Thursday, 3 November 2016

Catholic Church Can Keep Child Abuse Secret!

Pope Francis "We will not take one step back..."
The Catholic Church scored a victory in Louisiana, USA, a few days ago in it's struggle to prevent priests having to report cases of child abuse to the law enforcement agencies. The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that Catholic priests do not have a duty to report instances of child abuse if they learn about them in the confessional.

The Batton Rouge diocese had contested a case for negligence brought against them and Fr. Jeff Bayhi by Rebecca Mayeux, now 22. She had claimed that in 2008, when she was 14, she told Fr. Jeff Bayhi that she was being sexually abused by a fellow parishioner but Fr. Jeff Bayhi did nothing to prevent the abuse continuing.

Fr. Jeff Bayhi argued that he was bound by the seal of confession and could neither reveal the contents of the confession nor even that a confession had taken place. To do so would mean excommunication from the Catholic Church. District Judge Mike Caldwell in the lower court had agreed and had struck down Article 609A(1) of the Louisiana Children's Code (LCC).

With respect to mandatory reporters: 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 as a result of abuse or neglect or that abuse or neglect was a contributing factor in a child’s death shall report in accordance with Article 610.

Louisiana Children's Code Article 609A(1)

The Supreme court ruled that, although the Lower Courts decision to strike down the clause on constitutional grounds was 'premature' so the clause can remain, the effect of the ruling on the case should stand "because a priest under these circumstances is not a mandatory reporter; he is excluded because he does not qualify as a mandatory reporter".

The ruling states:

...any communication made to a priest privately in the sacrament of confession for the purpose of confession, repentance, and absolution is a confidential communication under La. Code Evid. 511, and the priest is exempt from mandatory reporter status in such circumstances by operation of La. Child. Code art. 603, because “under the … tenets of the [Roman Catholic] church” he has an inviolable “duty to keep such communications confidential.”

[I] personally ask for forgiveness for the damage [some priests] have done for having sexually abused children. We will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed.

Pope Francis, April 2014
So the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church overrule the Louisiana State Penal Code! A priests 'faith' gives him special exemption from compliance with it and enables him to cover up cases of child sexual abuse. But this is not a matter of religious faith but of compliance with Catholic Church law.

There is of course nothing whatever to prevent the Pope exempting priests from the requirement to remain silent in case of alleged child abuse or abuse of vulnerable adults revealed in the confessional. There is a clear conflict here between the interests of children and other vulnerable people, and the interests of the Catholic Church. Once again the interests of the Church have been regarded as paramount. The Church must be protected at all costs, even at the cost of a child's welfare.

[the Vatican is systematically placing the] preservation of the reputation of the Church and the alleged offender over the protection of child victims.

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child,
5 February 2014
The Vatican City, as a sovereign state of which the Pope is head, is a signatory to the U.N. Convention for the Rights of the Child. This treaty requires governments to take all adequate measures to protect children from harm and ensure their interests are placed above all else. Ironically, the Holy See was one of the first states to ratify the treaty in 1990, eager to contribute the church's experience in caring for children in Catholic schools, hospitals, orphanages and refugee centers - the very places where so many of the abuses took place.

The fact that Batton Rouge diocese even defended this case is in stark contrast to the Pope's public expressions of regret for the long history of child-abuse and coverups by priests, bishops and cardinals and the code of silence that had protected the abusers and allowed them to flourish inside the Church. It also appears to contravene their treaty obligation under the above U.N. convention.


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