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Court Compelling Priest to Break Seal of Confession

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  • Court Compelling Priest to Break Seal of Confession

    Source

    Originally posted by LifeSite News
    According to the petition in the case, the alleged confessions were made by a minor child to the priest, and pertained to sexual abuse of the minor by another church parishioner. The statement concerns a lawsuit naming Father Jeff Bayhi and the diocese as defendants.
    In the 2009 case, the plaintiffs, parents of the minor child, claim that the child told Father Bayhi during confession that she was being sexually abused by a member of the parish, a man who died later when under criminal investigation. The plaintiffs claim as well that Father Bayhi instructed her during confession to remain quiet about it and handle the problem herself. In addition, the lawsuit says that Father Bayhi did not report the alleged abuser to law enforcement based on information received in the confessional, asserting he would have been a mandatory reporter according to the Louisiana Children’s Code.
    The suit compels Father Bayhi to testify as to whether or not there were confessions, and if the confessions did occur, to what the contents of the confessions were.
    But according to the diocese, a priest is not even “allowed to admit that someone went to confession to him.”
    I admit, I'm somewhat conflicted over this. Legally, the judge is just wrong. Firstly, it's a civil, not criminal matter and the right is well recognized even in criminal matters. A church isn't a governmental body so it falls under the Good Samaritan exception (which ironically includes NOT getting involved) - but still, you expect to be able to trust your clergy with your children and to help your children when they, rightly or wrongly, think they can go to clergy rather than to you.

    And I get that the confessional is a special case - how does Catholicism deal with such issues?


    "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot


    "Forgiveness is the way of love." Gary Chapman

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  • #2
    If he really did tell the child not to tell anybody at all, morally (though probably not legally) speaking that is obstruction of justice. If the priest is able to give follow up advice in such a case, the advice should be to go to the authorities.
    "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

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    • #3
      Personally, I feel that the priest-penitent privilege should not exist at all. All it does is allow wicked people to ease their consciences by talking to another human being, but without exposing themselves to punishment.

      I understand that there are Catholics and such who will disagree, and say that such confession is necessary to get to heaven. Obviously I disagree.

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      • #4
        An old piece about the seal generally... http://www.catholiceducation.org/art...on/re0059.html

        and a piece specifically in response to the court's ruling: http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclu...e-confessional

        In short, a priest is not allowed to reveal anything he learns in the confessional. Canonically, if the priest were to comply with the court's demand, he would incur an automatic excommunication and permanent removal from ministry.
        Don't call it a comeback. It's a riposte.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
          If he really did tell the child not to tell anybody at all, morally (though probably not legally) speaking that is obstruction of justice. If the priest is able to give follow up advice in such a case, the advice should be to go to the authorities.
          He's not even allowed to either confirm or deny what was said in the confession.
          Don't call it a comeback. It's a riposte.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Spartacus View Post
            He's not even allowed to either confirm or deny what was said in the confession.
            I'm not speaking about the priest going to the authorities hypothetically. I'm referring to the priest's apparent instructions to the child to keep quiet about what happened to her.
            "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
              I'm not speaking about the priest going to the authorities hypothetically. I'm referring to the priest's apparent instructions to the child to keep quiet about what happened to her.
              Which, if true, is both bad and probably all too common.
              Don't call it a comeback. It's a riposte.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
                I'm not speaking about the priest going to the authorities hypothetically. I'm referring to the priest's apparent instructions to the child to keep quiet about what happened to her.
                The article Spartacus linked to agrees that if the priest did give such advice it would be a serious dereliction of his priestly duty.
                Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. – St. John Chrysostom

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Spartacus View Post
                  An old piece about the seal generally... http://www.catholiceducation.org/art...on/re0059.html

                  and a piece specifically in response to the court's ruling: http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclu...e-confessional

                  In short, a priest is not allowed to reveal anything he learns in the confessional. Canonically, if the priest were to comply with the court's demand, he would incur an automatic excommunication and permanent removal from ministry.

                  Thanks, Spart!

                  "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot


                  "Forgiveness is the way of love." Gary Chapman

                  My Personal Blog

                  My Novella blog (Current Novella Begins on 7/25/14)

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Obsidian View Post
                    Personally, I feel that the priest-penitent privilege should not exist at all. All it does is allow wicked people to ease their consciences by talking to another human being, but without exposing themselves to punishment.

                    I understand that there are Catholics and such who will disagree, and say that such confession is necessary to get to heaven. Obviously I disagree.
                    Some Catholics might say that to you, but I think the great majority of Catholic theologians and catechists would explain that, while we are bound by the sacraments (as a matter of church order), God is not so bound, thus it is wrong to speak in terms of a sacrament (powerful sign of God's grace) as necessary to get to heaven.

                    Your caricature of the seal of confession ('all it does is allow wicked ...') is misguided. The seal was mandated to prevent abuse of the sacrament (by a minister), not to encourage it. Is it abused, yes, of course, it is, as is everything else on God's green earth. If one is disposed to confess one's sins to a group as part of sincere and communal repentance, that is not prohibited. That was practiced in the early church, as we learn from the Didache (14,1-3):
                    But every Lord's day do ye gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, saith the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.

                    It was often still practiced throughout history in various religious communities. But should every person always confess every sin publicly? Is there not also a place for seeking counsel, advice and assurance of God's love, mercy and forgiveness privately from a trusted pastor or friend? As a matter of man-made church law, anyone seeking such counsel and forgiveness from God is assured of such a relationship of trust.

                    The legal difficulty with respect to this case is that the penitent has waived her civil right to confidentiality, but the church considers that right sacrosanct and does not allow a priest to ignore church law. If a penitent wants to reveal their sins publicly, they are, of course, free to do so, but a priest is never allowed to do so. Such might lower the trust of every other penitent who might seek confidential counsel.

                    If the priest acted improperly in the confessional, that is a terrible abuse of the sacrament. He or the Church authority might further abuse the seal as a way of trying to protect themselves from liability. That is certainly not the rationale or purpose behind church law, but any law, as any good thing on God's green earth, may be abused.

                    I do not know enough about the case to offer an opinion about what the priest should do. If he has acted improperly, perhaps it is appropriate for him to be excommunicated or sent to jail for contempt of court. Or, if he has acted well, perhaps it is heroic for him to exercise a prison ministry. Very likely, the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes. We likely will never know. The law and civil authority is not always able to find the truth of a situation.
                    βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι᾿ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον·
                    ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην.

                    אָכֵ֕ן אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל מִסְתַּתֵּ֑ר אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מוֹשִֽׁיעַ׃

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