Break the Seal said Baton Rouge Court

A little girl was violated by someone. She went to Confession. She told her parents and they filed suit against the Church and a Priest, Father Bayhi to make him break the seal and defend himself against charges of being accomplice to the acts because of his silence. While my heart breaks for those whose lives were devastated by what happened, the perp isn’t the Priest and the Louisiana Supreme Court is way out of line. The Zenit article contains the Diocese’s response. I’ve quoted the part of the Diocese’s Response that impresses me the most:

"The position of the Diocese of Baton Rouge and Fr. Bayhi is that the Supreme Court of Louisiana has run afoul of the constitutional rights of both the Church and the priest, more particularly, has violated the Establishment Clause and the separation of Church and State under the first amendment. 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. "


Americans , given the almost pathological hatred for any sort of Christianity now aggressively being push across your constitutional law, should expect more of this.
In England the Anglican and Catholic churches are so weak the Anglicans have given up the sanctity of the confessional and the English Catholic Church will be under greater attack on this issue
In Australia the left wing Labor party was considering make compulsion of such breach a law, but wiser heads eventually ruled.
The anti-Catholic hysteria will use the normal compassion felt for all victims of abuse to attack the authority of the church still respected by the civil authorities.

I understand the Church’s position, but it is clearly wrong.

It is objectively evil to protect the rights of a rapist over the rights of his victims, particularly if the perpetrator is continuing to offend. If this offender is continuing his attacks, the priest and the diocese are legal accomplices for sure, and I would argue moral accomplices as well.

The perpetrator can still confess and receive absolution, but he shouldn’t be able to hide from criminal responsibility with complicity of the church.

Clearly there are competing interests here, but how the church can lift those of the perpetrator over the victim, I’ll never know.

Already being discussed here:

:dts: :nope:

but it is clearly wrong.

:nope: :dts: :whacky:

It is objectively evil to protect the rights of a rapist over the rights of his victims, particularly if the perpetrator is continuing to offend. If this offender is continuing his attacks, the priest and the diocese are legal accomplices for sure, and I would argue moral accomplices as well.

No, it isn’t. And I fully stand by the right of the priest to conceal information from the state.

The perpetrator can still confess and receive absolution, but he shouldn’t be able to hide from criminal responsibility with complicity of the church.

You don’t get to make the rules. :whacky:

Clearly there are competing interests here, but how the church can lift those of the perpetrator over the victim, I’ll never know.

Because God’s law trumps that of man and feeling good inside.

I personally know Fr. Bayhi and his family. He’s a wonderful and holy man- and I trust him enough to know that he kept the seal of confession yet probably advised the girl to either speak to him outside of the confessional or to tell her parents. He, of course, can’t even defend himself, for to keep the seal means he can’t even acknowledge that she came into the confessional! I will pray for him, the girl and her family and the soul of the dead abuser. This is a horrible situation and an attack on this sacrament by a secular court.

I am sorry but objectively, you are wrong here. Here’s why.

The church is not an Earthly institution. It’s goal is to help people to get into Heaven y sanctifying them. One of those ways is cleanse peoples souls through Reconciliation. The reason why it is bad for a priest to ever tell what he heard, even under a court order where there is a clear justice at hand, is that it could discourage people from going to Confession because it is not safe. The reason why the seal is there is to take care of the soul, not to get justice.

They are going to have to get their evidence somewhere else. I hope the priest never says what he heard.

For the record, here is some commentary about the seriousness of the Seal of Confession from Father Z:

Priests who hear confessions, who hear something in what is called the “internal forum”, understood to be a confidential revelation, may not, must not, reveal what they heard. This is called the “Seal” of confession. The 1983 Code of Canon Law of the Latin Church says in can 983 § 1: “It is a crime [Latin nefas is much stronger than just “crime”. Call it “abominable crime”.] for a confessor [the priest] in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason”. The priest confessor must not break the Seal to protect his reputation, to refute a false accusation, to save his own life or the life of another, to avert a crime or attack, or to justice or law enforcement (e.g., reporting a crime). The priest confessor must not be compelled by any authority, civil or ecclesiastical, to reveal a person’s confession. A confessor must not reveal the contents of a confession either directly, by repeating what has been said, or indirectly, by some hint or clue or gesture. The priest must not use the information learned in a confession for his own gain. He cannot reveal the identity of penitents.

If a priest breaks the Seal, he incurs, automatically, an excommunication (can. 1388). He is, thus, immediately suspended a divinis. The censure incurred is reserved to the Holy See. He can be also “reduced” to the lay state.

BTW… any person who overhears a confession is also bound by the obligation not to reveal what she heard. This is also the case for language interpreters who help a penitent and priest communicate.

You do realize it was the victim and not the perpetrator who discussed (confessed?) this with the priest in Confession?

Yes, the seal should be broken. We are talking about a crime here. The priest should report that to the police authorities. That is the duty of every citizen including a priest. I know the church’s position on this so I don’t need a lecture here. But if a priest has knowledge that a crime has been committed, especially against a child, he needs to report it ASAP. This has nothing to do with the freedom of religion - this has everything to do with doing the right thing.

What you’re saying is that he should go tell the police any time someone confesses they stole, assaulted someone, etc. because those are also crimes. How about a military chaplain reporting confessions of adultery to the military police? That’s also a crime in the military.

He can’t. It’s as simple as that.

Going to the police with any of this would incur an automatic excommunication which only the Pope could lift and it would also result in people no longer going to confession, thereby endangering their immortal souls.

But as felsguy said, this wasn’t a case where the perpetrator confessed. This was a little girl.

I’m not arguing with the Church policy to keep the seal of confession, but I don’t see how this is breaking the seal, since she confessed (and it wasn’t even a sin on her part–so sad!), not the actual sinner.

It doesn’t matter. If she confessed and he absolved her he cannot even acknowledge that she came to confession, let alone discuss what she confessed. He could very easily be convicted of neglect here simply because he can’t defend himself.

The only way he could testify is if she had repeated to him, outside of Confession, what she had said to him in Confession. If he takes the stand and testifies that she came to him for confession, he’s excommunicated.

Well, as I understand it, the Seal cannot be broken in any way, shape or form. Those who do so receive and automatic excommunication and depending upon how severe the breech is can even be dismissed from the clerical state. It is like the worst thing a Priest can ever do.

However, if a penitent is asked in the Confessional for permission to discuss the matters spoken of with either the penitent, his or her superiors, the Confessor, or others, as in the case cited, the parents by the Priest hearing the confession and the penitent gives it, then matters can be discussed outside the Confessional. Also the penitent can ask the Priest if he can discuss the matters brought up at another time, thus freeing the Priest to comment. Then the Priest can either agree or refuse.

The Priest is also free to discuss with a particular penitent things from previous confessions but only in the Confessional. This happens when one priest hears the regular confessions of a penitent, such as happens in Monasteries and Convents. But it is all done inside the Confessional and never leaves it unless permission is given. Permission is not absolute either. Once obtained it doesn’t free them absolutely. It must be re-obtained.

There are other things involved too. If the Priest gained knowledge of matters outside the Confessional but things he had knowledge of got confessed to then he is free to speak about information he received outside of Confession but nothing of what he heard in the Confessional. Eg. If there was a theft in the Rectory and everyone knew it, if the person who committed the crime came to Confession, the Priest is not free to disclose anything pertaining to the crime that he learned about in the Box. He can only discuss what is common knowledge.

There’s much more to it and I’m out of time. Gotta go.


There are different levels and severity of crimes. Property crimes are less serious than persons crimes. In this case we have a child, who the priest has direct knowledge has been the victims of a serious persons crime. I believe it should be reported.

You may “believe” this but clearly Holy Mother Church disagrees with you for many reasons stated in above posts. Post # 7 by “hockeyfan” is a good one to start with.

The Church may disagree with it but they still are required to follow the laws and state criminal statutes just like any other citizen. As you know there have been quite a few indictments of high ranking church leaders recently for failing to report the abuse and rape of children by abuser priests. Those indictments and depositions continue today. Look at what’s going on in St. Louis with the Arch Bishop the past few weeks. Any crime involving a child as a victim that a priest has knowledge of should be handled differently and should be reported to police authorities ASAP. If they don’t do it, they will continue to loose support from the laity and continue to lose moral authority.

What is the Constitution of the United states says this in the First Amendment?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…

Any such law compelling a priest to reveal what he heard in Confession would apply here. This would not be a case like “any other citizen.” Even if it were, though, I am not sure I want to live in a country where they can force you to say anything, even if your morally on the wrong side. That doesn’t seem a far stretch from Totalitarianism.

I think I am getting too political, so I shall move on.

I hadn’t heard of the case your referring to, so I googled it and found this. Is this the case your speaking of? In this case, the plaintiffs allege, among other things, that “Jiang left $20,000 for the family after admitting to the abuse and then went on to directly confess his actions to (Archbishop) Carlson.” ( Fist, how would the family know if Jiang confessed to the Archbishop that he did it? (which I believe he probably did commit the abuse. If he did, I hope he goes to jail) Even if he did confess to Carlson, the Archbishop’s point that the argument is not legal is valid. Now, if he knew outside the Seal of Confession I would be 100% for going after him. I still resent the way Cardinal Mahoney handled things in my own Archdiocese.

My problem with what I think you are suggesting is that you want to throw out religion for secular laws. Man’s laws are beneath God’s laws, not the other way around.

What if that cuts into the amount of people going to confession?

Let me also ask you this. Is it good to take away from the safety of our relationship with God for the good of secular laws? Also, if the church’s laws went away whenever they were convenient, would they mean much?

You need to read more on the case. The Perp isn’t the one that confessed, the victim did. The perp is also dead.

“Alleged” perp.

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