Laws that require people to report evidence of child abuse or neglect are standard in almost every U.S. state.
But thanks to a Louisiana judge, priests in the state are now exempt from that law. In other words, if a child confides with a priest in a confessional booth about any form of abuse, the priest is not obligated to say anything.
Prompting the ruling was a case from 2014 when 14-year-old Rebecca Mayeaux confided in Catholic priest Jeff Bayhi that she was being molested by a 64-year-old man who was a member of their congregation. [DEADSTATE]
The Supreme Court on Friday conceded that it never “conclusively determined” whether a priest, in administering sacramental confession, is a mandatory reporter of child abuse under provisions of the Louisiana Children’s Code. Such a determination would make priests subject to the mandatory duty to report under the code.
“Any communication made to a priest privately in the sacrament of confession for the purpose of confession, repentance, and absolution is a confidential communication … and the priest is exempt from mandatory reporter status …” the high court decreed Friday. [SUNHERALD]
The Oct. 28 ruling finds that laws which categorize priests as “mandatory reporters” of suspected child abuse do not apply to priests who discover such information while hearing confessions.
The ruling refers to article 609 A(1) of the Louisiana Children’s Code:
With respect to mandatory reporters: Notwithstanding any claim of privileged communication, any mandatory reporter who has cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare is endangered as a result of abuse or neglect or that abuse or neglect was a contributing factor in a child’s death shall report in accordance with Article 610.
The court ruling states, in part:
… any communication made to a priest privately in the sacrament of confession for the purpose of confession, repentance, and absolution is a confidential communication under La. Code Evid. 511, and the priest is exempt from mandatory reporter status in such circumstances by operation of La. Child. Code art. 603, because “under the … tenets of the [Roman Catholic] church” he has an inviolable “duty to keep such communications confidential.”