by Ben Broussard
Washington, DC-- On September 25, 2014, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) filed an Amicus Curiae Brief with the United States Supreme Court supporting the petitioners in Roman Catholic Church of the Diocese of Baton Rouge vs. Mayeux, a case that concerns the Seal of Confession and that could have far-reaching consequences for the Catholic Church in the United States.
The American TFP, a civic organization of Catholic inspiration, was joined by its sister organizations Tradition, Family and Property—Louisiana, Inc., and Tradition, Family, Property, Inc., and the Pro-Life Action League. Besides the amicus curiae brief of the American TFP, four other amici briefs were filed: (a) the other six Louisiana dioceses; (b) the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy; (c) Belmont Abbey College, and (d) Catholic Action for Faith and Family. All total, 6 Catholic dioceses and 28 organizations (both Catholic and non-Catholic), filed or joined amici briefs in support of the Diocese of Baton Rouge and the Seal of Confession.
When the State Supreme Court of Louisiana issued a ruling in this case April 4, 2014, the court intended to compel Fr. Jeff Bayhi, priest of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, to reveal what he had heard in the privacy of the confessional. The ruling was based on Louisiana’s poorly drafted mandatory reporting statutes, according to which, once the penitent has waived the confidentiality of a Confession, then the priest-confessor is afforded no protection for privileged communications under the statute and must testify. Church teaching is abundantly clear that any priest who reveals details shared during confession, or that a particular confession even took place, incurs the penalty of automatic excommunication.
These proceedings now coming before the nation’s highest court are filled with implications for the Catholic Church in America. Should the Supreme Court decline to hear the case, Fr. Bayhi will face incarceration for refusing to break the inviolable seal of confession. A dangerous precedent will also be set based on the lower court’s ruling which will embolden courts across the land to attempt to force priests to disclose details confessed in the sacrament of penance. The sacrosanct trust between priest and penitent will be jeopardized as a result.
As explicitly stated in the TFP’s Amicus Brief, “The inviolability of the confessional seal is a fundamental part of the Sacrament of Confession, which has been in existence for nearly two millennia. Permitting states to compel the breaking of this seal at whim will undermine an essential part of both a penitent’s religious life and a Sacrament of the Catholic Church.”
Given the potential for open persecution of the clergy hanging in the balance, the American TFP calls on the Supreme Court of the United States to take up this matter and defend the God-given rights of Catholic clergy, which are upheld by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Justices can be assured of the gratitude of Catholics and many other Americans of good will for taking a stand to assure this two-thousand year tradition of the Church will remain secure for future generations of Americans.
To read the full amicus curiae brief click here