According to the Diocese of Wilmington, breaking the seal of confession as a Catholic priest would incur an automatic ex-communication that could only be pardoned by the Pope himself. 

DOVER, Del.- A proposed bill in the Delaware Legislature would require Roman Catholic priests to report confessions relating to child abuse and neglect.

However, the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, which oversees 56 parishes and 27 schools throughout Delaware and parts of Maryland, is questioning the merit of the legislation. 

Officials there said the seal of confession is one of the most important sacraments in the Catholic religion, calling this a challenge to religious liberties.

"It's really disheartening and surprising that Delaware lawmakers are considering making this move," said CDOW spokesperson Robert Krebs.

In a statement, the Diocese said this law "would be nearly impossible to meet in a practical sense, as the overwhelming majority of sacramental confessions are anonymous, and wholly impossible to meet without violating a fundamental tenet of our faith." 

We spoke with some Catholic churchgoers in Kent County. Many who support the bill as a means of protecting children. 

"I went to Catholic school in my life, and I understand about the oath and what goes on, but what people don't understand is that if you get abused as a child, later on in life you might become the child abuser yourself," said Dwayne Walker of Magnolia. "If you don't report it, you can't help." 

One neighbor in Camden, Chris Green, believes "the kids are our future, and we've got to protect them whether it's in church or on the streets or in school," he said "it's time to make a change." 

The diocese believes this is not the way to safeguard children in the state.

"Obviously we are for anything that's going to protect children, but this bill would not contribute to such efforts in any meaningful way," Krebs said. "The only thing it's going to do is infringe on our First Amendment rights – the right to freedom of religion, and this is a very important part of our religion that's guaranteed by the Constitution."

Krebs also mentioned the Catholic Canon Law, which states that a priest who violates the seal of confession is automatically excommunicated from the Church.

The bill will likely be heard in the House Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks, and if it moves forward, the Diocese of Wilmington says it will take appropriate action to protect the rights of Catholics in Delaware.