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The courts and the confessional

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The Louisiana Supreme Court has ordered a Catholic priest to testify in a court trial as to what he heard in confession. The cleric, Fr. Jeff Bayhi, may face jail time if he does not comply.

That this is a clear case of religious freedom should not need to be said. That any court in a nation with freedom of religion should do such a thing is reprehensible. Yet such is the state of religion today: people are more concerned with all their other freedoms to be too concerned about freedom of religion.

Perhaps the worst sign that respect for religion is in decline is in the relatively little response to the situation. There's really been no hue and cry about it, none of the outrage which one should expect of a predominantly Christian nation. Maybe that's because the situation involves child abuse and thus is seen as more important than religious rights. Maybe people just want to give the Church a comeuppance. Maybe they just don't care.

They should. This is about more than just the Catholics: this could affect all religions and from there, all freedoms, because all freedoms begin in the conscience and this is an issue of conscience.

The Diocese of Baton Rouge has vowed to fight the decision, stating "For a civil court to impinge upon the freedom of religion is a clear violation and the matter will be taken to the highest court in the land by the Church in order to protect its free exercise of religion.", and we should feel confident that it will be overturned in the federal courts. It's simply a shame that it's going to have to go that far. And justice to the Church and Fr. Bayhi might not even then be served.



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