Supreme Court to announce church, sex abuse decision Tuesday
WASHINGTON D.C.- The nation's highest court is expected to render a decision Tuesday on whether it will hear a local sex abuse lawsuit involving the Diocese of Baton Rouge and a local woman.
The story, which first appeared on WBRZ broadcasts and WBRZ.com in July, had people talking. It's about claims a teenager was abused by a now deceased church parishioner. She told her local priest, who didn't report it.
Rebecca Mayeux was 14-years old when she was allegedly molested by a member of the congregation of her church in Clinton. He died while authorities were investigating the abuse claims. She sued saying she told her priest about the abuse, but he did not help during a confession.
A lot hangs in the balance for this case. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether what Rebecca Mayeux told her priest can be used in court. The church believes the pair discussed the attacks in confession, protecting the priest from reporting it. The church wants the Supreme Court to protect the church's sacred code of silence.
Rebecca Mayeux has only talked to the WBRZ Investigative Unit. Her lawsuit against the Catholic Church could pave the way for changes, forcing priests to disclose sex abuse they may know is happening.
"Regardless if it's Baptist or Catholic or Methodist or whatever the denomination, when someone in that type of authority learns these matters, regardless of the setting, take some action," Mayeux's attorney, Brian Abels said. "Protect that child, especially if you know things are ongoing and may escalate."
That very statement is the center of this entire controversy. The Catholic Church contends what Mayeux told the priest during a confession is private. The Diocese says the priest, Father Jeffrey Bayhi, was prohibited from speaking up. But, Mayeux's attorney believes Father Bayhi had a mandatory duty under the state's children's code to report the alleged crimes. In this case, the abuse allegedly occurred by the hands of George Charlet Jr., a parishioner at Mayeux's church in Clinton.
"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 told WBRZ.
For years, this case has been in legal limbo. The Diocese of Baton Rouge asked the US Supreme Court to hear the case. If it agrees, it will decide whether the Diocese's appeal is legitimate to block Mayeux's confession from being heard in court.
Last week, all sides agreed that Father Bayhi will not be forced to testify if this case goes to trial. A trial date has been scheduled for July.
Watch WBRZ.com and WBRZ News 2 Tuesday for updates on this situation.