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Louisiana judge strikes down law that requires priest to report abuse mentioned in confession

February 29, 2016

A Louisiana judge has ruled unconstitutional a new state law requiring priests to report sexual abuse that is mentioned in a sacramental confession.

Judge Mike Caldwell made his ruling in a long-running and complicated case in which Father Jeff Bayhi had been directed to testify about what a young woman reportedly told him in a confession. The young woman has said that she told Father Bayhi about being molested by a member of his parish. Father Bayhi had refused to testify, citing the inviolability of the confessional seal.

Judge Caldwell ruled that the state law making priests mandated reporters of sexual abuse was unconstitutional insofar as it applied to confessions, since it violated religious freedom. 

In an earlier phase of the case, the Louisiana Supreme Court had said that Father Bayhi could be required to testify, because in this case the penitent had waived the protection of the confessional seal. Church officials pointed out that the seal cannot be waived, and a priest cannot reveal the contents of a confession under any circumstances. Last year the US Supreme Court had declined to hear the case.

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  • Posted by: feedback - Mar. 01, 2016 10:18 AM ET USA

    May God bless Judge Mike Caldwell! He risks his future career for standing up for what is right in this case. What an example of honesty and bravery to all of us! And what a stark contrast to Boston's Mayor Martin Walsh who is no longer "personally pro-life."

  • Posted by: unum - Feb. 29, 2016 6:29 PM ET USA

    God, bless Judge Mike Caldwell for having the courage to correct the Louisiana Supreme Court for an incorrect ruling. And, bless him for correcting the unconstitutional application of a Louisiana law in the case. And, shame on the U.S. Supreme Court for failing to hear this important case. I'm surprised it got by Justice Scalia, God rest his soul.