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Louisiana court to weigh case involving abuse complaint, confessional seal

August 22, 2017

A Louisiana judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit that revolves around a priest’s refusal to report sexual abuse that was disclosed in a confession.

The plaintiff, Rebecca Mayeux, has sued Father Jeff Bayhi and the Diocese of Baton Rouge, saying that the priest should have reported to authorities when she (Mayeux) told him that she had been abused. Father Bayhi, citing the absolute secrecy of the confessional, has said that he cannot testify about what he was told—or even confirm that he heard Mayeux’s confession.

The case has already been before the Louisiana Supreme Court, which upheld the confessional seal in a ruling last year, saying that Father Bayhi cannot be required to testify about what he heard in a confession. However, the plaintiff’s lawyers argue the Mayeux’s encounter with the priest was not a sacramental confession but an appeal for help.

In a ruling announced on August 21, Judge Mike Caldwell said that a Baton Rouge jury could be asked to determine whether or not, when Mayeux spoke to Father Bayhi, their conversation was in the context of a confession.

 
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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: polish.pinecone4371 - Aug. 23, 2017 9:51 AM ET USA

    If the attorneys are claiming that this wasn't a confession, then why have they waited until now to say so? Why did they argue all the way to Louisiana's Supreme Court that he had to reveal the contents of a confession? Does this make sense at all?

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Aug. 23, 2017 7:46 AM ET USA

    This is a critical case and we can hope that the priest doesn't have to witness to his faith and vows in jail. I suspect that many of us deacons are watching this case closely, because a false accusation or claim could shut down our ministries.

  • Posted by: rpp - Aug. 22, 2017 5:25 PM ET USA

    Her word against him even being able to confirm he talked to her. Seal must remain unbroken.