Just about every state has laws requiring people who have regular contact with children — teachers, daycare providers, etc. — to report evidence of abuse or neglect to authorities. If a child tells you they receive beatings at home, or you see bruises on their skin, you’re legally required to say something.
But earlier this year, a Louisiana judge ruled that priests were exempt from that law. If someone went into the confessional booth and said he was being abused, a priest was not obligated to tell anyone.
The case that prompted this ruling was especially disturbing because the confession involved a 14-year-old victim, Rebecca Mayeaux, telling her priest Jeff Bayhi that she was molested by a 64-year-old man in their congregation.
Bayhi said nothing to the police. Instead, he allegedly told Mayeaux, “This is your problem, sweep it under the floor and get rid of it.” He also said in court that if confessionals were ever made public, via mandatory reporting, no one would ever come into the confessional booth.
Because what’s more important: A priest’s holy duties and “religious freedoms” or protecting a child from getting raped?
The state’s Supreme Court heard this case in 2014 but never conclusively ruled on the matter of whether confessions counted in mandatory reporting laws. That’s what they ruled on a few days ago, and unfortunately, they took the Church’s side.
… 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.”
The court added that a review of the legislative history “provides further proof the Legislature never intended to impose such mandatory reporter status on priests when administering the sacrament of confession …”
So there you go. Priests are legally exempt from the mandatory reporting laws. But that still doesn’t make their silence ethical. This is yet another example of Catholic dogma overriding what’s best for the people they claim to be helping. We’ve already seen the Church fight death with dignity laws, forcing terminally ill patients to suffer instead of letting them end their lives on their own terms. They also won’t help women end a pregnancy even when their lives are in danger.
And now, priests won’t have to report confessions involving abuse. As if God’s going to make everything better.
Tell me again how religion is a virtue?