Ethics 1, #7

This entry was posted on August 22, 2012 under Clergy Program, Ethics 1. Written by:

Discuss the meaning of confidential privilege, the laws in your state that provide for this privilege and the extent to which it applies to clergy-lay communications in your community. (200 words minimum)

The meaning of confidential privilege, or commonly known as penitent privilege, is the practice of protecting the substance shared between a clergy-person and the “penitent” or confessant in confidentiality (“Priest-penitent Privilege”).

In Pennsylvania, the law of pentient privilege is listed in Civil code 42 Pa.C.S. § 5943 (“Certain Privileges and Immunities”) which states that any Clergy of an established church or religious organization that has acquired information in confidence is compelled or allowed without consent to disclose that information in any legal proceeding, trial or investigation before any government unit.

Further research indicates that in 1959 penitent privilege was instituted into federal common law by the Tenth Circuit (“The Clergy-Communicant Privilege in Pennsylvania”, “Religious Confession Privilege and the Common Law”).  In addition, as of 2008 there are only 27 states that are exempt from reporting if information they receive of abuse was given in confidentiality, and Pennsylvania is included in that list (“Religious Confession Privilege and the Common Law”).

The extent to which confidential privilege applies to clergy-lay communication in my community is,  partially referenced in the ADF Clergy Code of Ethics adopted by the Clergy Council in 2011, are the concepts of Service, Competency, and Integrity.  These concepts as a whole adopt principles of responsibility to the folk, the kindred, and taking care of ones self.  It also touches on competency of our knowledge-base and skills and the development and maintenance of those skills that we may use regularly in our work, as well as the training of others in these skillsets.  Finally, we are obligated through our personal integrity to promote excellence, responsibility to our duties, and unbiased action in our servitude.

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