Wednesday, January 21, 2015

U. S. Supreme Court rejects appeal by Diocese of Baton Rouge over seal of the confessional case

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari (declined to hear) an appeal of the case in which the Louisiana Supreme Court held that a trial court could decide whether a communication between a teenager and a priest over the 14-year old's sexual abuse by a parishioner amounted to a confession.

According to the teenager, the information was told to the priest during a sacramental confession.  The diocese maintains that the seal of the confessional prohibits the priest from revealing anything told to him during the confession, event the identity of the person making the confession. The girl and her parents claim that the priest was a mandatory reporter under Louisiana law and had an obligation to take the information to the police.

In response to the denial, the diocese of Baton Rouge issued the following statement:

“This morning, January 20, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the Diocese and Father Bayhi’s  Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to review the decision of the Louisiana Supreme Court. The Diocese and Fr. Bayhi are disappointed that the Court denied our request, at least at this stage, to intervene in this case, which has significant ramifications for religious freedom in Louisiana and beyond.

“Notwithstanding the Court’s decision not to intervene at this time, The Diocese and Fr. Bayhi have a number of options for raising further constitutional challenges in this case, which they are currently evaluating.  The denial of the writ is in no way a ruling on the merits of the case, nor does it preclude the Diocese or Father Bayhi from pursuing constitutional challenges which have not yet been ruled upon by the trial court.  The Diocese and Fr. Bayhi will continue their efforts to protect the guarantees of religious freedom set forth in our state and federal constitutions, and are confident that those efforts will, in due course, be successful.”

We’ve had two earlier posts and programs on the topic.  Our program on July 15, 2014 featured Msgr. Larry Beeson, a canon lawyer discussing the topic; you can read the earlier story here. And on September 9, 2014 we discussed the matter with Professor Dane Ciolino of the Loyola New Orleans School of law.  The earlier post for that program is here.

We will keep you posted as this case now goes back to the Louisiana state courts.

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