The Big Lie Misrepresentation in Louisiana “Seal of Confessional” Case

The systematic abuse of the free exercise clause strikes again. In this latest episode, according to bloggers at Hot Air and the American Conservative, “[t]he Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that a priest must testify in a case about what he heard in a confessional,” and “Fr. Bayhi will have to go to jail to protect the seal of the confessional.”

These pundits can, to some extent, be forgiven for these misleading statements since the Catholic Church’s Baton Rouge Diocese has made some fairly alarming claims including, among other things, that the Supreme Court’s decision “attacks the seal of Confession” and that to compel a priest to testify would be a violation of both the Free Exercise and Establishment Clause, subjecting the priest to excommunication.

If, in fact, a court did compel a priest to break the seal of Confession that would be a radical act. Good thing the court didn’t actually do any such thing. It only takes a brief review of the facts to reveal a far more, dare I say, judicious ruling.

According to Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate (not to be confused with the LGBT publication of the same name), “The case involves a young girl who claims she was sexually abused by a now-deceased church parishioner but that her confession to a local priest fell on deaf ears.” (Even this brief summary is somewhat misleading, since the status of the girl’s conversation with the priest as “confession” is a central question.)

A lawsuit filed against the priest and the church several years ago was dismissed by the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the priest was not required to report the abuse since his conversations with the girl all occurred during the sacrament of Confession. The state Supreme Court reversed that decision in May ruling that what did and did not take place during confession was a matter of fact that ought to be argued at trial.

So, despite the misrepresentations of the Church, newspapers and right wing bloggers, the court did not rule that the priest had to testify as to what he was told during confession.

It’s also worth noting that, with regard to the girl’s own testimony, the seal of Confession wouldn’t be broken as it doesn’t apply to the penitent, only to the priest. Yet, not only is the Diocese seeking to keep the priest from testifying at all, it filed a motion to bar anyone from mentioning what took place during confession.

So no, no one is actually attempting to compel the priest’s testimony—the attorney for the plaintiff confirmed that fact—and nobody is challenging the seal of Confession. The only question here is: can a religious body—one that, in this case, is a defendant in a lawsuit—make its own determination concerning the facts?

Of course there is a thorny issue here given the difficulty of determining both the contours of a religious ritual and the facts regarding a series of encounters that took place several years ago, but the diocese and its apologists have opted to go the chicken little route, joining those who see attacks on religious liberty at every turn.


  •' Jim Reed says:

    those who see attacks on religious liberty at every turn.

    Interesting observation. What will it accomplish? The harder they fight that battle, the more they will turn people off to religion. The only way that approach could help their cause would be if they have the power to intimidate people into submission. I think the church no longer has that kind of power, so they are just accelerating their end.

  •' Storeboy says:

    Is the church arguing that even if the “penitent” reveals the extent of the so-called confession that the priest should be indemnified? Or is this just a blatant attempt to protect the church?

  •' cranefly says:

    I’m guessing the latter. It sounds like they’re misrepresenting their own religion to get special privileges in court.

  •' DKeane123 says:

    Wow, I wonder how Jesus would see this obvious distortion? Just finished the Frontline report on Secrets of the Vatican from this past winter, will they ever learn? So much for being the ultimate moral voice, aren’t they supposed to be better than the rest of us?

  •' The_complete_story says:

    Jason – Although you correctly summarize the Supreme Court’s decision, you fail to understand its implication. By remanding the case to determine whether the girl’s “confession” was made during a valid sacrament of Confession, the Court’s ruling does effectively challenge the seal of Confession. So in this regard, you’re wrong.

    For very practical reasons the Catholic Church’s position remains that all statements by a confessor in during confession are privileged, so that the confessor will not withhold confessing his or her sins. Otherwise who determines which parts are kept under seal and which aren’t? The Court’s holding seeks to dissect the girls “confession” in order to answer that question and in so doing, challenges the seal of Confession.

    If certain things “confessed” in the confessional are determined not under seal, then the Catholic Church believes sinners will be reluctant to confess. And
    they’re probably correct.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    If the Catholic church was in charge, that would be correct. Because we have such respect for the Catholic church we allow the priest to hear and not tell. It doesn’t go beyond that. If someone else was listening in, them saying what they heard would not be a problem. It wouldn’t do any harm to the priest and his vow of silence. You might be right that if someone ends up having to testify about what they confessed (the sinner and not the priest), that also might make people less willing to confess. Not our problem. Maybe you should rethink your religion.

  •' BeeSmart says:

    Not our problem? Who is “our?” The Constitution covers us all and protects the religion from the intrusion of government. When compelling interests are in conflict it is up to the Courts to decide.

    If religions do not agree with the “law of the land” and how it is administered they can make their case at the ballot box. Not sure you would care for that if if you had to rethink your government. Probably would not come to that either way.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    You are making too big a deal of this. We are not trying to force the priest to violate his vow of silence. If someone wants to reveal what they said in confession, they can do that. Your religion made a mistake in coming up with a design where now they need more control over the rest of the world to protect their particular world view. We allow you to make a rule where the priest hears confession and doesn’t have to reveal what he hears, unless he wants to. You can’t decide the church also needs for the universe to not ever hear or reveal what was confessed. I know that might put the church in a contradictory position. Not our problem.

  •' mikehorn says:

    The church over reached if it asked all confessional participants to remain silent. The real issue is whether the priest is required to report or not, and the silence or speech of others is not related. The priest should have encouraged the confessor to seek secular legal help, medical help, or mental health help, and perhaps offered to help arrange it. If the priest blew off this duty for compassion, then he is a bad priest, but again that is a separate issue from whether or not reporting is required or forbidden.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    I thought the priest was only supposed to hear the confession and make up a penance. Are priests qualified to make those other kinds of recommendations?

  •' apotropoxy says:

    The RCC’s “Seal of the Confession” would apply if the girl had been confessing a sin. She wasn’t. She was describing the aftermath of a sin perpetrated upon her. The confessor is under no obligation to protect the identity of a third party to the confessional discussion.

  •' BeeSmart says:

    Firstly it is NOT my religion. Who is the “we” that ALLOWED religions to make rules? The same we that allowed free speech or other freedoms? Last time I looked they were understood to be universal freedoms granted by God and codified in the Bill of rights. The Bill of Rights were restrictions on government and prohibits the abridgment of these recognized universal human rights. Men constructed the government but restricted its power and reach for a reason.

    We happen to live in a Republic. NO State would have ever signed over its sovereignty, at the formation of the country, without the Electoral College to protect them from the more populated States control.

    Without the current method any Presidential campaign would only cater to five or six large Cities and ignore the interests of the rest of the nation. While flawed, this system prevents overly regionally centralized power. Look at the importance given to Iowa or New Hampshire. I don’t think most of the country wants to be ruled by New York, L.A, Chicago etc. Popular vote usually wins anyway but the E.C. has its’ reasons.

    Direct Democracy in some cases can become tyranny of the majority. Slavery might have survived a popular vote in 1860 or Civil Rights laws been voted down in the 1950s & 60s. Courts can take years to correct “know nothing” voting based on passing political fads and emotional pandering.

  •' apotropoxy says:

    “… the Catholic Church’s position remains that all statements by a confessor in during confession are privileged, so that the confessor will not withhold confessing his or her sins.”

    The perpetrator wasn’t confessing his sins. The victim was relating an event that involved a third party. Nothing in Canon Law prevents a priest from sharing information he learned in Confession that was not confessed as a sin. One cannot obtain absolution for the sin of another.

  •' Lamont Cranston says:

    Gee, what a shock! Conservatives are OUTRAGED! that a raped young girl might receive justice.

  •' cranefly says:

    I think you would be right if we can assume that the only conversation in question took place in the confessional. I’m not sure from this article that that’s the case. It sounds to me like they’re investigating whether there were other conversations.

    Second, there is still no reason for the diocese to legally bar the priest from testifying at all, or to bar the penitent from mentioning what she said in confession.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Most of the country would be happy with New York, LA, etc having their votes count more in line with their population because most of the country lives there. With the electoral college, a vary few number of states are in play and most of the campaigning goes there. Most states are ignored. The huge advantage of a popular vote with a runoff is you could have a third party. Right now, if you vote for a third party, your vote could be thought of as wasted. With a runoff election, you could vote for a third party, and then in the runoff vote for one of the top two. This would allow a third party to get a foothold, start building up more votes, win a few local or state elections, and eventually become one of the big two that would be in the runoff. You could have a more centrist party, and a more insane tea party. People would consider the actual differences between these parties instead of filtering everything through the two parties.

    The current design makes the country more and more divided, with no hope of coming together. Some day perhaps we will make this change, and that will start the healing process.

  •' Smknws says:

    Confession is a man made sacrament and a perfect place for priests who abuse . Catholics are the only ones with little dark boxes . FRONTLINE Secrets of the Vatican I couldn’t sleep, priest orgies at night and serving the communion the next morning, and the pedophile priest who fathered children with two women and abused his own children .. he was embraced by Pope JP2 who thanked him for all he had done for the church !!! They made JP2 a saint .. Pope Francis didn’t object .. I was surprised that not one TV channel mentioned Frontline .. but show the pope at every chance they get being nice in public ..

    I am ashamed of the lies and cover ups that have been kept secret for centuries .. WAKE UP WORLD

  •' BeeSmart says:

    You have made some strong points for a Parliamentary style of government. We have a somewhat of a five Party system if you count the left and right of the major parties and the Independents.

    Plain popular voting might Balkanize the country and coalitions of special interest groups could have a disparate influence on policy. Money might have a bigger influence then it already has.

    Most systems of governmental rule have drawbacks and none is close to perfect.

    When the mainstream of the two major parties reduces the influence of their outliners maybe the normal give and take of cooperation and the idea of loyal opposition might reemerge. The idea that one group is morally superior or “smarter” then the other seems to be a major polarizing factor.

    When individuals are dismissed as uneducated, knuckle dragging, racists, anti-American, traitors, homophobic,radicals, religious zealots and on and on it is difficult to reach a consensus or even want to negotiate programs and policies.

    Each group SEEMS to actually believe the worst about the others, when in fact some of the negative depictions might be partly true of some but are certianlly not a driving force behind the entire political party or people belonging to it. Stupid political advertising slogans are mistaken for truth.

    Political disputes by extremists are usually settled with violence and revolution. We have avoided that for over two hundred twenty years. But it is getting ugly out there.

  •' BeeSmart says:

    The priest as part of the penance might have required this individual to seek assistance as part of the absolution and penance. I really don ‘t think ANY organized religion, Catholics included, can require a person to not reveal what they said in any confession. Their Bishop might not be a Canon lawyer or versed in the arcane rules of this 2000 year old institution.

    But we have laws where a wife cannot be required to testify against her husband in any Court. The husband or wife MUST be the one who gives permission to the other to testify about ANYTHING which was said or happened within their marriage. Crime or not. Unless of course the spouse was a victim of the others’ crime.

    Laws can be odd things.

  •' AU0725 says:

    mikehorn is correct. I am a Catholic and the Priest can give someone that advice and in this case should have done so; perhaps he did, we do not know.
    He cannot make it obligatory as part of the absolution, just as he
    cannot tell someone who confessed to murder that (s)he must go now to the
    authorities. The girl can discuss anything she wishes including what she said in the confessional, I think the problem here is that the priest cannot discuss what happened and therefore cannot defend himself against the accusations being made. I read the story in the Advocate and the local police were investigating the matter when the accused died. This means that the girl brought her story to an adult who then took the proper action. I am not sure how this turned into a lawsuit involving the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    When you consider the fiscal conservatives started the Iraq war for greed and backed it up with torture, I think you could say one party is morally superior to the other. When you consider the social conservatives are based on lockstep following of the conservative party line, I think you could say one party is smarter than the other.

  •' BeeSmart says:

    Well there you have it!! Thanks for the confirmation. You can stop complaining about non cooperation.

    I could list many, many things Democrats have done since 1932 to present that might dwarf those you seek to demonize. For starters FDR imprisoned thousands of Japanese/American citizens illegally with little or no outrage by liberals. Viet Nam was a Democrat operation until Nixon got us out. Korea cost us 50,000 lives until a Republican Pres. put an end to it.

    The list could go on and on with both sides lobbing moral motor shells back and forth. The back and forth makes little sense but might illustrate that virtue does NOT reside with any political party or POV. It is easy to condemn torture until you have a ticking bomb in a daycare center. Four individuals subjected to a non permeant injuring process hardly becomes a policy of torture. The injuries and deaths to 1000s of Iraq citizens who crossed paths with Al Queda might be something that should be classified as a policy of torture.

    If anyone wants to see themselves through the lens of politics to determine their “smartness” or moral superiority might be barking up the wrong tree. If you believe that belonging to a Party of power seeking amoral people somehow elevates an individual above others you might want to reconsider. Then again those who need politics to define themselves will, like religious zealots, never see others as fellow humans.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Political parties change over time. Lincoln freed the slaves, and the south became solid Democrat. Johnson signed the civil rights legislation, and the south became solid Republican. When it comes to deciding what party is morally superior, I think it makes more sense to go back to when Bush was elected and responded to the 9/11 attacks by starting a war with a non-involved country that he wanted to invade.

  •' osu84 says:

    Frontline? Really? And you believed it. Of course DKeane you do know that priests abuse children at much lower rates than married fathers of their own children? And you know that according to abuse records made available by California public schools that abuse rates among teachers are more than double that of Catholic Priests? A close family member of mine was abused at public school so the issue is important to me. You see I don’t think most of the commenters here give a damn about the kids – they only care about the kids if it makes an institution they don’t like look bad.

  •' osu84 says:

    Simply incorrect. The priest can’t even reveal if the individual went to confession. Cannon Law aside why is it assumed that the priest remembers the confession? Or that the confession was face to face?

  •' osu84 says:

    The Church does not prohibit the penitent from talking. The priest can not do so nor should he.

  •' osu84 says:

    Not at all. The Penitent can talk to anyone. The priest can not reveal the contents of the confession nor can he even say whether or not a confession took place. I can promise you the priest is not going to testify.

  •' DKeane123 says:

    I’m going to gloss over the moral authority that priests claim relative to teachers and parents. To dangle the threat of hell over their parishoners and in next moment defile their children violates a trust and indicates a hypocrisy that is beyond the pale. Also give me your references please.

    But where you miss the mark by such a large margin as for me to question your ability to parse reality from fiction – isn’t the point that priests are more or less likely to abuse – it is the Catholic Church’s response to the issue – Wow.

    There wouldn’t be any as much of an outcry if
    – the Church didn’t just move these criminals around and actually turned them over to the police

    – the Catholic Church stopped hiding information from civil authorities and actually opened up their books.

    – stopped lawyering up whenever abuse is discovered (off dufy or didn’t know it was a crime?) Do these men of God know how they sound?

    ” they only care about the kids if it makes an institution they don’t like look bad.” – As an ex-Catholic and parent of two wonderful children – “go to hell.”

    Tim Minchin explains it pretty well:

  •' apotropoxy says:

    – The priest need not reveal that the information was acquired at a confession.
    – Obviously, the issue on the table wound not have arisen if the assumptions in your remaining questions had application.

  •' BeeSmart says:

    Did Bush’s sins abrogate all that went before. Sure political parties change as the Democrat party morphs into a government empowering machine dedicated to controlling every aspect of citizens lives.

    Government is by its very nature an ever growing oppressive force that like fire must be controlled lest it devour individual freedom in the name of “greater good.” Since ALL governments are run by humans they either evolve into Soviet like uncaring bureaucracies or centralized powerful oligarchies. Often dictatorships.

    The current Executive has attacked the other institutions of government like the Supreme Court and the Congress relentlessly in an effort to unbalance the power relationships put forth in the Constitution. Whether right or wrong he believes is way is superior and morally above anyone else’s.

    A sure recipe for disaster no matter how pure his motives and that is debatable. BTW Pres Johnson sought and needed he Republican members of Congress to vote with him since the serving Democrats had not yet “evolved” enough to see the wisdom of the Civil Rights Laws he passed.

    Did the Democrats evolve because of morality or for political expedience? Do they actually hold the moral high or use the public treasury to cull votes? Power seeking individuals no matter their political leaning should always be constrained by informed voters and the weight of the people elected to Congress. The free press has a huge role to play in exposing those whose hubris gets the best of them.

    Whether saint or sinner the media’s swoon over Pres. Obama’s first election was not a positive thing. The abuses, phony scandels as they are spun, are a direct result of the media filing WH press releases as if they were actual reporting.

  •' cranefly says:

    Please re-read the article. The diocese is trying to bar the priest from testifying at all (which is not necessary, because of course he won’t talk about what was said in confession), and bar the penitent from mentioning what was said in confession in her court testimony. I don’t need you to repeat obvious things to me that are not pertinent.

  •' maryf says:

    Are you kidding? Say you were a priest hearing confession. If a young girl told you she had been sexually abused by someone. YOU WOULDN’T REMEMBER THAT? Either you have dementia and have no business hearing confessions or you are too callous to be a priest in the first instance.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    Bush’s sins did not really abrogate all that went before as much as it just shifted blame for everything going wrong at this time to the party of the rich.

    The ultimate system of individual freedom is the law of the jungle. We are now becoming concerned about the rest of us being devoured by the rich, perhaps not all the rich, but at least the greedy ones, and they are the Republicans.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    They are trying to mess everything up as much as they can so that Obama will get the blame.

  •' BeeSmart says:

    Could be wrong but he richest individuals in politics are Democrats. Nancy and Hillary alone could buy L.A. Yes you are correct the Republicans over the years have catered to business while the Dems of the 1930s onward targeted Unions, working poor. But as you said parties are always changing. Many Reps. are from the middle class and professionals like lawyers and doctors.

    They did take a wrong folk when Bush got involved with the neo-cons. As bad as the radical left. Just in a different way. I think we have over stayed our welcome on this comment section. Good luck!!

  •' osu84 says:

    Tim Minchin needs a little less eye shadow! First, I don’t “dismiss claims against my church” at all. Most of the claims – though not all – have merit. And the Church (like many other institutions when confronted with corruption and scandal of this nature – the BBC, Penn State, Syracuse, other religious institutions, Los Angeles Public Schools, my local elementary school) handled the problem poorly even criminally. Yet, the Catholic Church has done more than these other institutions to actually address the problem. How many abuse claims against priests have been filed in the past ten years? You may want to research it. Stopped “lawyering up”? So, the defendant should just say I’m guilty and here’s all my money! No citizen or company or organization should be expected to do that. False claims are filed all the time – or exaggerated. This particular one (Louisiana) seems at best an exaggeration. You have a dead perp and a girl who went public six years later (I recognize that this happens but it does make it difficult to adjudicate) who apparently told no one else that the abuse was taking place. Even the nature of the abuse is very unclear. Then you have a priest saying something along the lines of “this is your problem”? You have a low opinion of priests so this may all fit together for you. I’ve received the sacrament of reconciliation hundreds of times since I was about ten. I have NEVER heard a priest speak that way.

  •' osu84 says:

    Maryf – No I’m not kidding. And the tone of your email gives you away – threatening hell fire? You aren’t even fooling yourself with this line. When have you ever heard a priest threaten hell fire? Candidly, one of my children had almost the same thing happen to them about eight years ago in public elementary school. We talked about it two weeks ago. I and my child had forgotten the details – which is understandable. I could not be a reliable witness to that event nor would I agree to testify against my will today. You see Mary I suspect the issue of child abuse bothers you much less than it does me. At the end of the day this priest is not going to testify. The courts and most of the commenters here can stomp their feet and hold their breath but it won’t happen.

  •' DKeane123 says:

    No references?

    You have essentially rationalized away the problem – you know nothing of what actually happened in this most recent case and have no way of determining if the claims are “exaggerated”. To state that you “never heard a priest talk like that” is an argument from (personal) incredulity. Thank goodness your person experience with priests aren’t applied universally to all court cases involving the church.

    I have no problem with the Church having lawyers represent them – I have an issue with the earthly representatives of God stating under oath that they didn’t know raping children was a crime or that they were”off-duty” when it happened.

    Yes, other institutions have issues with sexual offenses, but hasty generalizations from your personal experience about how they were handled does not in any way reduce the concern associated with how the Catholic Church handled a global problem of moving pedophile priests from parish to parish only to re-offend without reporting them to civil authorities. And then to instruct Bishops to not cooperate with the investigations! You can’t find another institution of this size that has acted in a more reprehensible manner.

  •' osu84 says:

    I’m repeating it as it seems to escape you. The Diocese didn’t want any information relayed in the confessional to be aired in court because doing so will put the priest in the awkward position of essentially telling the court (and the public) that the girl is fabricating facts (not about the abuse itself but the contents of the confession) – which it appears she probably is given that court documents state that the priest went to girl’s mother as well as the perp and his wife about the matter – probably because some information was passed outside of the confessional. Anyways, this was a legitimate claim by the diocese though I can see why the court said “no”. What the court has no right to do is adjudicate what is a proper Catholic Confession and what isn’t. This is not the role of the state – especially so given that this is a civil not a criminal trial. Yes, the Church teaches a penitent can go public with the confession. The Church is not compelled to limit itself to Church law in a secular court.

  •' Arachne646 says:

    There are those people of faith and agnostics, atheists, etc., who are fighting for real religious liberty. From the tyranny of the majority Christian conservative bloc you refer to. Their attempts in North America to gain legislative and cultural control over society, like a Christian Taliban, shouldn’t be underestimated–and wouldn’t be, if you were female!

  •' osu84 says:

    DKeane – references? How much time do you have? Newsweek 4/7/10 “experts who study child sex abuse say they see little reason to conclude abuse is a Catholic issue”. Yes, this refers to rates of abuse (a point you seem to concede – grudgingly?)
    Ernie Allen (google him) “We don’t see the CC as a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else”. This problem refers to rates of abuse and oversight.
    Again Newsweek 4/7/10 ‘insurance companies who offer sexual misconduct riders have concluded that Catholic Churches are not higher risks than other congregations”. Actuaries do consider oversight!
    Dr Phillip Jenkins of Baylor “If anyone has evidence of higher rates of abuse among priests than teachers or non-celibate clergy they should produce it. I know of none. Saying everybody knows does not constitute scientific methodology”.
    A 2004 US Dept of Education report reveals that 9.6% of students were victims of sexual misconduct during the school year.
    Dr Charol Shakeshaft Hofstra Univ (2006). “Think the CC has a problem? The physical sexual abuse of students in school is likely 100 times the abuse by priests”.
    1994 NY City Public Schools Study (See Dept of Educ 2004 report). “of the 225 cases of abuse by employed Educators, reports revealed that not ONE was reported to the authorities. These guys make Cardinal Law look vigilant DKeane! “39% of the accused educators received positive recommendations from the district AFTER the abuse was reported”.
    Tired yet?
    As recently as 1994 it was the UNIVERSAL practice of NYC public schools to not report abuse to the authorities?
    Still there?
    I’m tired of typing but read the AP Investigation of 2005 about the abuse in US Public Schools. (Read about LA school abuse rates). This report not only refers to RATES of abuse but to the larger issue of reporting and oversight.
    All abuse of minors is horrific but it’s critical that we inform ourselves before pontificating. The CC has much to apologize for. But our present day society (especially our public schools) has most certainly “acted in a far more reprehensible manner” on a far, far greater scale to answer your concluding sentence.
    According to Georgetown U In in no year since 2005 have there been more than 14 reported cases (out of abut 50,000 priests in the US) of sexual abuse of a minor. The Catholic Church is actually leading the way in addressing the issue. Yes, that’s difficult to recognize unless again, one takes the time to research and not accept the cultural biases and bigotry so common today.

  •' DKeane123 says:

    When the very head of the Department of Ed issues a memorandum telling teachers not to cooperate with authorities and that his opinions are the direct influence of God himself – then I’ll discuss this further.

    I’m done with this conversation,

  •' Jim Reed says:

    The issue is the wealth of the backers. Republicans in congress are just lower level employees. The Republican party is owned and financed by rich corporations and individuals behind the scenes. They could swap out all the politicians if needed. Their money is in control, and they use it to slant things ever more in favor of rich getting more rich. There are some rich people including at the very top that are using their money to help the world, like eliminate aids and polio in Africa, and help with global sanitation and education. The problem is the rich who use their money to get more rich with no concern to what they do to others or the world as a whole.

  •' osu84 says:

    I’m not surprised at your reaction DKeane!

  •' DKeane123 says:

    Yeah, I’m a big fan of organizations practicing what they preach.

  •' osu84 says:

    Me too. At least we agree on that.

  •' cranefly says:

    The priest is protected by the fifth amendment, among other things. I have not researched this specific case in detail, but it seems that this retrial is specifically happening to determine whether there was information from outside the confessional to consider, whereas before, it was apparently assumed that there wasn’t. In its letter of outrage, the diocese dishonestly implies that the court is only interested in deciding the religious question of when a confession is a confession. That might be an issue (assuming the diocese is innocent of claiming that non-confessions were, in fact, confessions) but everything I’ve read so far indicates that it isn’t the case. You yourself seem to have information that there is evidence of conversations outside the confessional, in which case the priest may be guilty of a crime. In which case, there is even less reason for the diocese to insist that he not be allowed to defend himself.

    The Church is the only entity in this situation with special privileges. The question is whether those privileges were properly invoked. Maybe they weren’t.

  •' osu84 says:

    I appreciate your reasoned response but in a situation like this shouldn’t the priest encourage the penitent to talk to the priest outside the confessional? If done properly and the priest suspects bad behavior (using whatever means available) then goes to the parents it seems he’s done right. I understand the priest is pushing the envelope a little but these are tough calls. Assuming he should go to the police assumes the girl relayed information (outside the confessional) that was criminal. The behavior may have been inappropriate even creepy – an unwanted hug, an overly eager text – just plain being a nuisance. Is the diocese being dragged in to this because of deep pockets? There are a lot of things not adding up and the reporting is awful. The things the priest supposedly told the girl are highly unlikely but taken at face value by the media. Bottom line, the priest (I hope) will go to jail rather than testify.

  •' cranefly says:

    I agree that the priest should have tried to convince the girl to talk to him outside the confessional, and I agree that if he had a choice between jail and breaking the seal of confession, then his responsibility is to choose jail. But that won’t happen by the state forcing him to testify, it seems clear that it won’t. It could only happen if the only evidence in his defense is his counter-testimony to what took place in confession, which would not be guaranteed to keep him out of jail, and if it was in fact a confession, then I don’t see how that evidence could be admissible anyway. So at the moment, I don’t see this adding up from either side. It seems like a weird situation.

  •' osu84 says:

    Agree with you on that. Suppose I should simply watch to see how it plays out. Unfortunately, it will probably drag out for many months if not years. The Church made terrible mistakes and will be paying (monetarily and otherwise) for years.

  •' Andrew Patton says:

    The priest cannot divulge anything learned in Confession, not even with the penitent’s permission; indeed, not even after a consenting penitent has died.

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