Some in Albany Want to Make Clergy Report Possible Abuse

By Richard Perez-Pena (New York Times)
March 16, 2002

Seven times since 1973, the Legislature has taken up the question of who must report suspected child abuse, applying that requirement to many professions, but it never seriously considered adding ministers, rabbis, priests and imams to the list.

That could be about to change, in the face of increasing reports of sexual abuse of children by priests. Prominent lawmakers in both houses now advocate extending that mandate to clergy members. The Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, has said his chamber will soon take up such a bill, and the leaders of the State Senate say they are considering doing the same.

Veteran legislators and aides give a number of reasons members of the clergy were not added in the past to the list of ''required reporters,'' including a sense that the state should impose such a requirement only on professions that it licenses and regulates. But mostly, they cite a deep reluctance to involve the state in religious affairs -- and, in particular, to offend the Roman Catholic Church, which has been a potent political force in the state.