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Louisiana court uphold priest’s refusal to testify on confession

September 28, 2017

A Louisiana judge has said that he does not have the authority to determine what constitutes a sacramental confession, thus apparently ending a legal drama that threatened the integrity of the confessional seal.

Judge Mike Caldwell ruled on September 27 that he could not determine whether a conversation between a young man and a priest was a confession. “I don’t have the jurisdiction to decide that,” he said, explaining that the Catholic Church determines what is and is not a sacrament.

The legal case involves a lawsuit brought against the Baton Rouge diocese by a young woman who said that years earlier, as a teenager, she had told a priest she was being molested, and the priest did not report the abuse. The priest involved in the case, Father Jeff Bayhi, refused to testify, or even to confirm that he had heard the girl’s confession.

The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled last year that the court could not force Father Bayhi to testify about a confessional. However, the court allowed the plaintiffs’ lawyer to make their case that the girl’s conversation with the priest was not a confession.

Judge Caldwell said that the case was “a gut-wrencher,” but that he could not decide the question of what is a confession.

 
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