Louisiana Judge Rules That Priests Don’t Have to Report Abuse if They Hear It During Confession

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By Rachel Ford

A Louisiana judge has struck down part of a mandatory reporting law that requires priests to report suspected child abuse.

Because religious freedom, that’s why.

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.

State District Judge Mike Caldwell ruled Friday that the requirement — a Louisiana Children’s Code provision — violates the constitutionally protected religious freedom rights of a Roman Catholic priest accused of neglecting his duty to report a teenager’s abuse allegations to authorities.

The victim, Rebecca Mayeaux, had confided to Jeff Bayhi during confession that she was being molested by a sixty-four-year-old parishioner. Not only did Bayhi not report the abuse, but, according to Mayeaux, he offered appalling advice as well:

In court, Judge Caldwell ruled Bayhi’s religious freedom rights would be violated if he was forced to talk about the alleged confession.

Two years ago, Mayeux told us she went to Father Bayhi seeking advice when she was 14, because she trusted him more than her parents. Court records show when Mayeux went to Bayhi, Rebecca says he told her, “This is your problem, sweep it under the floor and get rid of it.”

But, on the stand today, Father Bayhi told a Judge he can’t even confirm whether someone even came to confession. That’s just how sacred it is. He added no one would trust priests if confessions were public.

Father Paul Counce is a canon lawyer for the Diocese of Baton Rouge. Counce testified this morning that priests can be excommunicated if they break the seal of confession.

In a move that hardly inspires the trust Bayhi claims to be so keen to protect, not only did Bayhi refuse to discuss what happened, but the church tried to prevent Rebecca from discussing their conversation on the stand:

Earlier in the day, the Diocese tried to prohibit Mayeux from testifying about what she told Father Bayhi during that alleged confession. A judge ruled she could testify about what she told him, but her attorney can’t argue that Bayhi was mandated to report that.

After the ruling, Bayhi declared the win a victory for religious liberty.


Source: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2016/03/01/louisiana-judge-rules-that-priests-dont-have-to-report-abuse-if-they-hear-it-during-confession/

25 COMMENTS

  1. @OP – State District Judge Mike Caldwell ruled Friday that the requirement — a Louisiana Children’s Code provision — violates the constitutionally protected religious freedom rights of a Roman Catholic priest accused of neglecting his duty to report a teenager’s abuse allegations to authorities.

    Another woo-addled judge has gone back to the RCC cover-up position of Cannon Law over-rulng state law!
    How long before the next inquiry into covered up child abuse?

    “Father X” has confessed, done a token pennance, and been forgiven!
    No need for the police!
    Next victim please in a new parish!

  2. It doesn’t even sound like very good canon law to me. The seal of confession is imposed on the priest, but the confidentiality belongs to the penitent. The priest would have been quite at liberty to say to the girl, that with her permission, he would take her to the police, tell them what she had told him, and help her to make a statement.

    There is also the moot (canon) legal point, not applicable in this case, that if the penitent confesses to a major crime and refuses to go to the police, or at least to make reparations, then the priest can rule that it was not a genuine confession, as the penitent is not contrite. In that circumstance the priest would not be bound by the seal.

  3. So, If a doctor sees child abuse he has to report it by law. And religion gets another free pass.
    So by the same logic, do other criminal actions such as murder or theft by the religious get the same free pass?

  4. The French and Germans are having a look at medical confidentiality.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-35797065

    French investigators have called for medical confidentiality to be relaxed for pilots, in the wake of last year’s Germanwings disaster.

    Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz was urged by a doctor to attend psychiatric hospital weeks before he crashed the plane on 24 March 2015, but his employer was never alerted, their final report says.

    The report, by the BEA investigation agency, said confidentiality had to be balanced with the risk an individual might pose to public safety and that “clearer rules” were needed.

    It was also critical of pilots being able to make self-declarations about their health, which allowed them to hide any illnesses.

    A union representing German pilots welcomed the recommendations as a “balanced package of measures”, but it said strict rules on data protection needed to be developed in conjunction with criteria for suspending confidentiality rules.

    All 150 people on board died as Flight 9525 hit a mountain in the French Alps.

    Investigators believe Lubitz brought down the plane deliberately.

    He had been suffering from severe depression, they said, but doctors had been unable to disclose this.

  5. @eejit

    I endorse your excellent comment.

    Father Paul Counce is a canon lawyer for the Diocese of Baton Rouge. Counce testified this morning that priests can be excommunicated if they break the seal of confession.

    And the morality of this statement is….

    My church is more important than your pain.

  6. Wow! So many things wrong with this! As hard as it may to believe, Americans, who boast of just about anything you can name, are not signatories to the Convention on the Right of the Child, so do not support international law which protects children under the terms of this agreement. The roadblock, you guessed it, the church! So much for kindness, and morality and so on and so on by the righwingnuts. It is mind numbing to hear that even the courts say it’s okay for a child to be abused providing a clergy member is involved. How sick can this Judge be! He should be removed from the bench and the lawyer Counce should be disbarred. Lets hope neither of these men have children.

  7. David R Allen #8
    Mar 14, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Father Paul Counce is a canon lawyer for the Diocese of Baton Rouge. Counce testified this morning that priests can be excommunicated if they break the seal of confession.

    And bank robbers who give evidence against others in the gang, can be kicked out or killed!

    And the morality of this statement is….

    I heard somewhere, that nobody is above the law of the land!

    Any views from this judge on Sharia law being given exemptions?
    Honor killings OK perhaps with a mullar’s blessing??

    No convictions for rape without 4 male witnesses?

  8. And I just moments ago put out a video on Youtube (same username as here) about the Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal. It continues. What disgusting advice Bayhi gave.

  9. RESPONSE
    Serious question: Why are priests exempt but psychologists required? Wouldn’t the psychologists be “at least” as equipped to deal with it as priests?

    ATTENTION WEB ADMIN
    Joining your site via Facebook gave the error “This app is still in development”

  10. Priests learn about sex by hearing confessions. Really, they don’t get taught anything, have to pick it up on the job. Not surprising some of them turn a bit strange, since they’re not officially allowed to actually take part in any.

    A Decent Priest would of course find a way to rescue the victim and stop the perpetrator, even if that meant he must become a Whistleblower, and accept the unjust punishments that brings, as he’s serving God not the Church Establishment, very different things if you believe in either of them. Nobody said it was going to be easy to be a true Christian. In fact, they said it would be hard.

    Its not the job of the law to uphold specific religious standards such as confessional secrecy. The law should instead convict the priest of contempt of court, or failing to comply with mandatory reporting, as with any other person, and leave it to him and his church to deal with it.

    State should definitely not be aligning with Church on this.

  11. Correctly and eloquently said OHooligan, go to the top of the class. No court should entertain any person’s belief system to insulate them from the legislation in place.

  12. Of all the many things that annoy me about this and other bat shit crazy rulings of the American judiciary, the most egregious is that the constitution does not give carte blanche right for anyone to behave as they wish on religious grounds. The text is clear. Firstly it states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” in other words it cannot force a person to belong to a particular religion or not belong to one. No doubt what the legislators had in mind was the Reformation in Great Britain under Henry VIII and similar circumstances.

    The problem area is where it continues “…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Now I think anyone sane takes this to mean that Congress can’t prevent a person worshipping, or congregating, or proselytising as long as this does not break any other law. Thomas Jefferson commented “…that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions..” A person’s opinions are his own but if his actions break a law then Congress and the judiciary is entitled to intervene.

    The Christian religion mandates the killing of homosexuals, those who worship other gods, those who break the Sabbath and many more. It is absurd to think that anyone so doing these days would not be prosecuted and claiming that the Bible told him to would be no defense. This simple test proves that religion does not have carte blanche to break other laws.

    For any judge, no matter how faith addled or hard of thinking, to fail to understand these points is indefensible. I am sure in fact that the problem is not a failure of comprehension but a willful disregard of the very laws that they are sworn to uphold.

  13. Canon Law binds both the confessor and the penitent under the seal of confession, no matter what transpires between them during confession. Excommunication, a disastrous outcome for anyone who believes the church is the one true way to God, is the usual outcome of breaching that seal. Where a penitent confesses a serious crime and refuses to go to the police (as part of his or her penance), the confessor and penitent are still bound by the seal, but the confessor, in view of the insufficient contrition and repentance, must withhold absolution (– what the penitent is seeking in making the confession), thus leaving the penitent still in the state of sin.

    In the case under discussion here, the girl who was the penitent mentioned in confession a serious sin and crime committed by someone else, which also involved her as the victim. No doubt she probably thought, like many a guilt-laden Catholic child, that she herself was in some way at fault and guilty of the acts of molestation she had experienced, and in light of this, what is reported of the confessor’s advice to her is all the more appalling. Where was the confessor’s concern for the girl’s welfare? He could and should have done something along the lines suggested by Eejit at #3 above.

    “Its not the job of the law to uphold specific religious standards such as confessional secrecy. The law should instead convict the priest of contempt of court, or failing to comply with mandatory reporting, as with any other person, and leave it to him and his church to deal with it.” OHooligan #13.

    Well put, OHooligan! After all, the confessional exists for the sake of purposes and entities of which no evidence at all is to be found. The state should not be wasting its time and resources upholding superstitions and thereby perverting the course of justice.

  14. Cairsley #16
    Mar 15, 2016 at 6:32 am

    Canon Law binds both the confessor and the penitent under the seal of confession

    I was a well educated and long term Catholic. I have never heard that the seal of confession is binding on the penitent, in fact quite the contrary. It is difficult to see how it could be the case; confidientality always belongs to someone, and is theirs to break if they so choose. Even if the teller binds the listener to confidentiality, the teller is still not bound, and is also free to release the listener. That is a basic common-sense principle.

  15. To Eejit #17

    You are right that canon law binds the confessor (and not the penitent) to what is called the seal of confession and is enjoined not to “betray the penitent”. Canon law says nothing about the right of the penitent to waive the protection of the seal or to release the confessor in his or her particular case, and there was a long dispute since the twelfth century about this question. Since council rulings and canon law have been silent on it, the consensus of theologians on the question comes down on the side of the penitent being able to waive the protection of the seal for a sufficient reason. Church practice, however, discourages penitents from doing so for various reasons, like causing scandal, penitents being pressured into waiving their right to confidentiality, and so on; but in fact, as you rightly say, canon law does not deny the penitent’s right to waive this protection if he or she is better served by letting the contents of his or her confession be revealed. What I wrote in #16 was inaccurate: canon law binds only the confessor to the seal, not the penitent, but church practice does strongly discourage penitents from breaking the seal.

    A good summary of this is given here

  16. I wonder if Apple could use this religious freedom thing so that they don’t need to cooperate with the authorities :/

  17. From the Law Society pages;

    6.4.2 Advice privilege
    Principle

    Communications between a lawyer, acting in his capacity as a lawyer, and a client, are privileged if they are both:

    confidential
    for the purpose of seeking legal advice from a solicitor or providing it to a client

    Not too dissimilar from;

    Communications between a confessor, acting in his capacity as a confessor and a penitent are privileged if they are both

    confidential
    for the purpose of seeking absolution from a confessor or providing it to a penitent.

  18. Lancshoop #20
    Mar 15, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    Not too dissimilar from;

    Communications between a confessor, acting in his capacity as a confessor and a penitent are privileged if they are both confidential.

    The difference is that solicitor/client confidentiality is a part of state law to ensure a fair trial, the other, is just confidential according to the regulations of a private organisation.
    Businesses also have codes of confidentiality which employees are required to follow in their employment, and not disclose confidential trade information, in private life.
    (In banking and brokering, disclosing confidential information to facilitate insider trading, is a criminal offence!)

    Private organisations and responsible individuals, are still required to, and no way exempt from, informing police of criminal activities, and are required to answer questions in court, as part of the legal process, – or be imprisoned for contempt of court for refusing to do so!

  19. Confidentiality, next to intellectual property rights, must be the most abused field of law. In my other incarnation as a very active and long-term unionist in Australia, I was constantly running into the plea of confidentiality from the management. Pay rates, negotiated agreements, minutes of meetings, business agreements etc. were always confidential, and therefore not available to my grubby eyes. “We can’t discuss that with you Kevin, it’s in confidence.” Sometimes commercially in confidence. We don’t discuss individual cases – confidential you know.

    So that meant that my colleagues whom I represented, my students whom I taught and the College which I served, were seldom allowed to know the truth about anything important. I made the attacking move, that the question was: who owned the confidentiality? Sometimes it worked, most often not, although plainly I was in the right, but who has the money, time or energy to take things to court, and even if you argue FoI, they always stall or redact.

    Put that way, the Church ain’t much different from the other pillars of society.

  20. Having recently seen the film Spotlight, which won this year’s Oscar for best movie, it seems the RCC has not moved on. Spotlight was about the Boston Globe reporters uncovering The RCC’s deliberate policy of swearing everyone to silence, moving child abusers / rapists on to other parishes, and generally keeping the lid on things. Round about 2001 – 3. It’s a matter of history that Cardinal Law escaped US justice by fleeing to the Vatican. He knew what was going on and he was involved in the process. If the bastard ever has the balls to return to the USA, I hope that there is some fucking place in a prison where he can be beaten up daily. Bastard. All those kids lives messed up, and he helped.

  21. @OP – But, on the stand today, Father Bayhi told a Judge he can’t even confirm whether someone even came to confession. That’s just how sacred it is. He added no one would trust priests if confessions were public.

    Perhaps the church’s requirement for people to “trust priests”, is the root of the problem!

    Children who don’t trust priests and stay away from churches, are much safer!

  22. Those Hell-bent on obstructing justice, and hiding behind “confidentiality” will try anything on no matter how blatant!

    [http://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKCN0WM0GO](http://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKCN0WM0GO](http://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKCN0WM0GO)

    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The lawyer defending the prime surviving suspect for the Nov. 13 Paris attacks said on Sunday he would sue a French prosecutor for divulging Salah Abdeslam’s private admission that he planned to blow himself up with fellow Islamic State militants.

    Speaking two days after Abdeslam was captured during a police raid in Brussels, his lawyer Sven Mary accused the lead French investigator of violating judicial confidentiality by quoting Abdeslam’s statement to a magistrate in Brussels at a news conference in Paris on Saturday evening.

    I cannot let this pass,” Mary told Belgian state broadcaster RTBF. Mary’s office was not immediately available for comment, but RTBF said he would start legal proceedings on Monday.

    I think even the most devious lawyer, is going to struggle to hide a verbatim confession, or challenge a public interest disclosure!

    At the Paris news conference, Francois Molins read from Abdeslam’s statement, saying: “”He wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France and, I quote, backed out.”

    The poor little murdering terrorist, has had his verbatim private confession, accurately reported from legal records! Ah! Diddums!!!!!

    This only confirms the vast disparity of evaluating the “victim card”, between “faith-thinkers” and rationalists using evidence!

    Molins also told reporters in Paris that people should treat with caution initial statements by the 26-year-old French national.

    After all, lying propagandists might want to change their stories later, and be upset about being denied any credibility if they do!

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