The seal of the confessional has long been a hallmark of confidence for those who confess their sins and receive absolution yet it has not been without its critics both inside and outside the Church. True to form, a Louisiana law arbitrarily struck down the seal and required priests [and pastors] to violate the law in order to be true to their ordination and church. Now a judge has come to his senses and ruled this law an unconstitutional breach of the separation of church and state and the right of religious freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The Supremes decided to pass on this case and so it was left to Judge Mike Caldwell to bring common sense back into the convoluted dispute. Occasionally the judicial branch gets it just right. We often criticize when they get it wrong so here I will laud one who came down on the right side of the Constitution and just law.
A Louisiana judge has ruled unconstitutional a new state
law requiring priests to report sexual abuse that is mentioned in a
sacramental confession. Judge Mike Caldwell made his ruling in a long-running and complicated
case in which Father Jeff Bayhi had been directed to testify about what
a young woman reportedly told him in a confession. The young woman has
said that she told Father Bayhi about being molested by a member of his
parish. Father Bayhi had refused to testify, citing the inviolability of
the confessional seal.
Judge Caldwell ruled that the state law making priests
mandated reporters of sexual abuse was unconstitutional insofar as it
applied to confessions, since it violated religious freedom.
In an earlier phase of the case, the Louisiana Supreme Court had said
that Father Bayhi could be required to testify, because in this case
the penitent had waived the protection of the confessional seal. Church
officials pointed out that the seal cannot be waived, and a priest
cannot reveal the contents of a confession under any circumstances. Last
year the US Supreme Court had declined to hear the case.
Bravo! A judge gets it right (a rare event!)!!
There is still hope that a few remember how America is supposed to work, rather than the way it usually does work.
We know that something always comes along to fill a vacuum and what an opportunity we have at hand thanks to a failing education system....Maybe we of faith could be part of the solution by helping our youth steward a faith at the very least that will fill a deep need during their dying hour that nothing but abiding in Christ can meet. ErnestO
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