17 Oct 2014, ABC.net
The Anglican Church in Adelaide has backed an earlier move by the church nationally to let its priests break the confidentiality of confessions.
Adelaide Archbishop Jeffrey Driver said the local synod voted to back the change and, after some further consultation with clergy, the church legislation would be signed into effect.
Catholic Herald: Priest could be jailed for refusing to break seal of Confession
In the case, a girl who was 14 in 2008 said she told her parish priest – Fr Bayhi, parish priest of St John the Baptist Parish in Zachary – in the confessional that she was abused by a now-dead lay member of the parish.
The girl’s parents sued Fr Bayhi and the (Catholic) Diocese of Baton Rouge for failing to report the abuse. The parents won at the district court level about compelling the priest to testify, but lost in Louisiana’s First Circuit Court of Appeals, before the state’s highest court reversed and vacated the appellate court’s decision.
“The seal of Confession is one that can never be broken. Through its use the faithful must always be protected, so much so, that as a priest I cannot even say someone has come to Confession, let alone divulge the contents of what was revealed.” (Pray for Fr. Bayhi! Pray that the courts respect the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. Pray for healing for the young woman and her family. Pray for mercy toward all.)
The Baton Rouge diocese, in its own statement, said the state Supreme Court violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution in its decision.
“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,” the diocese said. “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.”
The diocese added: “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.