Clergy Members Are Mandated Reporters for Elder Abuse

By San Diego County Aging & Independence Services

All clergy in California are considered mandated reporters of elder abuse. This means that if any member of the clergy suspects an elder is being abused, he/she must contact Adult Protective Services.

"Clergy" includes any priest, rabbi, minister, religious practitioner or similar "functionary" of a church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or recognized religious denomination or organization. The law does not currently include unpaid volunteers whose principal occupation or vocation does not involve active or ordained ministry.

A clergy member who acquires knowledge or reasonable suspicion of elder or dependent adult abuse during a penitential communication is not subject to the mandated reporting requirement. "Penitential communication" means a communication that is intended to be in confidence, including, but not limited to, a sacramental confession made to a clergy member who, in the course of the discipline or practice of his or her organization, is authorized or accustomed to hearing those communications and, under the discipline tenets of his or her organization, has a duty to keep those communications secret.