Diocese asks US Supreme Court to hear case involving confessional seal

The Diocese of Baton Rouge has asked the US Supreme Court to reverse a Louisiana Supreme Court decision that a priest may be compelled to testify as to what he heard in the confessional in 2008 concerning an abuse case.

The legal step is the latest in a case involving Fr Jeffrey Bayhi, pastor of St John the Baptist Church in Zachary, Louisiana, and the sanctity of the seal of confession.

The petition to the US Supreme Court comes after a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling in May outlining arguments that priests are subject to mandatory reporting laws regarding abuse of minors if the person who made the confession waives confidentiality.


The state Supreme Court opened the door for a hearing in which the priest would testify about what he heard in the confessional. Under canon law, the seal of confession is sacred under the penalty of excommunication.

In the case, a girl who was 14 in 2008 said she told her parish priest, Father Bayhi, in the confessional that she was abused by a now-dead lay member of the parish.

The girl's parents sued Father Bayhi and the Diocese of Baton Rouge for failing to report the abuse.

The parents won at the district court level about compelling the priest to testify, but they lost in Louisiana's First Circuit Court of Appeals, before the state's highest court reversed and vacated the appellate court's decision.