And the children suffer: Louisiana Supreme Court rules priests don’t have to report child abuse.
In a disappointing decision that puts children at risk, the Louisiana Supreme Court rules that Catholic priests are not “mandatory reporters” of child abuse when administering sacramental confession.
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.
Summarizing the decision, Religion Clause reports:
Therefore, the provision in La. Child. Code art. 609 that eliminates a defense of privileged communications in some instances for mandatory reporters does not eliminate protections for priests.
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.”
The Advocate reports the original case involves a young woman who told a Baton Rouge-area Catholic priest that a longtime church parishioner was sexually abusing her when she was only 14-years-old. The priest did nothing to stop or report the alleged abuse.
The new ruling protects the priest and the church from being held accountable for failing to protect children and report child abuse. In essence, the ruling places church dogma above the law.
As always, it is the children who suffer.
Bottom line: If a priest hears about a child being abused, in confession or not, that priest has a moral obligation to do everything in their power to protect that child, including reporting the abuse to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. To do otherwise is to fail as a human being.
Yet the fact that the Catholic church would fight for and win the right to keep child abuse hidden should come as a surprise to no one. After all, the Catholic church has a long and well documented history of protecting child abusers at the expense of innocent children.