Below is an excerpt from the Diocese of Baton Rouge's public response to the LA Supreme Court's recent ruling on a civil lawsuit filed against the diocese and a BR priest:
The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that the seal of confession preempted the Civil Court from ordering the priest to testify as to whether or not there was a confession and, if so, what the contents of the confession revealed. The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit dismissed the case against both Fr. Bayhi and the Catholic Church of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.
A Writ of Certiorari was filed by the plaintiffs to the Supreme Court of Louisiana. The Supreme Court of Louisiana granted the Writ, reversed and vacated the First Circuit Court of Appeals judgment, in its entirety, reinstated the judgment of the trial court, and remanded for further proceedings in the District Court to hold a hearing concerning whether or not there was a “confession.” We contend that such a procedure is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the U. S. Constitution. The Supreme Court of Louisiana cannot order the District Court to do that which no civil court possibly can—determine what constitutes the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Catholic Church. Indeed, both state and federal jurisprudence make clear that there is no jurisdiction to adjudicate claims that turn upon such purely religious questions.
A foundational doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church for thousands of years mandates that the seal of confession is absolute and inviolable. Pursuant to his oath to the Church, a priest is compelled never to break that seal. Neither is a priest allowed to admit that someone went to confession to him. If necessary, the priest would have to suffer a finding of contempt in a civil court and suffer imprisonment rather than violate his sacred duty and violate the seal of confession and his duty to the penitent.
This is not a gray area in the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. A priest/confessor who violates the seal of confession incurs an automatic excommunication reserved for forgiveness to the Apostolic See in Vatican City, Italy.
In this case, the priest acted appropriately and would not testify about the alleged confessions. Church law does not allow either the plaintiff (penitent) or anyone else to waive the seal of confession.
Attempts by secular authorities to force priests to violate the seal are increasing in both number and intensity. This is a direct attack on Christ's Church.
The Enemy is trying to destroy the confessor-penitent relationship so that Catholics will be hesitant to make frequent use of the sacrament.
In the current atmosphere of militant secularism and in the animosity of the current administration in D.C. to the Church, these attempts to force priests to violate the seal may find an eager assistant.
Keep in mind: even though this attempt to undermine the sacrament will likely fail, there will be another attempt and another. The Enemy is perfectly happy with tiny victories and small advances. Each quarter-step makes the next step that much easier.
Pray for your priests!____________________
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