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Church endorses Massachusetts child abuse law

A bill in the US state of Massachusetts that would require clergy to report suspected child abuse has gained an eleventh hour crucial endorsement from the local Catholic Church.

As recently as earlier this month, the church had criticised the legislation as a threat to the confidentiality of conversations between priests and individual Catholics. But the church said in a statement last week that it now supports the bill.

"I'm elated," said Democratic state Sen. James Jajuga, the bill's sponsor. "If there had been mandated reporting among clergy before, we could have saved some kids from abuse."

Jajuga, a Catholic, has pushed the bill unsuccessfully in the past three legislative sessions. Each time, the Catholic Church opposed it.

A statement from the Massachusetts Catholic Conference said its executive director, Gerry D'Avolio, would help lawmakers pass the bill during the current two-year session.

D'Avolio had earlier expressed fears that requiring priests to report conversations in the rectory or anywhere else would violate the trust people have in them.

The issue is an especially sensitive one in Massachusetts, where three-quarters of legislators are Catholic.

Massachusetts Catholic Conference
Massachusetts Catholic Conference Supports Legislation Mandating Clergy Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse (Conference Statement)