Louisiana child law violates priest's religious freedom, judge rules


BATON ROUGE, La. — A Louisiana judge has struck down a state requirement that clergy members report suspected child abuse even if they learn about it during a private confessional.


Thankfully the judge has ruled correctly. No priest should be forced to violate the seal of the confessional.




Right, instead they should be permitted to allow rapists to ravish the parish with impunity.


And he can’t . . . . regardless of what the law requires.


The fallacy of the false dichotomy.


Not a false dichotomy. That exact real-world scenario and legal case is what led to this law.




And that proves the saying “hard cases make bad law”. This law went too far and couldn’t actually be used to prosecute, let alone stop, a child molester.


Justice is also served by punishing those who shield child rapists from law enforcement.


This is awful, actually. I never even thought of a situation like this. It seems to me that if a child blatantly says something to a priest in Confession about being abused, something should be done to help her. This doesn’t set too well with me. There should be help for that child. It seems to me letting her suffer in silence, and knowing what she’s going through, would be very sinful in and of itself. What is more important? Keeping the seal of the confessional, or rescuing a child from horror? Don’t get me wrong. I understand the importance of the Seal…but this just gives me an awful feeling.


Surely this just clarifies what the law already said?

The full code is here.

Section 603

(17) “Mandatory reporter” is any of the following individuals:
© “Member of the clergy” is any priest, rabbi, duly ordained clerical deacon or minister, Christian Science practitioner, or other similarly situated functionary of a religious organization, except that he is not required to report a confidential communication, as defined in Code of Evidence Article 511, from a person to a member of the clergy who, in the course of the discipline or practice of that church, denomination, or organization, is authorized or accustomed to hearing confidential communications, and under the discipline or tenets of the church, denomination, or organization has a duty to keep such communications confidential. In that instance, he shall encourage that person to report the allegations to the appropriate authorities in accordance with Article 610.

emphasis added

Section 609

A. With respect to mandatory reporters:
(1) Notwithstanding any claim of privileged communication, any mandatory reporter who has cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare is endangered as a result of abuse or neglect or that abuse or neglect was a contributing factor in a child’s death shall report in accordance with Article 610.

Taken together that seems to me to clearly say that while most ‘mandatory reporters’ cannot use claims of confidentiality to excuse not reporting a case, a priest whose only information comes from the confessional can.:shrug:


But that something need not require the priest to violate the seal. He could, for example, just while still in the confessional encourage the child to say something to him or anyone else outside the confessional. Yes?

So the priest was (surely?) gravely wrong to tell her to keep it secret, but correct in not wanting to testify about her confession in court. (Also arguably wrong to have tried to prevent her from doing so, but that has been discussed before.)


Should lawyers and social workers who have confidentiality protections as well be required to as well?

You won’t get a single lawyer to agree it.


This is called the slippery slope. First the priest must report confessions of child abuse then the law will require spouse abuse then if any person commits a crime and confesses the priest must report it to law enforcement. Then some crafty divorce lawyer will petition the court for the priest to testify in open court about the sins of a spouse so the divorcing spouse will have a leg up in the divorce case.

Do we really want to live in such a world?


But do we even know that the priest told her to keep it secret? He can’t defend himself against that accusation, either, as part of the seal.

Another question that I would have … where were this girl’s parents? According to what I’ve read, there had been considerable email correspondence between the girl and the accused abuser (who died before any investigation completed). When my children were 12, I had a separate email set up (I can have 8 sub-emails with my provider), all of which came into the same computer (I just used filters to sort things addressed to each one, so that each person’s emails filter to a different folder), and since I’m the parent, I would also read any emails (I also know how to go back and mark un-read). So my question–why were her parents not more proactive in stopping any abuse?


It has been suggested on other threads that a priest be automatically found innocent if the seal prevents him from testifying about some part of the accusation. That is going way too far IMO. The court can of course make allowances for the restrictions on his defense, but as those restrictions are self imposed I do feel he has to bear the consequences.

From what I read they acted as soon as they suspected. There is always more they could do - your own precautions are easily bypassed by something as simple as using webmail. But blaming the victims is seldom a good idea.


You could say that. You could also condemn the entire western legal tradition built on the idea that it is better to let some guilty go free then to convict an innocent man. Do you want to do that as well or just flog the Church?


So, what are the priests supposed to do, call police if they hear such thing and then admit they heard it in a private confessional? What about the next guy, who comes in asking forgiveness for a theft, murder, drug sales, cheating on their taxes, fraud, etc, etc…are the priests then expected to call police and inform them?

The confessional is meant to be private, this cannot be changed. If a person actively goes to confession, they are sorry for what they have done.

If they did this, the next thing you know, police would want to put in secret cameras in confessionals just in case someone talks about something serious.


I’m sorry, but you have no concept of legal privilege laws.


There are a few common privilege protections in the court systems:

*]Attorney - Client privilege
*]Physician–patient privilege
*]Clergy - Penitent privilege
*]Spousal privilege
*]Reporter’s privilege (shield law to protect a news source)
*]Self-incrimination (5th Amendment)
*]Without Prejudice Privilege (protecting communications made in the course of negotiations to settle a legal dispute)
*]public-interest privilege (known as State’s Secrets Privilege in the United States)
*]psychotherapist-patient privilege (in the United States since 1996 per SCOUS case: Jaffee v. Redmond, 518 U.S. 1 (1996))

Here is a Wikipedia article directly regarding Clergy - Penitent Privilege: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priest%E2%80%93penitent_privilege

The Clergy-Penitent Privilege has existed in western secular law for generations, since at least the year 1151

Even if the crime is murder, a priest cannot break the seal of confession. However, a priest can attempt to convince a person to turn himself in, but the priest cannot do it.

Furthermore, it is NOT just the Catholic Church that practices the Seal of Confession. The seal of confession and clergy-penitent privilege provides a service to society because it allows a remorseful criminal an opportunity to seek counseling and begin the process of atonement.

God Bless


You have to look at this in terms of philosophy… The fact that a child mentions it to a priest means that the child knows what he/she says to the priest will be kept private. The confession alone helps the child.

A good priest will not hear that confession and do “nothing” with it. If the child is part of his parish, the priest will seek out spiritual counseling with the child in order to help the child one-on-one and do what he can to convince the child to tell his/her parents.

In this situation if the priest were to defy a child’s trust, that could have equally harmful results.

The child must be able to feel safe, and if the child only feels safe discussing with the priest and not a parent; that they must be respected.

Trust me, no priest wants to be in that situation. But it’s not like a child is not receiving advise or counsel.

In regards to the case in Louisiana, there were some fishy details there that make it seem like the girl in question (who is now an adult) was not being 100% truthful or remembers the events differently than how they transpired.

God Bless

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