Priests do not have to report sexual abuse discovered during confession, Louisiana Supreme Court ruled on Friday.
The decision came after a 2014 case in which a woman claimed a Baton Rouge Catholic priest did not report when she told him a longtime church parishioner sexually abused her. The woman was 14 at the time.
On Friday, the Supreme Court claimed they had never “conclusively determined” whether a priest is required to report child abuse under provisions of the Louisiana Children’s Code, according to The Advocate.
“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,’” the court ruled.
In other words, priests are not considered “mandatory reporters” of sexual abuse, and thus do not need to come forward when they learn of 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,” according to article 609 A(1) of the Louisiana Children’s Code.
A statement delivered Friday by The Baton Rouge Diocese announced it was pleased by "the Louisiana Supreme Court's recent opinion, which affirms the sanctity of the Sacrament of Reconciliation."