Louisiana court's ruling that Catholic priest testify about confession criticized by Baton Rouge Diocese: UPDATED

New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Louisiana court’s ruling that Catholic priest testify about confession criticized by Baton Rouge Diocese: UPDATED

The Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge has issued a statement decrying a decision by the Louisiana Supreme Court that could compel a local priest to testify in court about confessions he might have received. The alleged confessions, according to legal documents, were made to the priest by a minor girl regarding possible sexual abuse perpetrated by another church parishioner. The statement, published Monday (July 7) on the diocese’s website, said forcing such testimony “attacks the seal of confession,” a sacrament that “cuts to the core of the Catholic faith.”

The statement refers to a lawsuit naming the Rev. Jeff Bayhi and the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge as defendants and compels Bayhi to testify whether or not there were confessions “and, if so, what the contents of any such confessions were.”
“A foundational doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church for thousands of years mandates that the seal of confession is absolute and inviolable,” the statement says. “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.”

The Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge has issued a statement decrying a decision by the Louisiana Supreme Court that could compel a local priest to testify in court about confessions he might have received. The alleged confessions, according to legal documents, were made to the priest by a minor girl regarding possible sexual abuse perpetrated by another church parishioner.
The statement, published Monday (July 7) on the diocese’s website, said forcing such testimony “attacks the seal of confession,” a sacrament that “cuts to the core of the Catholic faith.”

The statement refers to a lawsuit naming the Rev. Jeff Bayhi and the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge as defendants and compels Bayhi to testify whether or not there were confessions “and, if so, what the contents of any such confessions were.”
“A foundational doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church for thousands of years mandates that the seal of confession is absolute and inviolable,” the statement says. “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.”

The case stems from a claim by parents of a minor that their daughter confessed to Bayhi during the sacrament of reconciliation that she engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with grown man who also attended their church. Court documents indicate the child was 12 years old at the time of the alleged sexual abuse.
A criminal investigation by East Feliciana Sheriff’s Office into the alleged sexual abuse was ongoing when the accused church member died suddenly in February 2009 of a heart attack.
The civil lawsuit in question, filed five months later in July 2009, names the late sexual abuse suspect, as well as Bayhi and the Baton Rouge diocese, as defendants. The suit seeks damages suffered as a result of the sexual abuse, noting that abuse continued following the alleged confessions.

So is Louisiana’s plan to turn priests into mandated reporters?

Aren’t priests now required by the church to report sexual abuse, confession seal or not?

No never. Nothing can break the seal.

Prayers for Fr.Bayhi, and the Sacred Seal of Confession. Their just after money. If they are Catholics, they know exactly what they are trying to do to that priest. God Bless. Memaw

I suppose this is why it is a good idea to use the traditional confessional. At least the priest can always say he can’t identify the person giving the confession as they were not visible to him. It may be something we all have to start doing in order to assist our pastors in keeping the sacrament sealed.

Just a note based on a different comment by someone: We do not have separation of Church and State. We have freedom of religion and that freedom does not allow the government/state “to make any laws” concerning the practice of that religion. It may seem a bit of a practice in semantics, but there is an important difference between the two ideas.

There are many laws on the books now, that are unconstitutional based on this difference.

I agree. I go “in the box” God Bless, Memaw

The fact that the family are trying to get the Priest to violate the Sacred Seal should be enough for excommunication. There is no greater crime than a Priest violating his sacred duty to the Lord and the penitent through breaking the Sacred Seal.

Although; he can just plead ignorance, and that he does not remember ever hearing the young girls confession. The case is all hearsay then, and no court can make a conviction solely on he said/she said.

Amen.

Agree.

I am confused…do you know that the child is lying? Do you know for certain that the priest didn’t tell her to avoid reporting the incident for her to"sweep it under the rug?" You know that this is simply an outrageous attack on an innocent priest (b/c, it is pretty outrageous to think a priest could possibly do something like that :rolleyes:) :shrug:

If the priest did in fact tell the child this, what do you think this parent should do? If true, would you consider what the priest did was wrong? Would you feel comfortable with him advising your children and others’ in the future?

Well, here is the problem for me. They are Catholic so they know the rules that the priest must follow regarding confession. They know that he can’t defend himself, so, by playing on the public’s perception of the Church that resulted from the sex abuse scandals, they know that if they say that he said something as shocking as what the girl reported he said, the public will buy it hook, line and sinker.

This is no longer a criminal case, it is a civil case. For money.

I don’t know if the girl or her family is telling the truth, but, given the circumstances, I’m not willing to automatically assume that they are not lying to position themselves for a bigger payout.

Peace

Tim

I certainly wouldn’t assume that they are not lying either. It is quite possible. Maybe better than even money. But we don’t know that…yet most seem to act as if she is lying and it is an attack on Catholicism or a money grab.

They are Catholic so they know the rules that the priest must follow regarding confession. They know that he can’t defend himself, so, by playing on the public’s perception of the Church that resulted from the sex abuse scandals, they know that if they say that he said something as shocking as what the girl reported he said, the public will buy it hook, line and sinker.

This is no longer a criminal case, it is a civil case. For money.

Quite possible. But of course, perhaps this is the only recourse to bring to light what the priest said to the girl? I asked a series of questions on how Memaw would handle it if her child had told her this. Feel free to answer if you would like.

I would be very upset, but I would **not **sue the priest and/or the diocese.

Peace

Tim

[LEFT][/LEFT]

This new is surprising to me as a lawyer. First there is something called clergymen privilege that legally would prevent this from happening. Given that I am not a lawyer in Louisiana I decided to take a look at the evidentiary code of Louisiana to see if maybe Louisiana lacks this privilege…and right when I open the code, it is right in there. Clergyman privilege is a.privilege in Louisiana. I am not familiar with this case but the communication between the girl and the girl seems to be protected under a privilege so I think there is something here misreported. There is something not making sense here. However, i Hope that if indeed there is an actual court order, the church is aware of this privilege and they hire an attorney and that the church claims the privilege.

What would you do?

Don’t know. Probably let the priest know what the child said she was told and to let him know that, if he did say that, he should be ashamed and never, ever make a statement like that again. However, knowing that he couldn’t even confirm that the child came to him for confession, I wouldn’t expect a dialogue. I would also let the pastor know of what the child claimed was said.

Other than that, I don’t know what else you can do.

Peace

Tim

I personally know Fr. Jeff Bayhi and his family. He is a wonderful and holy priest. Additionally, he is compassionate and personable, and would never, in my opinion, tell anyone to “sweep it under the rug.” He is much more likely to tell this girl to speak to her parents or to mention the situation to him outside the confessional. I am confident, based on my previous experience with him, that he would attempt to find a way to stop the abuse and bring the abuser to justice (while never breaking the seal of confession). For years, he was one of the men who counseled the boys considering a vocation to the priesthood- including the son of one of my friends- and the kids always seemed to connect with him, due to his personality and integrity. What this girl and her family are doing is wrong on so many levels and while I feel genuine sorrow for what happened to her, as Catholics, they should understand about the sacrament of reconciliation and the seal. I will continue to hold Fr. Bayhi, this girl and her family, and the soul of the abuser in my prayers.

That is a good point Cricket2; I had not thought of the confessional in quite that way before.
May God bless and protect his holy priests as they minister to His people.
Amen.

Sue? :wink:

I guess it just matters how bad a transgression you think it was. Personally, I would find him unfit to perform his duties after offering that kind of advice and I am pretty confident that simply talking to him and the pastor will have little consequence. So I can certainly can empathize with the parents.

Again, I have no idea of the truth in the matter–it may be a money grab. But if this happened to my daughter, I can totally see it coming down to suing the priest and diocese…

It certainly is the American way!

Let me ask you, though, what would you expect to get out of a lawsuit? Would the goal be to punish the priest? Get him to change the way he counsels in the confessional? Get him defrocked? Bankrupt the diocese?

Without even hearing his side of the story?

Peace

Tim

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