MOORLACH UPDATE — Sacramental Seal of Confession — August 16, 2019

Senate Bill 360, a bill that would have required priests and other religious leaders to break the sacramental seal of confession, was withdrawn last month at the request of the author. It was a reaction to ongoing and disturbing current events (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Leap Day Activities — February 29, 2016).

I addressed my position and votes on SB 360 two months ago (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Review of Recent Votes — June 27, 2019) and also covered this bill as it went through the Senate Committee and Floor process (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Committee Season Has Started — April 3, 2019 and MOORLACH UPDATE — Sacred Votes — May 26, 2019).

Had this bill continued and been approved, as amended, by a majority of the members in the State Assembly, it would have come back to the Senate for concurrence and I would have voted against it. But, holding back my opposition was meant to send a signal. Simply, Roman Catholic Church, you brought this on yourself, and I urge continued reform and accountability.

Emil Monda has crafted an excellent column on this bill for the Laguna Beach Independent, and it is the piece below.

25th Anniversary Look Back

The Business section of the OC Register had two interesting clips in their “Finance Notes” column for June 30, 1994.

The first segment showed how the band played on. The recession at the time had hammered real estate values and reduced property tax revenues. Consequently, the additional revenues from a turbo-charged investment pool, which should have been invested in cash equivalents and not in derivatives (let alone borrowing), were helping the County of Orange balance its budget. At the time, it probably and sadly made sense that the then-Board of Supervisors and its Chief Administrative Officer did nothing.

The second segment indicated there was plenty to worry about. The investment pool being down 22.5 percent in value should have set off alarm bells.

For my last Look Back, see MOORLACH UPDATE — AB 392 and Use of Deadly Force — July 30, 2019.

O.C. gets Standard & Poor’s highest grade for its notes

Standard & Poor’s likes Orange County. The New York credit-rating company has given its highest investment grade to $600 million in short-term notes issued by the county.

“The county has maintained a sound financial position, despite losing property taxes due to the state’s shift of monies to schools,” S&P said in its report. It noted that the county will lose $148 million in property taxes to schools in fiscal 1994. The net loss is softened, however, by $137 million in sales taxes as a result of the passage last November of Proposition 172, the half-cent-on-the-dollar sales tax for public safety.

The county is selling adjustable-rate notes linked to the London Interbank Offering Rate, or Libor index. The county’s goal is to earn interest on the notes in excess of its borrowing costs and transfer the earnings to its general fund.

Others can lose it, too: Speaking of county investments, Treasurer Bob Citron took some heat a few months back after taking a large paper loss on county money invested in high-risk derivatives. He was not the only treasurer to get hit.

Florida’s investment portfolio dropped $175 million in value this year, also because of investments in derivatives. The difference: Florida had entrusted $3 billion of its money to professional Wall Street managers in the hopes of doing better than it could on its own.

One money manager hired by the state put half the $400 million he was handling into risky, mortgage-related derivative investments. Through May 31, his portfolio–which had been touted as a low-risk, high-yield investment plan–was down about $90 million.


Common Sense

People of Faith Under Attack


By Emil Monda

This week, I’m writing about the recent attempt by the California State Senate championed by Sen. Gerald (Jerry) Hill (D-San Mateo) to force a priest, minister, rabbi or imam to report crimes against children, especially sex crimes, when shared with these members of the “clergy” in what is known as the priest penitent privilege. This column is limited in space, so a discussion of the privilege isn’t possible. Suffice it to say that the privilege is not recognized in English common law but is a part of the law in all 50 states. Is this just a Catholic thing? No, it’s not.

On July 9, there was a victory when SB 360 was pulled at the last minute because the bill’s author, Sen. Hill, decided to shelve his bill after learning that it did not have enough votes to pass out of committee.

This happened because there was a massive outpouring against the bill, not only by Catholics, but by members of all faiths all across the country.

“On July 8, a statement signed by Muslim, Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican and Baptist faith leaders as well as representatives from Eastern Catholic rites historic and black churches was delivered to committee members declaring that we are all one with American Roman Catholics in condemning the attack on religious freedom that the current version of California Senate Bill 360 represents.”

Here is the deeper question. What was it that made Sen. Hill and those who voted for this bill believe that it was okay to attack a major religion, and in fact, most religions? No doubt, like many things politicians propose, his intention was to protect children. Intentions are not a substitute for reasoned analysis. The old saw about the road to hell is operative here.

There is no evidence that this change in the privilege would have protected one child. For Catholics, confession may take place face-to-face, but more likely is behind the screen so the priest can never be sure who was confessing and thus the penitent can unburden his soul and seek forgiveness. The Catholic priest hearing a confession is required to maintain secrecy. Should he break that vow, he would be excommunicated and of course no longer be a priest. In the past, Catholic priests have gone to jail rather than break this sacred trust.

I am a Catholic and I am acutely aware of the failings of my church when it comes to crimes involving priests and children. There is no evidence that priests, more precisely child molesters, had confessed this heinous crime to a fellow priest, nor is there any known instance where anyone had made a confession to a priest about molesting a child. (I know it’s secret.)

No, what happened was the bureaucracy of the church lost sight of who the victim was and tried to protect the church by failing to notify authorities when information came to their attention so that a proper police investigation could commence. When bureaucracies protect themselves in the hope of sparing the institution embarrassment, they eventually make things much worse both for the victims and the institution.

If you were to ask Assemblywoman Cottie Petri-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) how she would vote on this measure after hearing from dozens of her constituents, what would she say? I asked, and here’s her answer from her chief of staff: “SB 360 is being held in Assembly Public Safety Committee, and it’s not moving forward this year. Right now it’s a theoretical version of a bill, and could still be amended, so the Assemblywoman will consider it if it comes up for a vote on [a] committee she sits on, or if it comes to the Assembly Floor.”

So, we really don’t know what her position is.

What we do know is that 27 Democrat members of the California Senate voted for it, joined by three Republicans. Only one Democrat voted against it. Republican Sen. John Moorlach, representing the 37th Senate District which includes Laguna Beach, abstained, saying he wanted to send the Catholic Church a message. I hope they received it.

Emil Monda has lived in Laguna Beach for 25 years with his wife, Michèle, and three sons. He is president of the Laguna Beach Republicans and a member of the Laguna Art Museum Board of Trustees.


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