Within the last week, the Louisiana Supreme Court released an opinion ruling that Catholic priests do not have the “legal privilege” to withhold communications within a confession. [Read more] They ruled that the privilege belongs to the penitent and if the penitent chooses to waive the privilege then the priest must disclose communications from a sexually abused minor.
At first glance, I thought, “WOW! How could the Louisiana Supreme Court get this so wrong?” and maybe they still did, but after reading their opinion, I’ve come to a different conclusion as to who may be to blame for this shocking opinion – LEGISLATORS. The L.A. Supreme Court clearly laid out their opinion quoting the “L.A. Code of Evidence” article 511 priest-penitent privilege or the “Communications to clergymen” article. The opinion lays out the following sections of the article:
“A. Definitions. As used in this Article:
(1) A “clergyman” is a minister, priest, rabbi, Christian Science practitioner, or other similar functionary of a religious organization, or an individual reasonably believed so to be by the person consulting him.
(2) A communication is “confidential” if it is made privately and not intended for further disclosure except to other persons present in furtherance of the purpose of the communication.
B. General rule of privilege. A person has a privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent another person from disclosing a confidential communication by the person to a clergyman in his professional character as spiritual adviser.
C. Who may claim the privilege. The privilege may be claimed by the person or by his legal representative. The clergyman is presumed to have authority to claim the privilege on behalf of the person or deceased person.”
You don’t have to be an attorney to see that the way the “L.A. Code of Evidence” (title of the legal code that determines what evidence can be admitted or excluded from trial or other hearings) clearly states exactly what the L.A. Supreme Court stated in their opinion… the privilege may be waived by the penitent-communicator or confessor. Although the L.A. Code of Evidence allows for that, there’s a MUCH BIGGER issue that has been overlooked. This “rule of evidence” is made up by state legislators or as you may know them, your neighborhood pharmacist, farmers, teachers, etc. that know absolutely nothing about the legal code or the ramifications of the laws therein. Although the code is written as I quoted above, the issue of the “Seal of Confession” and the interference with God’s Church, the one true Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, is of much more importance.
My response to the L.A. Supreme Court…
It’s not an issue of a “legal privilege” where confidential communications can be waived. It’s an issue of piercing the veil of confidential communications impinging on a Holy Sacrament. The Holy Sacrament of Reconciliation and legal waivable and non-waivable privileges are NOT the same thing. Communications in the Sacrament of Reconciliation are not waivable by either party to the communication; neither the priest NOR penitent can waive the confessional communications regardless of what man-made “rule makers” decide. The penitent can confess later to what they communicated to the priest, but cannot waive the privilege to require a priest to testify to those communications.
I like to argue using analogies because it helps me equate a legal argument to something non-lawyers can understand. This is a man-made rule of evidence. For aruengo, let’s say that man decides to create a law that states: “If your child, being less than 16 years of age becomes pregnant, you must pay for your child’s abortion(s),” which is not so far fetched these days. The government could then force you to pay for something that infringes upon your religion. OR let’s say that man created a law infringing upon the Sacrament of Marriage and said that, “ALL churches must honor same-sex marriages.” That would infringe on the Catholic Church’s Sacrament of Marriage… again, not too far fetched these days. How do you feel now?
There are some man-made statutes and rules that do not usurp and should not interfere with the sanctity of God’s Church. Man is continuously conforming the church (non-Catholic/Protestant) to societal trends instead of conforming society to the Church of God (the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church). The Catholic Church is the ONLY Church that has not waivered on the most controversial issues most people struggle with today, such as abortion, gay marriage, etc. The people of this world are falling further and further away from God and it’s extremely disheartening. I have so much respect for the elders and priests of the Catholic Church for taking a stand against these issues and not wavering.