A statement was issued this week by the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge that decries the ruling from the Louisiana Supreme Court that might force a priest to testify in court about confessions told to him, according to The Times-Picayune.
According to legal documents, the confessions were made by a minor girl about alleged sexual abuse by another parishioner of the church.
The lawsuit names Rev. Jeff Bayhi and the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge. It compels Bayhi to testify to the fact of if the confessions took place “and, if so, what the contents of any such confessions were.”
“A foundational doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church for thousands of years mandates that the seal of confession is absolute and inviolable,” the statement says. “The position of the Diocese of Baton Rouge and Fr. Bayhi is that the Supreme Court of Louisiana has run afoul of the constitutional rights of both the Church and the priest, more particularly, has violated the Establishment Clause and the separation of Church and State under the first amendment.”
The decision from the Supreme Court was issued in the month of May and it demands a hearing occur in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge, which is where the lawsuit was filed. The ruling from the state Supreme Court overturns a ruling from the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals that dismissed an original lawsuit filed against the diocese and Bayhi.
The case originated after the parents of a minor said their daughter confessed to the priest during reconciliation that she took part in sexual behavior with a grown man from the church.
At the time of the abuse, the girl was 12. An investigation was conducted by the East Feliciana Sheriff’s Office into the accusations when the suspect died in February 2009 of a heart attack.
The civil suit was filed five months after the suspect’s death.
The statement said that Bayhi did the appropriate thing by refusing to testify in court.
“This is not a gray area in the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church,” the statement said. “For a civil court to impinge upon the freedom of religion is a clear violation and the matter will be taken to the highest court in the land by the Church in order to protect its free exercise of religion.”
The diocese said that it is willing to fight this issue all the way to the United States Supreme Court.