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Are Church Confessions Safe? Court To Hear Arguments

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) February 8, 2012  - In a case that could set national precedent, the three-judge Michigan Court of Appeals panel plans to hear arguments Thursday about whether a pastor’s testimony related to a possible confession in a child sexual assault case may be used in court.

According to court documents, Samuel Bragg confessed in 2009 to the Rev. John Vaprezsan at Metro Baptist Church in Belleville about the 2007 assault of a 9-year-old girl when he was 15. Vaprezsan testified last March in the case against Bragg, who is charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Bragg was 17 years old in 2009 when he went with his mother to speak with Vaprezsan. They deny that he made a confession. After earlier hearing an allegation from the girl’s mother and then speaking with Bragg, Vaprezsan gave a statement to police.

Vaprezsan’s testimony came over the objections of Bragg’s attorney at a preliminary examination in 34th District Court in Romulus. The girl also testified.
Farmington Hills attorney Ray Cassar, who represents Bragg, said putting a pastor on the stand eliminates a person’s presumption of innocence.

“If the pastor is allowed to testify, think about what it would do to the burden of proof. I mean, you’re presumed innocent and if a pastor gets up on the stand to testify, most of the jury members are going to take his word, and I think that eliminates the presumption of innocence,” Cassar told WWJ’s Roberta Jasina.

Bragg was ordered to stand trial in the case, but Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway later tossed Vaprezsan’s testimony. She said it violated state law saying no priest or pastor shall be required to disclose confessions made in their professional capacity.

Asked whether he had ever encountered such a situation, Vaprezsan said: “As pastors, we’re involved in a lot of situations with families. I really don’t consider the repercussions, I just try to help people.”

“The issue here is when you speak with a pastor or clergy of any type, the presumption and the rule is that communication is privilege. We want people to go and seek out counseling and talk to their pastors about issues and problems, and we want them to do so without the fear that that information could later on be used against them,” said Cassar.

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Teri Odette said in court documents that a pastor’s privilege doesn’t apply in this case. Odette argued that Bragg’s confession wasn’t confidential because his mother was there, and it had nothing to do with church discipline or spiritual guidance.

“The communication was initiated by the pastor – not by the defendant – and was done to ascertain whether the victim was telling the truth, not for the purpose of spiritual guidance,” said Odette.

Bragg is free on bond. If convicted, he faces a mandatory 25-year prison sentence.

“I think that religious leaders around the state of Michigan, if they knew about this case, they would be very upset and I think that they would be very vocal as to what dangerous precedent this could set,” said Cassar.

Source - http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2012/02/08/c...testimony/
25 years for a 15 year old committing sexual misconduct?  That seems steep.  I'm not friend of pedos, but it's a kid and a kid.  That's a murder sentence.

This story is wrong all around.  At least it's NOT a Catholic priest breaking the seal of the confessional, just a baptist reporting what happened in a therapy session.

Yes, the title of the thread is misleading.  It is NOT a Catholic priest, it's a baptist minister. 

(02-08-2012, 05:39 PM)Mithrandylan Wrote: [ -> ]25 years for a 15 year old committing sexual misconduct?  That seems steep.  I'm not friend of pedos, but it's a kid and a kid.  That's a murder sentence.

This story is wrong all around.  At least it's NOT a Catholic priest breaking the seal of the confessional, just a baptist reporting what happened in a therapy session.

Yes, the title of the thread is misleading.  It is NOT a Catholic priest, it's a baptist minister. 
I agree. The letter C in the word church (from the thread's title) has to be changed to lowercase.
(02-08-2012, 05:39 PM)Mithrandylan Wrote: [ -> ]Yes, the title of the thread is misleading.  It is NOT a Catholic priest, it's a baptist minister. 

The problem is, that these rulings can go on to affect the Catholic Church. I don't think a lot of people are aware of just how much anti-Catholic momentum is building in our court systems.  For example, this summer the U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide on a case that could directly jeopardize the all-male Catholic priesthood, even though the case involves a Lutheran.  Many of these cases are designed to set a precedent which will make future cases against the church much easier. 
(02-08-2012, 06:15 PM)Might_4_Right Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-08-2012, 05:39 PM)Mithrandylan Wrote: [ -> ]Yes, the title of the thread is misleading.  It is NOT a Catholic priest, it's a baptist minister. 

The problem is, that these rulings can go on to affect the Catholic Church. I don't think a lot of people are aware of just how much anti-Catholic momentum is building in our court systems.  For example, this summer the U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide on a case that could directly jeopardize the all-male Catholic priesthood, even though the case involves a Lutheran.  Many of these cases are designed to set a precedent which will make future cases against the church much easier. 

I can see that, but the truth is, as long as confession is allowed, it is up to the priest to keep the seal of the confessional.  What I mean is that unless they come into our churches and tell us we're not to come within earshot of the priest (so that we can't confess) then there's nothing they can do to stop priests from hearing confession, and nothing they can do to MAKE priests break the seal.  If a priest breaks the seal, it is on his soul.
(02-08-2012, 06:15 PM)Might_4_Right Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-08-2012, 05:39 PM)Mithrandylan Wrote: [ -> ]Yes, the title of the thread is misleading.  It is NOT a Catholic priest, it's a baptist minister. 

The problem is, that these rulings can go on to affect the Catholic Church. I don't think a lot of people are aware of just how much anti-Catholic momentum is building in our court systems.  For example, this summer the U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide on a case that could directly jeopardize the all-male Catholic priesthood, even though the case involves a Lutheran.  Many of these cases are designed to set a precedent which will make future cases against the church much easier. 

The Court already decided on that, finding in favor of the Lutheran Church 9-0.  This doesn't seem to apply also, in that the pastor came forward rather than being forced.  Baptists have no concept of a seal of confession either, so I don't see that is terribly applies. 
(02-08-2012, 06:30 PM)Mithrandylan Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-08-2012, 06:15 PM)Might_4_Right Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-08-2012, 05:39 PM)Mithrandylan Wrote: [ -> ]Yes, the title of the thread is misleading.  It is NOT a Catholic priest, it's a baptist minister. 

The problem is, that these rulings can go on to affect the Catholic Church. I don't think a lot of people are aware of just how much anti-Catholic momentum is building in our court systems.  For example, this summer the U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide on a case that could directly jeopardize the all-male Catholic priesthood, even though the case involves a Lutheran.  Many of these cases are designed to set a precedent which will make future cases against the church much easier. 

I can see that, but the truth is, as long as confession is allowed, it is up to the priest to keep the seal of the confessional.  What I mean is that unless they come into our churches and tell us we're not to come within earshot of the priest (so that we can't confess) then there's nothing they can do to stop priests from hearing confession, and nothing they can do to MAKE priests break the seal.  If a priest breaks the seal, it is on his soul.

But don't you think that confidentiality is critical for confessions to freely take place. I find the mere possibility that the weight of state law could be used to compel a priest to break this confidence very troubling. Just the threat of prosecution is more than enough to effectively disrupt this already struggling and vital tradition.
(02-08-2012, 07:24 PM)Might_4_Right Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-08-2012, 06:30 PM)Mithrandylan Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-08-2012, 06:15 PM)Might_4_Right Wrote: [ -> ]
(02-08-2012, 05:39 PM)Mithrandylan Wrote: [ -> ]Yes, the title of the thread is misleading.  It is NOT a Catholic priest, it's a baptist minister. 

The problem is, that these rulings can go on to affect the Catholic Church. I don't think a lot of people are aware of just how much anti-Catholic momentum is building in our court systems.  For example, this summer the U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide on a case that could directly jeopardize the all-male Catholic priesthood, even though the case involves a Lutheran.  Many of these cases are designed to set a precedent which will make future cases against the church much easier. 

I can see that, but the truth is, as long as confession is allowed, it is up to the priest to keep the seal of the confessional.  What I mean is that unless they come into our churches and tell us we're not to come within earshot of the priest (so that we can't confess) then there's nothing they can do to stop priests from hearing confession, and nothing they can do to MAKE priests break the seal.  If a priest breaks the seal, it is on his soul.

But don't you think that confidentiality is critical for confessions to freely take place. I find the mere possibility that the weight of state law could be used to compel a priest to break this confidence very troubling. Just the threat of prosecution is more than enough to effectively disrupt this already struggling vital tradition.

Critical?  No.  Helpful, yes.  But I don't see how the confidentiality of catholic confessions is threatened by this, as 1) the state would have to draft a law that mandates priests to report confession happenings to the law 2) they could not enforce such a law and would have to rely on the priest to come forward with the information 3) even if such a law was passed, it violates divine law so the priest could ignore it as much and as often as he wanted to (which would be always if he cares about his soul at all) and even if you were reported, you got absolution.  That's all that really matters.
This thread title is very misleading.

It seems to be based on the acceptance of testimony of a person exercising a religious role. It does not have to do with compelling a priest to testify (which would be a fundamental assault on the Catholic Church as a whole in public).

The laws are based in general, but they are really based on the law of the Catholic Church which has an absolute rule about the confessional.

A Catholic priest would gladly be put to death then to reveal anything said in a confessional. Now I question whether NO priests would stick to that but if they don't they will be in for it when they go before Our Lord.

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