Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

7/10/2014 (6 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Priest called to testify in abuse case.

The Louisiana Supreme Court is seeking to compel a Catholic priest to violate the confessional privilege under the state's mandated reporting laws. Under Canon Law, priests are prohibited from disclosing what is discussed in the confessional.

The seal of the sacrament of confession cannot be violated.

The seal of the sacrament of confession cannot be violated.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/10/2014 (6 months ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Priest, confession, abuse, seal, louisiana, supreme court


BATON ROUGE, LA (Catholic Online) - The Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge is criticizing a decision by the Louisiana Supreme Court which seeks to require a priest to break the seal of confession and testify to what he was told by a penitent during the sacrament of confession.

This order would violate Canon Law, the law of the Church, which requires that a priest never disclose what is revealed to him in the confessional. .

Pray for all victims of abuse and the Church in these times.

A statement released by the Diocese says that Rev. Jeff Bayhi and the Diocese itself are defendants in a case where they are being compelled by the court to say whether they heard a confession and what the contents of that confession were.

The specific case involves an allegation of sexual abuse in which a minor daughter of some parishioners claim that she was subjected to inappropriate sexual conduct (abuse) at the hands of an adult parishioner. The child was 12 at the time the alleged abuse occurred.

According to the local sheriff, an investigation was ongoing when the accused man died in 2009 of a sudden heart attack. Local officials say the Church is required under mandated reporting laws to disclose such information to the authorities. The diocese is also accused of failing to train Father Bayhi to report such incidents.

However the Church teaching is very clear on this subject. The seal of confession is sacred and any priest who breaks that seal excommunicates himself, instantly.

Although the Church has been accused of sheltering child abusers, it has taken a hard line stance under Pope Benedict XVI and even harder under Francis. However, these reforms which target clergy who participate in cover-ups, do not change the sacred seal of confession which remains at the core of the Catholic understanding of the Confessional seal.

What is happening is that a civil court is infringing on the religious freedom of the Church..

It is not that the Church wants to protect a deceased man or that the word of the child is disputed. It is that the Church simply cannot comment on whether or not a confession took place and if so, what the details of that confession were. It simply isn't allowed under any circumstances.

"For a civil court to impinge upon the freedom of religion is a clear violation and the matter will be taken to the highest court in the land by the Church in order to protect its free exercise of religion," the statement said.

Unfortunately, while the issue is clear to the Church, it is not clear to the lawyers and judges. A reputation of concealing sexual abuse within the Church has created an attitude of mistrust and  hostility towards priests and anyone in the Church who is seen as trying to cover for a crime.

Worse, specific testimony by the child claims that Father Bayhi told the girl to resolve the matter herself because otherwise "too many people would be hurt."

The child allegedly told Father Bayhi that the man had emailed her excessively and asked to "make love to her." Eventually he touched and kissed her inappropriately.

An appeals court originally ruled that confessions are privileged communications and that mandated reporting does not apply in the confessional, but the state supreme court ruled that confidentiality can only be claimed on behalf of the confessor.

In this case the girl testified to what she said, thus waiving her right to confidentiality. In other words, confidentiality does not apply because the girl told the court in deposition what happened in the confessional.

Whether or not Father Bayhi gave poor advice to a hurting child who was a victim of abuse is a separate matter. Certainly, if he failed in his ministry to protect a child whom he knew was subject to abuse then he should answer for this before God and the Church.

However, the seal of the sacrament of confession is not up for debate or discussion. Supreme courts have jurisdiction over men but they have no jurisdiction over God's law, which is not subject to their review no matter how hard they try.

Fr. Bayhi may not disclose the content of a confession under penalty of excommunication. Nor should he be forced to. The precedent this would establish is far too serious to permit exception.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2015
General Intention:
That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace.
Missionary Intention: That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.



Comments


More U.S.

Could terrorists attempt to attack the White House with a drone? Crash sparks debate over future use of drones in war Watch

Image of A small, four propeller drone, crashed on the White House lawn, spurring a discussion on whether drones may be used by terrorist groups in the future.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A two-foot-long, four propeller drone crashed onto the White House grounds yesterday, raising troubling questions that drones could be utilized by terrorists or other potential murderers to attack the White House or other U.S. government institutions that have ... continue reading


The Thrill of the Chaste: Matt C. Abbott Interviews Dawn Eden Watch

Image of Dawn Eden, author of the highly-acclaimed My Peace I Give You and the Catholic edition of The Thrill of the Chaste

By Matt C. Abbott

Being a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, and receiving Jesus' own Body and Blood in the Eucharist, has given me a deeper understanding of the meaning of being embodied. I see more clearly how chastity enables one to love fully in each relationship, in the ... continue reading


GOP teams up with Israeli prime minister to forcefully override Obama's Iran policy Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

House Speaker John Boehner is seeking to enlist Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to support a congressional plan to override President Obama's Iran policy on March 3. Boehner hopes to bring Netanyahu to a joint session of the House and Senate. Boehner ... continue reading


The Prophetic Connection Between the March for Life and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

It is no accident that the March for Life always falls within the National Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It is prophetic.We have been thrown together in a common defense of life in a western culture which has lost its moral compass. Our Marching together ... continue reading


Early Christian Deacon and Martyr Vincent Calls Us to Heroic Christian Witness in a Hostile Culture Watch

Image of Vincent was born in the Third Century in Huesca, Spain and born again to eternal life only four days into the fourth century. He lived in Saragossa where he served the holy Bishop Valerius as a Deacon.He was one of the scores of Christians who suffered brutal persecution under the evil Roman emperor named Diocletian. Diocletian is associated with the last of the ten persecutions of the nascent undivided Christian Church of the first millennium of our history.  Like many early deacons of the undivided Church such as Stephen, Lawrence and Ephrem, the hagiography which has been passed down through the Church records his holiness of life and heroic virtue. He lived the way he died, as a sign of the power of the Gospel and the truth of the presence of the Risen Jesus Christ in our midst.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The Deacon Vincent was a man like us who encountered the same Risen Lord Jesus whom we have encountered. He struggled with the choices which always accompany living the Christian life in the midst of a culture which has squeezed God and His truth out of the ... continue reading


Caught in the act: Telephone scammers get comeuppance from plucky woman Watch

Image of Becoming pro-active, Rachel Fitzsimmons decided to take action in an effort to spread awareness so that others do not fall for the swindle.

By Troy Dredge, Catholic Online

Telephone solicitors threatening phony legal action are the bane of many people's existence. They typically prey upon "old-timers" who still have landlines in their homes and are home in the evenings. Rachel Fitzsimmons, of Denver, Colorado received such a call ... continue reading


Is Israel beholden to Obama? Should the president be able to hold the American people hostage via threat of veto? Republicans and Israeli prime minister say no! Watch

Image of Benjamin Netanyahu is set to speak before a joint session of Congress on March 3 about keeping nuclear capabilities out of the hands of Iran.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

On March 3, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu will speak before the a joint session of the U.S. Congress, a move which is as much a show of support for Israel from the Republican dominated legislature as it is a rebuff of President Obama. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


Upset over private donations, Liberal protestors barged in on the Supreme Court Watch

Image of Members of 99rise during a protest.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As the Supreme Court opened on January 21, a rare disturbance broke out which caused seven protesters to be removed. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Chief Justice John Roberts was about to announce the day's opinions when a protester stood up and began shouted: "We ... continue reading


The First Right is the Right to Life. It is Time to End Legal Abortion on Demand Watch

Image of The great human rights movement of our age is the struggle to restore to the Civil and positive law the legal recognition of the fundamental Human Right to Life. It is already a fundamental human right, and one which can never be taken away. This Right to Life is the foundation of all other rights. It is the first solidarity issue. The child in the womb is our innocent neighbor. It is wrong to kill any innocent neighbor. We know this and we have perpetuated the lie for too long.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

No one with integrity any longer argues that the little girl or little boy killed through procured abortion is not a human being. When the abortion occurs through miscarriage we properly enter into the mourning of the mother over the loss of the one we call - her ... continue reading


Archbishop Josť H. Gomez: OneLife LA and 9 Days for Life Watch

Image of Archbishop Gomez - In granting a legal right for some people to take the lives of others, the Supreme Court in effect decided that human rights are granted by government - not by God. That gives the government the final say - not only in defining what is right and wrong, but also in deciding who gets to live and who does not. There are many injustices in our society, but the most fundamental is the one our society rarely acknowledges - the routine taking of innocent human life every day through abortion.

By Archbishop Josť H. Gomez

Roe v. Wade continues to shape American consciousness and public life. At the political level, from debates in state legislatures to federal questions about health insurance, our country is clearly still divided over whether to allow abortion and what limits ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Hebrews 10:11-18
11 Every priest stands at his duties every day, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 110:1, 2, 3, 4
1 [Of David Psalm] Yahweh declared to my Lord, 'Take ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 4:1-20
1 Again he began to teach them by the lakeside, but ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for January 28th, 2015 Image

St. Thomas Aquinas
January 28: St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church, patron of ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter