Legal Dictionary

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Clergy Penitent Privilege

The clergy-penitent privilege is an evidentiary privilege that keeps confidential communications between an individual and his spiritual advisor from being disclosed in court proceedings. The individual “holds” the privilege, so neither he nor his spiritual advisor can be compelled to reveal what was communicated unless the individual waives the privilege. A privilege can be waived by failing to assert it in a timely manner, by consent to disclosure or by doing something that implies consent to disclose the privileged information, e.g., voluntarily testifying about what a priest recommended during a confession. The clergy-penitent privilege is the same as the “clergy-communicant privilege.”