Guest Column: Require clergy to be mandated reporters in New York

The Daily Gazette [Schenectady NY]

March 4, 2024

By Ottavio Lo Piccolo

I am a retired schoolteacher and a veteran. I also have been a Roman Catholic all my life.

In my two professions, safeguarding children from harm and abuse was a top priority.

However, recently I was shocked to learn that in New York state clergy are not required to be mandated reporters of child and adult abuse.

While all other professionals who are in contact with children in New York state are required by law to report any suspicion when a child or elderly person is being sexually abused, clergy in our state are not required by law to report it.

According to the John Jay Report, 4,392 priests and deacons were facing allegations of sexual abuse of minors or sexual misconduct between 1950 and 2002.

Of the 4,392 clergy members analyzed in the report, 1,021 of the incidents were reported to the police. Of these 1,021 accused clergy members, 252, or roughly 25%, were criminally convicted.

The database contains more than 6,000 Catholic clergy members accused of abuse in the United States. However, this number underestimates the full scope of abuse in the Catholic Church.

Many survivors of clergy abuse may never come forward with their experiences, so the exact number isn’t known.

Between 1950 and 2002, approximately 4% of Catholic clergy members in the United States faced credible allegations of child sexual abuse. This is a great injustice, since thousands of children in our state, in the U.S. and all over the world have been sexually abused by the clergy.

And although 28 states already mandate clergy to report any form of child maltreatment, New York has yet to approve such an important measure.

This, however, could change soon, since the state Legislature is getting ready to vote on a bill designed to stop these abuses. The Child Abuse Reporting Expansion Act, also known as the CARE Act, will require clergy members to be reporters of child abuse or mistreatment.

I urge every voter in New York to support this important legislation. We can do so by doing the following. I already did it and it’s quite easy!

First, contact your state Assembly representative and send his/her staff this message: “Please tell assemblyman/woman (state his/her name), to support and vote for Assembly Bill A1581, the CARE Act. If you live in Schenectady County, in District 111, your Assembly member is Angelo Santabarbara; tel. 518-455-5197.

Second, call and write your state senator, and give his/her staff the same message: “Please tell the senator (state his/her name) to support and vote for the CARE Act: Bill S3158.

Third, call Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 518-474-8390 and relay this message: “Please tell the governor to sign the CARE Act: Bill A1581/ S3158. If possible, also please write the governor at:

Fourth, sign this petition by CFCtoo Coalition:

As of Monday, it had gained 634 signatures toward a goal of 1,000.

Be aware that clergy who oppose requiring clergy to be mandated reporters say that confidentiality in the confessional takes precedence over human safety.

This is an affront to human dignity. In reality, clergy leadership worries about being sued. Furthermore, many have neglected and forgotten the greatest commandment that Jesus taught Christians: Love one another as I have loved you.

Additionally, Jesus’ main concern was people’s needs, their human rights and dignity.

It wasn’t the law, rules or doctrine, although he respected the law. He said: “I have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.”

I hope that you too will support the CARE Act for the safety of our children and our dignity.

Ottavio Lo Piccolo, a member of Saint Luke’s Church in Schenectady, is a retired schoolteacher and a retired U.S. veteran.