concerning sensitive encounters about people confessing crimes, helping law enforcement find justice for crimes.

But when it came to accusations of sexual abuse against members of their fellow clergy, these priests often tried to find a way to withhold this information from law enforcement officials, citing their clergy privilege, according to Bartholomew’s study.

Bartholomew’s extensive research reviewed every opinion on clergy privilege from the early 1800s to 2016, the first time a legal scholar examined and recorded every opinion on clergy privilege.’

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