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Thursday, October 02, 2014

Religious Groups Say Louisiana Ruling Unconstitutional, Violates Seal of Confession






Religious Groups Say Louisiana Ruling Unconstitutional, Violates Seal of Confession

 
Contact: Jon Sorensen, 619-387-7200

EL CAJON, Calif., Oct., 2, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ -- A group of religious organizations have filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that a recent ruling in Louisiana is unconstitutional and violates the seal of confession.

"This is an outrage," said Jimmy Akin, a spokesman for Catholic Answers, one of the groups filing the brief. "The state of Louisiana is trying to compel a priest to break one of his most sacred duties, which is to ensure the confidentiality of information given to him in the confessional."

The case in question involves a confession made to Fr. Jeffrey Bayhi of the Diocese of Baton Rogue in 2008. In that confession, a 14-year old girl stated that a now-deceased parishioner made sexual advances to her, including inappropriate touching and kissing.

The parents of the girl later sued Fr. Bayhi and the Diocese of Baton Rogue because he did not report what he learned in the confessional to civil authorities. While an appeals court upheld Fr. Bayhi's action, the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed and vacated the decision.

"Because the information was related in the sacrament of confession, Fr. Bayhi was prohibited from disclosing it to anyone due to the 'seal of confession,'" Akin explained. "The seal protects the confidentiality of those going to confession by ensuring that what they say will never be revealed. In the Church's law, the seal is absolutely inviolable, and any priest who violates it is automatically excommunicated and forbidden to function as a priest. This is one reason that the Louisiana court's decision is unconstitutional."

In the 2011 Hosanna-Tabor case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the First Amendment of the Constitution prevents the government from interfering with religious groups' freedom to select their own ministers.

The brief Catholic Answers and other groups filed with the U.S. Supreme Court explains that, because any priest who violates the seal of confession is excommunicated and unable to act as a priest, "the action of the state of Louisiana would coerce priests into doing acts that will disqualify them from ministry in the Catholic Church and thus directly impact who the Church is able to appoint and retain as its ministers, in violation of Hosanna-Tabor."

In addition to Catholic Answers, groups signing the brief include Catholic Action for Faith and Family, the Catholic League, Priests for Life, and John Paul the Great Catholic University. Also signing were as non-Catholic groups including Gospel of Life Ministries, National Pro-Life Religious Council, National Clergy Council, Faith and Action, and Charismatic Episcopal Church for Life.

Catholic Answers is the largest lay-run group in America devoted to explaining and defending the Catholic Faith. Its web site is www.catholic.com.