January 31, 2005

Extent of clergy privilege tested by case


Monday, January 31, 2005
By Gwen Filosa
Staff writer

Confession is sacred in the Catholic Church, each spoken word sealed forever by the rules of Rome.

If a priest were to divulge what he hears in a confession -- even the admission of a murder -- it would amount to a mortal sin, church law says. Punishment in this world includes excommunication.

Louisiana law also takes the act of spiritual guidance into consideration in criminal cases, and not for Catholics only. The "clergyman's privilege" is the right to keep what is said in such religious meetings confidential.

But the law isn't going to help two young men from New Orleans accused of robbing and shooting a cabdriver in 2002, the Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled.

The minister whom two cousins trusted cannot be stopped from taking the witness stand to repeat a purported confession of the cabbie attack, the court said. The 6-1 decision saves the case from the legal dustbin at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, because the minister remains the state's central witness.

Posted by kshaw at January 31, 2005 07:20 AM