Mandatory appeal in Louisiana case involving reporting sexual abuse
A Louisiana law that requires clergy to report allegations of wrongdoing, even if learned during sacramental confession, is unconstitutional, a state judge ruled Friday.
The case involves Rebecca Mayeaux, a 22-year-old woman who says she was 14 in 2008 when she told a priest in a confession that a 64-year-old parishioner was sexually abusing her.
She alleges that the priest, Father Jeff Bayhi, told her to “sweep it under the floor and get rid of it.”
The state Children’s Code says members of the clergy, including priests, rabbis and other ordained ministers are mandatory reporters of suspected abuse, The New Orleans Advocate explained. The law provides an exception when the allegations are revealed during a confidential religious communication like confession.
However, the code — specifically Article 609 A(1) — also states that “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” must report that information to the proper authorities.
Father Bayhi testified Friday that he would be automatically excommunicated if he revealed what was said in any confession.
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