A common question when talking about abuse in the church is related to Clergy/Pastor/Priest - Penitent Privilege. This privilege differs from state to state. The below definition should help in your understanding when discussing this topic.Clergy, Pastor, Priest - Penitent Privilege
The priest-penitent privilege protects communications between a person and a clergy member acting in a professional capacity as a spiritual advisor from disclosure. A clergyman uses the priest-penitent privilege to refuse to divulge confidential information received from a person during confession or similar exchanges.
Movements to repeal the priest-penitent privilege have been mounted in some states. In the wake of the awful child abuse scandals, several legislatures throughout the country are considering laws which would require the clergy to inform authorities of any cases of suspected child abuse.