alhla

Clergy Privilege In Confidential Matters

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alhla   

When someone tells you something in confidence does it remain protected after their death?

I've looked at various sites but it was not specifically addressed. Any advice/info is appreciated.

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When someone tells you something in confidence does it remain protected after their death?

I've looked at various sites but it was not specifically addressed. Any advice/info is appreciated.

Typically anything said in a confession should remain in confidence and not be discussed even after the individuals death, to do so otherwise could be viewed as defamation of character, even if it is true.

There are exceptions, most if not all of the States in the US require Priest, rabbis, Imams, etc... to report any confessions relating to child abuse or molestation (both non sexual and sexual). Some states even take it further and require you to report any cases of abuse, molestation, or harm to others that is confessed to you, this can also include self harm such as the individual informing you they plan to commit suicide, though for a possible suicide you should be keeping them there and watch them until medical help arrives anyways so they can be put on suicide watch.

I myself have no issues with a religious figure breaking the oath of confession to in form the proper authorities, if the individual confesses to committing harm against another, the plans to harm another, suicidal threats, or even plans to commit or having committed a major crime such as Bank Robbery, Arson, etc... This way if they are planning on committing the act and do follow through the authorities have a suspect, and the religious figure doesn't have to worry about being brought up on charges as an accessory to the crime (since they knew about the plans before the crime happened) or a lawsuit if the victim (or their family) find out that the religious figure knew about the suspects plans.

Other things no matter how juicy the confession might be you keep secret the rest of your life. If Mayor Joe or Senator Mike comes to you and confesses having an affair behind their spouses back sleeping with a hot young model, while the local news, national news or tabloids would love to get the story (along with the political opponents so they can use it to discredit or blackmail the one who confessed to you), it must remain a secret, unless the above mentioned affair was with a minor (in this case the laws would view the affair as sexual molestation of a minor, or statutory rape even if the minor consented to the affair). Another example would be if someone came and confessed to using drugs recreationally while, and they are now in an important position withing their work or they have political aspirations, even though this information could ruin them you keep it secret and never inform.

Easiest advice short of suggesting you talk to an actual lawyer (which is legally the only way you can get legal advice) is to use your judgement and ask yourself is the individual confessing causing or planing to case harm to others, or themselves or commit a major crime? if the individual did commit the acts with you knowing about it would you be able to have that on your conscious and live with the guilt especially if some one is seriously injured or even killed?

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alhla   

Great info. The matter of my concern is not quite as serious, exciting or juicy as the examples you cite. But I will keep all for reference. If the matter disclosed to you becomes public information at a later time, then I take it, it still was in confidence and although now public knowledge it should not be disclosed that you already knew it [days, weeks, months or years] prior to public disclosure. Is this also the case?

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Songster   

In my opinion, telling the living the secrets of the dead benefits no one.

But then again, I'm not a lawyer, or anybody's spiritual advisor, so I can't answer as to whether you would be legally or spiritually bound to your promise. To me, it would depend upon what was said...

I've taken vows to keep the secrets of a Brother Mason if they were communicated to me as such, but even with those vows I am allowed to make moral exceptions... If he told me he committed murder, or treason... I would not wait until he was dead. I'd give him up while he was still alive...

If he told me that he cheated on his wife, or his taxes... I keep quiet.

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alhla   

Again, great information. Thank you both for your thoughts and insightful advice. It is as I imagined, but I was just looking for another point of view -- although there isn't one. Thanks so much for the forum support.

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Alhla-

Your welcome, as I said that is my interpretation, I personally, even if not required by law, will break the confidence , like Songster said he would, if the confession pertained to harming another (or themselves) or a major crime like Murder or Treason (which could lead to individuals getting killed because of the information or treasonous action, and iirc Treason is the only crime in which the our fore fathers have stated a specific punishment for in the US Constitution). While "cheating" on ones taxes is a crime, it is one that can easily be caught by the IRS if they do an audit, but the individual hasn't cause any physical damage or injury to anyone or anything.

Ultimately it breaks down in my book as follows:

1) Gossip (Cheating on taxes, having an affair, past drug use, traffic violations, in appropriate thoughts about a member of the opposite or same gender, etc...) you keep to yourself even after the individual is gone. releasing said confession is nothing more then gossip.

2) Criminal activity (Planning Murder, bank robbery, arson, committing the acts, along with acts such as crimes against a child, suicide threats, rape of an individual, intentionally maiming/causing bodily harm {now if it was say a fight that was unplanned I would count that as gossip}, treason, etc...) you inform the proper authorities, as these individuals are a danger to others and themselves.

Again what we tell you is only our opinions and not legal advice, for legal advice you need to speak to a lawyer.

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alhla   

All is good. My philosophy is that if life or limb is in jeopardy defensive action should be taken. Or, as you put it, "gossip" worthy events... well, those can remain in the shadows. Whatever hurt or heartbreak may come will inspire spiritual growth. Still, my situation doesn't quite fall in either category but I have enough feedback to know I'm doing the right thing. Blessings to all.

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ULCneo   
On ‎3‎/‎17‎/‎2015 at 8:40 PM, alhla said:

When someone tells you something in confidence does it remain protected after their death?

I've looked at various sites but it was not specifically addressed. Any advice/info is appreciated.

In the United States, the exact requirements differ by state law. In most, if not all states, the law invokes penitent privilege so long as the penitent person "reasonably believed" he was dealing with a licensed minister, regardless of whether or not that minister is actually ordained or not. Also, a good number of states also consider the clergy to be "mandatory reporters" for purposes of all forms of child abuse (particularly with respect to sex offenses.) Other than this, for clerical privilege to apply the context of the conversation must be within the scope of ministerial duties, meaning you must be acting as that person's minister at the time of the conversation.  That said, in some states both the clergy and the penitent may invoke the privilege, and in some other states, only the penitent has the authority to invoke the privilege. (which is impossible if the penitent is deceased.)  This is where one needs to consult with a local attorney to find out what the law is in their area.

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RevSam   

in my humble opinion, and it's worth exactly that -- 

Anything told to you "with the collar on" [for lack of a better term] should stay with you, forever -- unless they give you specific approval to discuss it otherwise.  As a Minister, you're in a position of trust, and their trust in you should extend beyond their life in this world.  If they're no longer in this world with us -- they don't have the ability to give you the permission to discuss the matter, so I wouldn't, usually.

Not privy to the specifics of the matter you find yourself in conflict over, I'll say this much: use your best judgement.   Is it something that needs to be revealed?  If not, it's most likely best that it remain priviledged and stay with you.  That person, it would seem, is no longer amongst us in this world, and is not able to be here to defend themselves against whatever information that gets out.  Unless it's to serve a higher purpose [i.e., if a life was endangered, or something equally sacrosanct], to me, revealing something told to me "with the collar on," is a violation of a sacred trust; that serves to erode the legitimacy of a Minister's Priviledge.

Use your best judgement.  Maybe discuss the generalites [I wouldn't go into specifics] of the issue with another Minister, or someone you trust, and get a second opinion.

-- Rev. Samuel
Universal Life Church of Michigan

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