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Christian groups stand with diocese to protect Seal of Confession


MATT HADRO

Source:
CNA
Type:
Media/Opinion
Date:
9/30/2014

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ABSTRACTChristian groups stand with diocese to protect Seal of Confession :: Catholic News Agency (CNA) Editors Service About us Donate Spanish Portuguese Follow us: Loading News Headlines Vatican Americas Asia - Pacific US Europe Middle East - Africa Most Read Most Commented Archive Mandate Resources Abortion Advent Apologetics Benedict XVI Bible Cardinals Catechism Catholic Links Catholic Womanhood Church Fathers Holy Week Life & Family Liturgical Calendar Liturgy Mary Politics Pope Francis Prayers Sacraments Saints Virtue Tools Catholic Podcast RSS Feeds CNA TV CNA Audio Columns Bishops' Corner Book Reviews Cinemazlowski Fr. Robert Barron Guest Columnist In Good Company Led Into the Truth Movie Reviews Russell Shaw The Dispute of the Humanum The New (& the Old) Evangelization The Way of Beauty Viewpoint Documents Pope Benedict XVI Pope John Paul II Pope Paul VI Pope John XXIII Pope Pius XII Pope Pius XI Pope Pius X Pope Leo XIII Vatican II Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith Pontifical Council for the Family United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Cardinal James Francis Stafford Archbishop Charles J. Chaput Bishop Samuel J. Aquila Catholic Womanhood CNA Blog Home » News » US Christian groups stand with diocese to protect Seal of Confession Confessional. Credit: Paul Lowry (CC BY 2.0). Follow By Matt Hadro Baton Rouge, La., Sep 30, 2014 / 04:44 pm ( CNA/EWTN News ) .- Nearly 20 organizations, both Catholic and other denominations of Christian, have joined the Diocese of Baton Rouge in asking the Supreme Court to protect a priest from being forced to violate the Seal of Confession. The group heading the support for the diocese, Catholic Action for Faith and Family, stated it “fully supports the Diocese of Baton Rouge’s position that ‘civil courts are entirely without jurisdiction to decide what constitutes a sacrament in the Catholic Church’.” “For this reason Catholic Action has filed an Amicus Brief, supported by 17 other Catholic and Christian organizations. The brief decries the fact that the Louisiana Supreme Court has directed the trial court to hold an evidentiary hearing to decide whether or not a sacrament actually took place.” The case in question is a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling that a jury, not the Catholic Church, may determine if a priest’s conversation with a minor about sexual abuse was made in the Sacrament of Confession and thus is protected under confidentiality in state law. The specific conversation between diocesan priest Fr. Jeff Bayhi and a minor who said she was abused by a parishioner allegedly took place during the Sacrament of Confession in May. According to the court’s ruling, Fr. Bayhi could be forced to testify in court about the contents of confession, or whether it took place. However, under Church teaching, the “Seal of Confession” compels a priest not to reveal, under any circumstances, the contents of a confession. A violation of the seal incurs automatic excommunication. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him. He can make no use of knowledge that confession gives him about penitents' lives.” A state appeals court initially ruled that the alleged confession was “confidential” and thus Fr. Bayhi did not have to testify in court as to its alleged contents or whether it even took place. However, the state Supreme Court reversed that decision, saying that the Seal of Confession did not shield Fr. Bayhi from mandatory reporting laws because the girl herself had waived her confidentiality privilege, so the priest could no longer invoke the privilege either. The diocese is now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. Eighteen organizations filed an amicus brief in support of the diocese, including the groups Catholic Answers, the Catholic League, Priests for Life, and John Paul the Great Catholic University. However, the brief was also signed by a number of non-Catholic groups, including interdenominational Christian groups like Gospel of Life Ministries, the National Pro-Life Religious Council, the National Clergy Council, and the National Pro-Life Center. “[We] have an interest in preserving the right of religions to define in their own view which communications are confessional and absolutely protected from disclosure, and to protect the right of ministers to refuse to break the seal of the confessional if their religious beliefs require the maintenance of that seal,” the 18 organizations wrote in an amicus brief supporting the diocese. The groups emphasized that the case carries grave First Amendment implications. Previous Supreme Court precedent makes clear, they stated, that the rights of priests and penitents “are protected not only by statutes, but.......