Posted: Jul 14, 2014 4:55 PM by Chris Nakamoto
Updated: Jul 14, 2014 5:41 PM
BATON ROUGE - The priest at the center of a lawsuit is speaking out for the first time following a WBRZ report. His response comes in a letter he issued to the "Catholic Commentator" which is published by the Diocese of Baton Rouge.
It all centers around a woman, Rebecca Mayeux, who claims she went to Father Jeffrey Bayhi when she was 14 complaining she had been sexually abused. She asked for advice after she says parishioner George Charlet Jr. molested her on numerous occasions.
Mayeux, now 20, claims Father Bayhi did not report the abuse to law enforcement or her parents. The Diocese contends that was a protected conversation since it occurred during a confession, and Father Bayhi acted appropriately.
In his letter to the "Catholic Commentator" Father Bayhi says confession has given Catholics hope and comfort for centuries. He wants his supporters to know his official position.
"The seal of confession is one that can never be broken," Bayhi said. "Through its use, the faithful must always be protected, so much so, that as a Priest I cannot even say someone has come to confession, let alone divulge the contents of what was revealed."
His comments come in response to an exclusive interview Mayeux gave to WBRZ News 2.
"If I can help one person out of the six years of telling my story, then it was all worth it," Mayeux said.
Mayeux claims at the age of 14 she put God first, the priest second and her parents third. That's why she says she went to Father Bayhi to get his advice on what to do. A lawsuit filed by Rebecca and her attorney claim Father Bayhi told her, "This is your problem. Sweep it under the floor and get rid of it."
"There were instances where Mr. Charlet throughout that summer did touch and kiss me on church grounds, and he would make a lot of sexual advances during Mass itself," Mayeux said.
Brian Abels is representing Rebecca through her fight in court. He says the legal fight about sacred communication during confession isn't about whether Father Bayhi will be forced to testify. Instead, he says it's about whether Rebecca can testify about what she told the priest.
"That privilege in the law belongs to the communicant, and they can waive it at anytime, which our client has done in this particular matter," Abels said.
We reached out the the Diocese of Baton Rouge for a comment about today's story. A spokesperson referred us back to the statement that was issued last week.
"I ask your continued prayers for our church and for me in these contentious times," Father Bayhi said.
A trial date has been set for July 2015.
Many of you have given WBRZ feedback wondering why this is coming to light now. The case has been in the court system for the past five years, and Rebecca says it was time to tell her story.