BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A decision made Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court could threaten the sanctity of confessions told to Catholic priests, so says the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge. They are involved in a sexual abuse case, filed by a Baton Rouge family.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision not to get involved in the case, the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge released a statement that said in part, that they are "disappointed the court denied our request ... to intervene in this case, which has significant ramifications for religious freedom in Louisiana and beyond."
The lawsuit, filed by the parents of a then 14-year-old girl, alleges their daughter was molested by an older parishioner, George Charlet, Jr., now deceased. Attorney's say three times in confession, the girl told her priest, Father Jeff Bayhi, that Charlet touched her and made inappropriate comments.
"This is kissing and touching and fondling," their attorney, Brian Abels said in July of last year. "The very last time our client thought she was going to be raped."
Abels, says his client should be able to to tell what they say is an important part of her story in court.
He says because the priest did not report the alleged abuse, he and the church are liable.
However, the church believes because the statements were allegedly said in confessional, the priest did the right thing.
Since this case started, some five years ago, the church has tried to block any evidence of what was said during confession from the trial.
The Baton Rouge trial court ruled the girl's testimony is relevant. But an appeals court reversed that, saying the priest is not a mandatory reporter. The Louisiana Supreme Court later ruled the victim had the right to testify about her conversations with Father Bayhi.
The Catholic Diocese appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Legal Analyst Julie Baxter says with the high court deciding not to review the case, it means the case is back to where the Lousiana Supreme Court ruled. Baxter says that also sends things back to the trial court.
"And the trial court, before it keeps out of the trial any talk of these confessions in this case, should have a hearing to decide two things. One, what communications that happened between Ms. Mayeux and the priest were actually in confession and two, did the priest know anything outside of the confessional that would've triggered his duty to report," said Baxter.
Abels says right now there is no hearing set, but they do have a trial date scheduled for July.
He added his client should be able to testify and that they do not plan to call the priest to the stand.