Are Church Confessions Safe? Court To Hear Arguments

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – 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.

The Michigan law governing clergyman-penitent issues are:

  • MCL 600.2156: No minister of the gospel, or priest of any denomination whatsoever, or duly accredited Christian Science practitioner, shall be allowed to disclose any confessions made to him in his professional character, in the course of discipline enjoined by the rules or practice of such denomination.
  • MCL 767.5a(2): Any communications between attorneys and their clients, between members of the clergy and the members of their respective churches, and between physicians and their patients are hereby declared to be privileged and confidential when those communications were necessary to enable the attorneys, members of the clergy, or physicians to serve as such attorney, member of the clergy, or physician.

TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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One Comment

  1. Spencer Chateau says:

    Of course, yet another blow to the church. And the war on Christianity in America continues……

    1. cindy says:

      “Confession” to a Baptist minister, which is not a sacrament in the Baptist church, is not protected speech. The preacher, unlike a Catholic priest in the sacrament of confession, is obligated to report this admission to the authorities.

      1. maxtor says:

        who gives a damn who or which priest/preacher/pastor it was?? there is no difference in a priest or preacher!!! they are both mortals in the eyes of God!! one is no better than the other, and i would probably trust a preacher before i would a priest seeing how a load of priests have been convicted of child abuse!..

        1. John_B says:

          I think the Catholic priests have had a bulls-eye on them a lot longer than the Baptists ministers have, that’s the only reason that your perception is as it is. I would not go looking for a Baptist minister to look for counseling or to make a confession if I were you though.

        2. Faithful says:

          Do not blame the many for the actions of a few.

        3. Hugh Beaumont says:

          Hey maxtor – ever read a book?

        4. Hugh Beaumont says:

          According to a study she did of abuse complaints against Catholic priests over a five decade period she concluded that “…the physical sexual abuse of students in public schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.” (Hofstra University Professor Carole Shakeshaft)

          1. robert says:

            IT WAS A JOKE!!!!! GEEZ…the reply nazis are out.

      2. VetnDad says:

        I’m sorry, did you not just read •MCL 600.2156 Michigan Law above, says any denomination minister. Not the Church’s choice…state law. And whether he was verifying the truth or just listening to a confession, the boy presumed him to be in his official capacity as a minister. Should be protected, even though as a father of two girls, I would want him to go to jail with a sign on his back saying, “fresh meat” and see how he likes it.

      3. Faithful says:

        This is why the Church is the true Church.

    2. Ryan says:

      OMG are you KIDDING ME. This country is headed straight down the tubes. No privacy no morals no culture. Prepare for the apocalypse, thank me later.

    3. Winkycat says:

      Along with the Obama administration’s dictate to the Catholic church to hand out contraceptives which would have a devastating effect on the Hispanic community now the legal system is trying to step into another Catholic practice, that of the confessional. An eons old practice where the confessor has believed in the privacy between the confessor and the priest. This will be a double blow against the Catholic church and since it is occurring under the Obama administration, Obama will take the heat from the Catholic and Christian vote.

  2. Cliff Cernek says:

    As our bill of rights just fades away

    1. mmercier says:

      Welcome to the jungle baby.

      1. Fang Furgeson says:

        Welcome to OmeriKa.


      2. Big WIll says:

        Yea in OmeriKa you better get prepared because the ship is sinking fast. Lock and load be prepared!

      3. Z1 says:

        Thought it was separation of church and state.
        Not sure why ever aspect of the economy / business is now getting regulated.
        Its wow for sure

    2. no says:

      If you are aware of a crime, you have a duty to report it. That you represent an imaginary supernatural fairy or orc or whatever in outer space shouldn’t shield you from that obligation. Don’t be an idiot.

      1. really says:

        so what’s your excuse?

      2. irishsmile says:

        Why does it bother you so much that others believe in God. It doen’t bother me at all that you don’t!

      3. terr says:

        Not true, no. If a lawyer or priest is aware of a crime that will harm another person (that other person being in danger) the client is about to commit is a different thing–that must be reported.

        NOT anything said of a crime already committed.

      4. don gutz says:

        You are the idiot if you think God is a fairy!

      5. D Evans says:

        I’m really getting tired of the mean-spirited, pseudo-intellectual ‘trekkies’ who have to make pointed remarks to people of faith.I’ve got news for you, son, there’s more of us than there are of you and yours.

        For all the chatter about how enlightened the atheists are, tolerance, kindness, etc, it’s amazing how you utilize your skills in dialogue to be purposefully hateful.
        Remember, you’re grossly outnumbered, no matter how superior you think you are

      6. Mikey A says:


      7. Mikey A says:


        If you are aware of a crime, you have a duty to report it. That you represent an imaginary supernatural fairy or orc or whatever in outer space shouldn’t shield you from that obligation. Don’t be an idiot.



        1. Norbert G. Ginsel says:

          If I am a consultant to the defense team, and I think the guy is guilty, do I have a DUTY to report this to the prosecution? I don’t think so. Whether attorney/client attaches or not, I have a duty to follow the law, and I have the gollywobbles thinking about laws that call upon citizens to denounce other citizens, under penalty of prosecution.

          Therein lies madness and chaos.

      8. jncarlos007 says:

        And you feel the same about doctor/patient privilege also I am sure.
        The question here is not your arbitrary belief or disabelief in God and your innane theory that your belief should decide legal precedent, but the problem with confidental relationships, whether they are spiritual, mental, or physical.

        Do not let your overwhelming insecurity about God cause you to make foolish decisions

      9. Don S. says:

        The reasin that defense attorneys don’t have to reveal that they know that their client is guilty is that their client is protected by the same “imaginary fairy” as priest’s penitents are.

    3. Joe Mahmah says:

      Which of the first 10 amendments are you referring to? You have no clue. This has nothing to do with the Bill of Rights. The issue is whether a statement made to a pastor in front of another person is privileged or not under the state’s statute.

      1. ManOnPoint says:

        It would be the 5th Ammendment under the US Constitution where a defendant has the right against self-incrimination, (including absolute privacy of speech in front of his attorney, pastor, psychiatrist, or physician) which is an absolute right. His Mother’s presence, however, nullifies the right. Yes, JOE, it has to do with the Bill of Rights!!! Where did you learn your social studies from??? Russia???

      2. Mark says:

        The priest-pennitent privilege arises from the First Amendment

      3. Fred Zarguna says:

        @ManOnPoint You are mistaken. ONLY the spousal exclusion and the attorney exclusion are Fifth Amendment protections. There are no other exclusions under the Fifth Amendment. This is a statutory exclusion. Please check the law. Every US State recognizes the confessional privilege (very broadly defined, and not just for the Roman Church or for Christians in general), but it is NOT a right, and it is NOT ABSOLUTE. It differs from one jurisdiction to another.

        If it ever existed in the Federal case law, it would be a Ninth Amendment protection, because it came from Roman Law via the Common Law, and Amendment IX protected Common Law privileges.

      4. Eric says:

        Fred, it is you who are mistaken. Many states already have laws on the books requiring that clergy report child abuse. Have had for years.

        There is not and has never been a Constitutional guarantee of the “sanctity of the confessional”. It is a legal tradition, but is not a guaranteed “right.”

        The Seal of the Confessional is specifically a Roman Catholic tradition, and was certainly “law” back when the Church was the supreme legal authority in most European countries, but this is the United States and this is the 21st century. To grant Catholic priests such an exemption would be to establish a specific religion as the law of the land, and that is expressly forbidden by the 1st Amendment, even without resorting to bogus “separation of church and state” arguments so beloved of liberals.

        1. Norbert G. Ginsel says:

          Forgive me, but allowing a religion to manage its own affairs is Not establishing a religion. There is no commandment that citizens join this church, not yet to pay for its support, nor do the members of this church enjoy special privileges under common law, nor are they permitted to exist at the detriment of other faiths.

          They are simply permitted to retain confidences, as ordained by their sacred laws, to see to the salvation of the souls of the penitents. Your allusion to secular “laws” requiring reporting of certain crimes is troublesome, as it interferes with the very nature of confession. Who would confess to God, when Caesar would proclaim it from the housetop? Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s.

      5. Fred Zarguna says:

        @Eric. No, you are mistaken. The Ninth Amendment was intended to protect the Common Law (among other things) please read what Madison actually said about it.

        Note that I said: “IF IT EVER EXISTED in the Case Law,” etc, I did not say it existed (and quite clearly imply that it never did.) But IF IT HAD, a Federal Judge would have had to find justification for it in the Ninth Amendment; there is certainly NO justification for it in Amendment V. And this is what the poster whom I was answering claimed.

      6. Len says:

        It’s an admission to God, not man (person). Next our prayers will be used against us.

    4. teaisstronger says:


      My Catholic Church is next to a police station and the Confession room window faces the police building. If the police used detection devices to listen in on what is being said in the confession room would that be legal?

      When did the USA become the USSR?

      1. Fred Zarguna says:

        That is an unreasonable search and is protected under the Fourth Amendment.

      2. Shana Cattles says:

        On Jan 20, 2008.

      3. Eric says:

        That would require a warrant.

        There is not and has never been a constitutional guarantee of the “sanctity of the confessional.” That is a centuries old tradition that dates from the time when the Catholic Church was the supreme authority. It is an anachronism.

        Most states already have laws which require clergy to report child abuse. Have had for years. The world will continue o turn on its axis.

        If the clergy are exempt, why not football coaches? Why not ANYBODY? Aren’t we all equal under the law?

    5. Eric says:

      This has nothing to do with the Bill of Rights. It has to do with centuries of legal tradition, but there is no “right” in the Constitution to the “sanctity of the confessional”, contrary to popular belief. And most states already have a “must report” law pertaining to such matters. Clergy CANNOT keep such secrets any longer.

      What would be the purpose in doing so?

      1. Fred Zarguna says:

        Yeah it’s amazing to me how many people think the doctor/patient and confessional/penitent exclusions are the same thing as spousal and attorney/client exclusion. There is even one guy a little further down on this thread who thinks these kinds of private conversations are protected by “reasonable expectation of privacy” [If there were such a thing, there could be no law against criminal conspiracy.] apparently unaware of the fact that [the lack of] reasonable expectation of privacy is a Fourth Amendment question which has nothing to do with this.

      2. Norbert G. Ginsel says:

        It is simple. The workings of the churches shall not be interfered with. PERIOD!

        The receiving of confession is a burden onto the priest receiving such, and he is responsible for keeping the same, much as a physician keeps medical records private. From the penitent, to the priest, to God. And no one must interfere. Not the Bishop, nor the ArchBishop, can command the disclosure of the confessional. Once a priest, always a priest. The moral responsibility cannot be lifted. Ecce, ego sacerdotum in aeternam.

        The right to practice religion shall not be messed with, Bubba, Just like the Constitution does not gives Jews the “right” to read the Torah aloud. Nor Catholics the “right” to receive communion. These “rights” are all encompassed in the words about “free exercise of religion”!

        IF you do no know this, you do not understand the founding of this nation.

    6. MadCharles says:

      Had enough yet ?

    7. Sheila says:

      Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse.

      This administration needs to go.

  3. natemann133 says:

    Religion ruins everything.

    1. Bryan V. says:

      Thankfully God gave us his son instead.

      1. no says:

        But your god says that yoru god’s son is also god.

      2. Jesus is LORD says:

        Mark 8:38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

    2. mmercier says:

      You will see ruin when I become your lord ruler.

      God forgives… mine grant no sanction or compunction for any reason.

      we are legion, and your lot is our power.

      1. Jesus is LORD says:

        Genesis 3:14
        And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

      2. themadjewess says:

        we are legion

        You are of the devil- he also calls himself ‘legion’

      3. DoctorStrange says:


        This is Dr. Crowley. It’s time to take your clozapine.

      4. mark says:


        what, you and your little brother?

        ‘we?’ – LOL….you type this as you sit in mommy’s basement.

    3. Stella says:

      Really? It is “religion”? Or an individual’s personal interpretation of it that ruins things. You need to read, with and open mind what Jesus said, did and taught before you reject “religion”. I don’t know about extremists in any “religion” who did not abuse the teaching of their founders. But a person who is truly seeking peace, justice and the reason for his/her existence shouldn’t be so closed minded.

      1. Elliot says:

        Stella..I’m an Atheist, but agree with you completely. I prefer to judge people based on their character, humanist, and values. I think if we all went blind for awhile, and made friends with those we chose to, then could regain our vision, we’d be surprised by all the people we liked were a cross section from ALL groups. There are good and bad in all. On this case, I don’t think the priest’s confession should be allowed. It’s a violation of trust, same as a doctor, or lawyer that is taken. I believe it can sway a jury.

    4. VulpesRex says:


      It sure does. Just ask the nearly hundred million victims of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, etc, etc, etc…

      The amusing thing about humanists and atheists is that when they control the corridors of power, they commit atrocities far more vile than any pope, priest, imam or theocrat could ever dream of. All in the name of equality, mind you.

      1. Stella says:

        Elliot, you are right that if we had blinders on we might get along with each other a lot better than we do when we can see and judge others.

        VulpesRex, it is very hard to draw people to you when you attack what they believe. Why not just state what you believe and let them be them think about it and draw their own conclusions. The Truth will stand on its own. Those who have eyes to see and ears to hear will accept it. Those who don’t will reject it. Such is free will. As for those you name as killing millions of victims in the name of their desire for power, they too will have to stand before Truth.

      2. Tommy says:

        You must be joking? Murdering over religion has been going on since the beginning and continues today.

    5. Edward Darko says:

      A Michigan appeals court ruling has no binding precedent on any other state whatsoever. The first sentence of this story is patently wrong. Try doing some research next time.

    6. Zig Sulewski says:

      Not really.– it would be wonderful to have priests rat out politicians, congressmen, judges, police, etc.

    7. Mike Malone says:

      Tell that to Hitler, Mao, Lenin, Pol Pot, and the mullahs.

    8. says:

      So what about attorney and doctor patient privileges? Do doctors and lawyers ruin everything? It is not the belief that is ruinous but the use of force of the believer onto the unbelieving. Kid of like when Obama trashes the Constitution using the force of the government. It is not government that is evil but the manipulator.

    9. Herb says:

      Yes you are right religion is just a tax free business lying to get your money.

      God is real and loves you but he wouldn’t go into any church other than to toss out the money changers.

    10. englag says:

      nope. your parents ruined you

  4. Joe ThePimpernel says:

    The perp wasn’t participating in the Sacrament of Confession (capital ‘c’) when he made his ‘confession’ (small ‘c’). His ‘confession’ had nothing to do with religion. A girl came to the pastor and told him that the perp had raped her. The perp admitted it to the pastor when asked.

    1. irishsmile says:

      Long before the inception of the Democratic Party; long before America was even a thought in the minds of it’s founders; the Catholic Church has had the Sacraments. Confession as a Roman Catholic Sacrament is sacrosanct! The state must not be allowed to chip away at religious freedoms.

      1. lukuj says:

        it said the pastor was from a Baptist Church – not a Catholic Church, Did I misread somethjing?

    2. my2cents says:

      “I heard a disturbing story about you from [redacted]”
      “Pastor John, what should I do?”
      “Son, you should tell the truth”

      Just because the answer didn’t involve “Hail Mary’s” doesn’t mean it wasn’t Confession

    3. Lou Gots says:

      Read MCL 767.5a(2)

      It’s extremely broad, much more than just sacramental confessions. It obviously covers this counseling session.

  5. mmercier says:

    it is necessary that religious fanatics and those others who believe the rule of God or statute supercedes the rule of man be brought to the heel.

    this is a necessarily unpleasant thing, many will perish… few will care a wit, but wills agree that all punished were well desserving of whatever punishment for whatever crime… as defined by whatever man whenever moment presents oppertune.

    1. Daisy says:

      What in God’s name are you talkimg about?

      1. mmercier says:


      2. Stella says:

        I’m with you. Confusing comment.

    2. irishsmile says:

      Illogical Gibberish.

    3. Rupert Pupkin says:

      put down the Satanic bible junior. you’ll shoot your eye out.

      1. Jessie says:

        This may be true in some ways but what about the priest who never get married but drink wind and go to Brazil on vacation?
        What about Billie Grayham if he was lying why has he never been sued by the baptists who he makes fun of all the time.

    4. Ge0ffrey says:

      You, Hitler and Stalin are in complete agreement.

    5. themadjewess says:

      In other words; you hate freedom of your religion.

      1. Rabbi says:

        Good one Jewess:

        There is nothing about organized religion that I know of that IS FREE.
        What they do best is pass a colllection plate for the fools and poor to fill.

    6. VulpesRex says:

      Hate to put a damper on your little fantasy, but most of us who support religious liberty are willing to defend it to the death. Not our deaths, mind you. See, we know how to use firearms, and how to defend ourselves, unlike most sniveling firearm-phobic progressives.

  6. Heavyduty says:

    I think that when you confide with a member of the clergy you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This is why in many states spouses cannot testify against one another.

    1. don gutz says:

      The same lwith your attorney. He cannot estify about your culpib ility whether he is your counsel now or later. Ain’t God wonderful

    2. Jon Acker says:

      they can’t be forced to but can do so if they wish

      1. Walt D. says:

        Yes Jon But if YOU wish upon a star your dream Can Come True.

    3. Fred Zarguna says:

      You are wrong.

      First: The spousal exclusion and the attorney/client exclusion are Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination. Reasonable expectation of privacy does not apply to them. [That is a Fourth Amendment issue.]

      Second: The States have nothing to say about it since the Fifth Amendment was Incorporated against the States by Amendment XIV. There is no “most States,” for the Bill of Rights.

      This is a doctor/patient and confessional/penitent issue, and that is statutory; ALL States protect it by law, but NONE are obligated to.

  7. John_B says:

    Not to minimize the severity of the case (of which we know almost nothing) but sentencing a 15 year old (at the time) to a 25 year sentence for any crime seems a little harsh

    1. irishsmile says:

      … unless it is one’s own daughter that has been raped!

      1. Michael says:

        amen irish smile, amen…these liberal d-heads always come to the defense of the criminal and ignore the victims. they disgust me!

      2. John_B says:

        No liberal tenancies here Michael. I’m just saying your imagination is getting away with you. So lets imagine its your 15 year old son we are talking about.

    2. mildsyd says:

      OK… I’ll imagine *my* 15-year-old son, and I’ll imagine *your* 9-year-old daughter. Then, I’ll imagine what the euphemism “child sexual assault” means in the context of a 15-year-old male vs a 9-year-old female. Then, after I’m done kicking my son’s a**, I’ll turn him over to the courts to serve his time.

  8. drew says:

    religion should have nothing to do with politics. this however should be treated the same as doctor or lawyer/client privilege. As tasteless as this guy is if guilty the prosecution needs to have something else to hinge this on.

    1. Bryan V. says:

      Correct, but if people want to live by biblical standards or any other, then they still have to right to vote to make that a reality. For the most part though, God wouldn’t force us to follow his rules anyway. He proved to us that we would fail. The old testament proves that.

      The only laws that should come from the bible are those that involve one person affecting another against their will like murder, theft, slander. But many others individual decision matters should never become law such as sexuality or drug use(unless youre a parent).

      Laws should protect people from other people but not from themselves. Some things a person has to learn on their own and it cannot be forced. God is more liberal than most people think. He gave us free will after all.

      1. D Evans says:

        based upon your logic, does that mean that when someone’s personal behavior puts others at potential risk, we do nothing?

        As I try to instill in my sons that our behaviors have ripple effects. the behavior byproducts are far more reaching than some might like to acknowledge.

      2. elm says:

        There is no such thing as private sins.

      3. themadjewess says:

        God was not ‘liberal’ w/ Sodom and Gomorrah

    2. Fred Zarguna says:

      Ignorance of the law on this thread is appalling.

      Spousal and legal exclusions of evidence are FIFTH AMENDMENT ISSUES.

      Doctor/Patent, Confessional, Counselor/Client, Journalist/Source and other kinds of exclusions ARE NOT CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS! They are statutory. Every State protects these confidences to varying degrees, but NO State is obligated to. In many States, just for example, a Counselor can become an accessory if he has a reasonable expectation that a specific crime has, or is about to be committed and does nothing.

  9. Christy Speaks says:

    What’s next? Attorney/client privilege? Oh, wait, that’ll never happen. Judges ARE attorneys.

    1. no says:

      Judges and attorneys actually exist.

      1. Michele says:

        SO…does God!

      2. CommonCents says:

        @ “No”

        You seem to have smug responses here… but remain ignorant of the issue.

        If you actually READ the statutes cited in the article, it should be obvious that the precedent may be set to nullify attorney/client and patient/doctor privilege.

        Then, by extension, journalists can be compelled to reveal sources.

        This is NOT about religion you idiot, it is about America becoming the USSR.

  10. David from San Diego says:

    So, he faces a MINIMUM mandatory of 25 years for something he allegedly did when he was FIFTEEN? So, just IMAGINE how long John Corzine would go to jail … if America were not so corrupt that ex-Senators / ex-Governors are immune from the law. And IMAGINE how long ex-Senator John Edwards would go to jail … if the judge would ever make HIS case go to trial. I guess there’s only room in the jails for commoners.

  11. Ascetic43 says:

    The timing does seem very “convenient”… Religious and spiritual confidentiality are important to protect; but at the expense of a child’s well-being? Sorry black and white-ers, this is a genuine dilemma; as opposed to the obviously manufactured ones. Maybe this had help ending up in the news today, but this is a *real* question…..

  12. James Smith says:

    What did the defendant think? That his Baptist preacher is a Catholic Priest?

    1. John_B says:

      Read the law as it is quoted in the article James but your point is well taken, I think Rev. John Vaprezsan needs to turn in his collar for caving to the prosecution.

    2. priest's wife says:

      yes- as far as I know, only Catholics (and most Orthodox) believe in the SACRAMENT of confession with the SEAL of the confessional. other clergy would see it as a counseling session- but still being privledged conversation

      1. Llama says:

        Yes, but the prosecution has a point. Spousal privilege is waived when the communication occurs in front of others (ie- a man makes a statement to his wife in front of the kids, who hear the statement). The defendant made the statements in front of his mother, so they were not confidential, therefore there is no privilege.

      2. Fred Zarguna says:

        It doesn’t matter how Priests see it as opposed to how Pastors or Ministers or Imams see it. It’s a legal question. The so-called “Seal of the Confessional” is not a temporal concern, it is a matter of Ecclesiastical Law, which has nothing to do with this. No person of any religious order is excluded from giving testimony in a criminal trial by the Constitution.

        They are protected by Statute from doing so in all States to varying degrees. But they have no Constitutional Protection as a lawyer or a spouse has under Amendment V. NEVER HAVE, NEVER WILL. This is a very narrow issue about a specific law in a specific state.

    3. Fred Zarguna says:

      @Llama: the right of a spouse to invoke the Fifth Amendment is NOT waived if the act or conversation happens in front of others.

      That is NOT the issue here. This does NOT involve a Constitutional Right.

      Priests and Pastors do NOT have a Constitutional Right to withhold information about a crime. They are NOT protected by the Constitution. They are protected by STATUTE: that is, by State laws. Every State offers some protections for different kinds of special private conversations. They differ in different jurisdictions. This is merely a question about the application of a specific law in MI.

  13. Daisy says:

    The government’s intrusion into freedom of religious expression continues unabated.

    And the anti-religious loons all bray their approval of the destruction of the US Constitution.

    Why? Because they hate God/religion more than they love freedom.

    1. no says:

      Confessing a crime of any magnitude is part of your “religious expression”. Man, you religious nuts really can use your bible to find an excuse for EVERYTHING, can’t you? You’re all KILL EM! HANG ‘EM! STONE ‘EM! LET GOD SORT ‘EM OUT!… until they’ve spouted off to some dude in a frock and then suddenly you change your mind. You’re all a bunch of idiots and I can’t wait until you all off yourselves.

      1. irishsmile says:

        The split second that one calls those who don’t agree with him, “Nuts” and “Idiots”… one has lost his/her credability, my friend.

      2. Faithful says:

        The confession is not made to man, but to God. When in the confessional, you are not talking to the priest, you are talking to Jesus. I don’t know where you learned your hatred of the Church, but you were ill served. Why not find a Catholic priest and ask him to explain it. Try not to interupt, but keep your ears open.

      3. MadderMax says:


        Statistically speaking, progressives are far more likely to find themselves on the receiving end of a Darwin award than are conservatives. And since, statistically speaking (once again), those of a religious persuasion are more likely to be conservative, it is far more likely that we will end up watching you off yourself.

        If you’d like to speed the process along, might I recommend a solution of equal parts Dihydrogen Oxide and Sodium Hydroxide, taken orally.

  14. Tom Genin says:

    Pastor’s should not be “complled” to testify, but if they “choose” to do so, too bad.

    1. John_B says:

      Like I said, if they “choose” to then the congregation gets what they pay for. He or she should be tossed out unceremoniously at the first possible opportunity.

    2. Jim says:

      Do you feel the same if a psychiatrist or lawyer “chooses” to breach a communication that a client or patient believed was confidential.

  15. rob says:

    It appears that the laws cited in the story may make this a privileged communication. The facts surrounding how this communication was made is not clear. The judge will have to sort through the facts and determine whether it is admissible.

    If the statement was made in the traditional way of a “confession” it is privileged no matter how heinous the crime. If one does not like the Michigan law, lobby to get it changed but do not blame it on religion. We are not a lawless society except for those who choose not to follow or enforce the law.

    1. Mark says:

      It was not just a pastor, it was his pastor. Why was his pastor avingthis discussionwith the perp? Because it his job to minister to his congregation.

  16. priest's wife says:

    There is a difference between confession (like a counseling session with an expectation of privacy) and simply saying something to a clergy person. If my husband is walking down the hall and someone tells him something, that is not a confession and that person should not expect total privacy. My husband would go to jail to protect the seal of the confessional- it is like a journalist protecting a source (but more serious in my opinion)— google my name for my blog if you are wondering how a catholic priest can be married

    1. James Smith says:

      Let me guess. Your husband was a Lutheran Minister or Episcopal priest before he converted to Catholicism.

    2. irishsmile says:

      I am not wondering at all. My son is a celibate Catholic priest and I understand prelatures. It does bring more of an assault from the uninformed against celibate priests though.

    3. Fred Zarguna says:

      From a legal perspective, you are quite wrong. There is no difference between a sacramental confession heard by a priest and a confession heard by a Pastor or Minister as far as the law is concerned. In neither case is there ANY Constitutional Protection; there simply isn’t.

      In MI, (as in all States) confessions (generically speaking) are protected to varying degrees. That has nothing to do with the Seal of The Confessional which is the ecclesiastical law of some specific denominations. Under the MI law, a priest walking down the hall listening to a confidential conversation considered “confessional” would be excluded from testifying against the witness, even though he would see ecclesiastical law would be broken by doing so.

      This is a very narrow question on the question of when a specific law applies. That’s all.

  17. William Wilson says:

    This goes way beyond the birth control mandate. What is going on?? Who is behind this-BHO, Soros, the Ayatolla??

    1. Daisy says:

      All of the above w/the atheistic Left cheerleading the whole freedom annihilating agenda.

  18. Phillip Buchanon says:

    Obama is REALLY after the Catholic church, isn’t he? First with enforcement of contraceptives in Catholic institutions and now forcing the church to turn in its parishioners…. more to come, I’m sure!

    1. Jim says:

      The answer is yes, Phillip, but not just the Catholic Church. The Obama administration was already shot down by the Supreme Court 9-0 in their efforts to force the Lutheran Church to rehire a Lutheran minister who was fired for ecclesiastical misdeeds. Holder’s Justice Department pursued the case under labor statutes and civil rights protections. The Supremes spanked Obama and Holder with a powerful unanimous opinion, authored by Chief Justice Roberts.

  19. Will says:


    Attorney/Client privilege is delineated in the sixth amendment, as described as Assistance of Counsel. Nowhere is the physician/patient privilege or clergy/parishioner privilege guaranteed in the Constitution. There are many cases where physicians as well as clergy are both expected and bound by law to disclose information obtained in a confidential manner. As this case stands, it is a Michigan statute which is coming into question, and not any federal law or right.

    1. cjd says:

      Fortunately, the 9th Amendment means it doesn’t need to be spelled out.

    2. Faithful says:

      You obviously do not understand the sacredness of confession to a Catholic priest. They will die before they expose a confession, if they know their duty, and they should. Revealing confessions would undermine the sacrement, not only of confession, but the Mass itself, since partaking of the Body and Blood would be compromised as well. I guess this is a time of persecution for the Church. Give thanks to God that He finds His Church worthy enough for persecution. (I am also thinking of Obama laughable attempt to force the Church to participate in aiding in contraceptive/abortion “health” insurance.)

      1. truth_seeker says:

        But this isn’t about a Catholic priest being forced to testify about what somebody said in confession. This is about another denomination where the priest seems to have volunteered the information, and it isn’t clear that it was in a confessional situation. Now the statute is written to require that priest NEVER testify, even with the consent of the person who made the confession. I fully support the confidentiality of the confessional if it is a doctrinal issue for the religious organization. But I don’t think it ought to be imposed on every religious organization by the state either.

      2. Will says:

        I didn’t state whether or not a priest should maintain confidentiality or not, and I would applaud any priest who chose to go to prison rather than violate that oath. What I did express is that there is NO constitutional protection of confidentiality within any profession other than an attorney meeting with his client. The minister in question here appears to have been, at most, a councilor.

  20. Archy Cary says:

    More attacks on the church. Just the beginning. Wait for the end of church donations as tax deductable. Count on it.

  21. JD says:

    If you are an American Catholic and are still voting for Democrats, you are either suicidal or mentally deranged. Stop voting for your own persecution and destruction. Time to wake up.

    1. Glenn says:

      A lot of people call themselves Catholic… Nancy “The Gestapo” Pelosi, for one. She is about as far away from being Catholic as anyone could be.

    2. jeff m says:

      Amen. Stop voting for the party of (D)eath. The party of (D)eath’s agenda and actions get more anti-Catholic with every passing day. Josef Stalin would be proud of today’s Democrats.

  22. jukin says:

    The NAZI party wanted the populace unarmed.
    The NAZI party wanted the populace under government controlled health care.
    The NAZI party wanted the populace to be secular and attacked religion.
    The NAZI party wanted the populace to hate the successful.
    The NAZI party wanted the populace to have only propaganda from the government.

    No similarity to the current democrat party whatsoever.

    1. Winkycat says:

      The NAZI party took a beggared Germany and made it into an economic powerhouse. It also made her military the most advanced for that time easily rivaling Britain. The Nazi party through “lebensraum” expanded the territory of Germany. Many times during that war NAZI Germany could have won it and if not for the entrance of the US Germany would have won it. NAZI Germany were the fist to develop missile technology and was ahead in developing the nuclear bomb. In comparison the Obama government has failed on all the above issues

      1. John_B says:

        Its a good thing the U.S. joined the war then

      2. jukin says:

        Yep, 0bama has all of the bad and none of what little good there was in the National SOCIALISTS Party.

        Fun Fact: Hitler was a devout communist before turning to a nationalist. The biggest canard of Liberals is that conservatives that want smaller government, more personal liberty, and individuality are fascists when fascism is just a different flavor of collectivism.

    2. Winkycat says:

      I do agree with you that the NAZI party and the present day Obama administration DD HAVE IN COMMON: ANTI JEW AND PRO MUSLIM also forced birth control on specific groups The Nazis did attack the conservatives, which were one of first to be attacked.

  23. Montford John Greenwood says:

    The answer is no.
    So the judge of course will find that they can.
    Slaves have only the privileges our masters give us.
    Bring back our Republic.

  24. dano29 says:

    Yeow. That’s a no win either way for the Church or the Law

    I understand that the Papal seal on confessions is held sacred, but at some point, if a law is broken regarding sexual abuse or violent crimes, there has to be some level that needs to be taken into account.

    All that being said, the law – as stated in this article – seems pretty clear that the confession is inadmissible in this case.

  25. Ron Reale says:

    Obviously, the clergy is not keeping the sacrament of confession intact, and all the church members should find another parish.

  26. sdnoel says:

    I am a Baptist minister, and there is NO belief in the sacrement of confession in our faith. If you confess to me (“confess” as in “admit that I did it”) that you committed a crime, especially this type of crime, I am bound by my duty to God, society, my own children and myself to report that crime. I do not set myself up as a substitute for Jesus, as a catholic priest does, and thus claim no privilidge place above the law. God is a God of love, yes, but he is also a God of justice and righteousness, and “ministers” that hide crime only aid in it’s perpetuation, and know knowthing about the reality of the balanced character of God.

    1. Fidelio says:

      Of course you don’t forgive sins. You are not a priest, ordained by bishops who are in the line of the apostles to whom Jesus said: “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven. Whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”

    2. cjd says:

      Catholic priests do not “set themselves up as a substitute for Jesus.” As the Catechism of the Catholic Church quite clearly states, “The priest is the sign and the instrument of God’s merciful love for the sinner. The confessor is not the master of God’s forgiveness, but its servant.

    3. jncarlos007 says:

      So basically, anyone who comes to you with a private or confidential matter might want to think twice, considering whether you might find their information more useful to the state .

      1. sdnoel says:

        “useful to the state”? No. Useful to the protection of your daughter, or sister, or wife from a predator? Yes. I will help and counsel anyone who comes for help regarding a wrong they have done. But if that wrong constitutes a serious crime, part of my help will be helping them go forward and make the wrong right, including paying their debt to society. I will let them know right up front how things work, there will be no secret betrayal of them. I have dealt with this already. I have four daughters and three sisters. How can a minister ever get the idea he has an obligation to protect the secrets of one wrong-doer if that protection is a danger to everyone else? Am I to be a minister to one to the harm of others? Did we learn nothing from the failings of Rome and her priests the last several years? I will help you do what is right, but I will not enable you.

      2. John_B says:

        @sdnoel, I can imagine you have no credibility when it comes to counseling your flock then. What do you do in the case of infidelity? How about sins of omission (my husband beats the kids)? The list goes on and on and apparently you have decided you make a good judge.

        1. sdnoel says:

          Actually, I have tremendous credibility with my congregation. Cheating on a spouse is not a crime, and not a confidence I would betray. Why would you even compare this to molesting a child? Can one not tell the differance between moral sin and a predatory crime? My congregation is very secure in the knowledge that I love them, will counsel them, will be trustworthy in confidence, but that I will NOT harbor a predator among them. They trust that. The church truly is a sanctuary for those wanting to do right. There is a novel concept these days. And, in the same spirit, knowing that I preach and teach the differance between right and wrong, personal responsibility for ones actions and answering to a higher power, both government and God, one of them would not come and “confess” their wrongs to me thinking I would simply protect them from their own culpability.

    4. Faithful says:

      You have forgotten that Jesus gave the Church the privelege of forgiving sins. Remember when he handed it to the apostles? It is sacred. This is what Catholic priests are doing. When one goes to confess to a priest, one is actually confessing to Jesus himself through the priest. A priest would be martyred first before revealing the confession. Who is higher, God or man’s government. I am more worried of God’s judgement, not man’s. It is not a sacrement to you, because you are not part of the unbroken chain of the laying on on hands to pass on the priesthood. (Did you not pick that up in Genesis?) The Catholic Church’s priests are in the unbroken chain, it is a sacrement handed down from the first priest, to Jesus, to the Pope to the priest.

      1. sdnoel says:

        May I gently say that the verses refered to do not say what the catholic church teaches they say? By the very definition of forgiveness, I cannot forgive someone for the wrong done to someone else. A priest, who is a man, can not forgive another man for a wrong done to a third individual, who in this casewould also include God.That is not forgiveness. Forgiveness comes directly from the wronged, or it is not forgiveness, it is a legislated pardon.

  27. Randall Lape says:

    Attack,attack,attack on anything decent in our country from the socialist regime.

    1. davet says:

      A preast cannot tell what he heard in confeession, I beleive.. so must he be supeoned ((spelling???)

  28. Paul Card says:

    Seems that separation of church and state goes out the window when the coin is turned…

    1. Michele says:

      Yes – and no one in the media says a word…quiet as little mice! The fourth estate has definitely moved beyond foreclosure!

  29. Fidelio says:

    No matter what this kangaroo court decides, a Catholic priest will never reveal what was told to him in the sacrament of confession (reconciliation). What will this current administration and its affiliates try next? Appointing bishops and cardinals?

    1. Glenn says:

      Yep. That’s what China does. Why not here?

  30. Glenn says:

    I realize this is about non-sacramental confessions, but it’s still simple. The answer is “No.” Just because some Judge decides they can invade the confessional or violate the implied privilege of confession doesn’t mean they have the right to do so. Just because a judge says gays can marry doesn’t mean they’re able to do so. It’s simply outside the judges authority, and even the governments for that matter.

    In any event, think about it… if you lock up preachers for not telling the government about each crime, then you’ve removed a very helpful part of the process by which criminals can reform themselves. The preacher is gone so the criminal is left without anyone to persuade him to stop his activity. Lose – lose. The pastor can always warn people about danger without revealing the source when others are at risk due to the criminal’s behavior.

  31. JHarnes says:

    This is ridiculous. Our government is becoming more fascist every day. Clergy should make a stand and just refuse to make any comment. Refuse to use lawyers. Refuse to bow in any way that violates their rules of church privacy.

    But they are not alone. They go after reporters who refuse to go along and not cover a story:

    .”They will tell you that I’m the only reporter–as they told me–that is not reasonable… They say the Washington Post is reasonable, the LA Times is reasonable, the New York Times is reasonable, I’m the only one who thinks this is a story, and they think I’m unfair and biased by pursuing it.” CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson who described comments being made to her by Federal spokesmen concerning her reports on “Operation Fast and Furious”, the disastrous ATF program that handed military-style murder weapons to Mexican drug cartels.

  32. jeff m says:

    The assaults on the Constitution keep coming. These “justices” know they are safe because Catholic Priests will not reveal what they know from a confession. Good priests are ready to die and be martyrs rather than violate the seal. The threat of prison is no threat at all.

    1. Faithful says:

      Yes, you understand too. When the believers of the Early Church were persecuted, they went back and gave thanks to God that He considered them worthy enough to be persecuted. We have come back to that stage. When I was a child, no one thought we, the people of this country, would ever come down to this. I grew up at a time when people feared God, but the socialists have no such fear; they think they are the giver of rights. It matters not, because we win in the end.

  33. says:

    When the person was going to confess, if the Pastor was not going to honour his Priest penetint privilege that a person expects, he should have told him so. That Pastor will never be able to council with anyone about anything again. After receiving his confession of guilt (his mothers presence has nothing to do with it) he should have counciled with him about personal accountability in the repentance process and encourage him to do the right thing. Those who don’t feel they can honour the priest penitent privilige should as sdnoel let their position be known ahead of time. Then they can find a minister who will keep this trust.

  34. VetnDad says:

    So, to all you catholic hispanics who voted so much for Obama, you are coming to a big choice again. Do you continue to vote for a man that is tearing down the pillars of your religion (forcing abortion and contraceptives on church health facilities, allowing gay marriage in state after state because of his liberal judges, now attacking the rights of privileged communications with a priest); or do you stand up for your beliefs and your church. Which God do you select, God almighty or the golden idol, self-proclaimed god Barak? Choose wisely.

  35. Kayris says:

    Are we really more worried that a criminal will not feel free to get counseling? Instead we should be worried about putting a felon away so that 1, they can serve due punishment, 2, they can get rehabilitation, and 3, so future crimes can hopefully be prevented.

    1. VetnDad says:

      Kayris, the law is there to enable those with problems (physical, mental, spiritual, legal) to seek counseling and hopefully not hurt anyone (including themselves) again. Which crimes should be reported, traffic tickets? Failed suicide attempt? Hit and Run? Drunk Driving? Spouse abuse? Receiving spouse abuse? Petty larceny (I stole a candy bar, I stole a car)? Would it be left to the minister to choose? If they report, people stop going and they may not get the help they need. I’d rather a few escape as sad as that seems, than the tens of thousands not get the help they need to maybe prevent further self, public damage.

  36. kbuzz says:

    the problem is preachers and priests lie. And one lie is too much for any man of the cloth. So taking their word on the stand is worthless.
    And it is a sad day when we no longer can trust our spiritual leaders.

  37. Harry Conlon says:

    Next to go will be Doctor/Patient confidentiality…..and then Lawyer/Client confidentiality.
    First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
    because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
    because I was not a socialist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for the fat people, and I did not speak out-
    because I am not fat;
    Then they came for the smokers, and I did not speak out—
    because I am not a smoker;
    Then they came for me—
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

  38. Ken Puck says:

    Observation from a nondenominational Deist not connected with the Deist sect: Continued secularist assault on religion. Are we about to repeat the Inquisition, the St. Bartholemew’s Day massacre or the 30 Years’ War? Looks like that’s where we’re headed. Why the hell can’t secularists honor the First Amendment and simply live and let live? Stir this hornet’s nest enough and the faithful will eventually rise up and smite the ungodly, hip and thigh.

  39. John Scott says:

    “irishsmile: Why does it bother you so much that others believe in God. It doen’t bother me at all that you don’t!”
    That’s great I love it…
    My wife is Catholic and I am a sometime Christian I have learned a lot about Catholic beleifs… As I understand it if you confess your sins to God or Jesus and not a mortal man this wouldn’t be a problem but however it might work out for the good. IF you do something against the will or laws of God… trust me you will get it in the end and it’s gonna be a lot worse than what man can do….

    1. swathdiver says:

      No such thing as a “sometime Christian”. One is either saved through repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ or they are not. (Acts 20:21)

      “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” – John 3:18

      “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” – John 3:36

      Salvation is the free gift of God, it cannot be earned by good works as the Catholic church teaches.

      Please read in your King James bible Ephesians 2:8-9

      1. D Evans says:

        …and now we start the ‘you’re not as much a Christian as me” conversation. And people wonder why all the Christian bashing?” My, Lord (pun intended)
        Give it a rest.

  40. Joe Drager says:

    Lawyers are next.

    1. Alisson says:

      From the bills that have passed into law lately (behind closed doors)… I doubt if there will be any need for lawyers in the future.

  41. Stop the Lib Insanity says:

    This is NOW in 2012 going to judges? I thought this was “settled law” centuries ago. Then again Obama and his comrades have stated their intent to remake this country. This is but one more example of the agenda by the terrorist in the WH.

    While Doctors, Lawyers and the some clergy have long believed that their conversations are priveleged, in the insane lib world, everyone is equal but some are more equal. I really doubt that in the lib Obama environment lawyers will lose their privacy. I am Catholic so I do not know the rules that other religions live by. However, this looks like another example of the leftist anti-Catholic anti-Christian agenda in action. Obama and his lib comrades continue to take every opportunity to not only destroy relationships with religious citizens and with long time international alies, they daily continue their intentional destruction of this country. To libs Greece and other European countries are the model they believe we should emulate. Libs are on record with their belief that the US Constitution is not a model countries should emulate. Libs by definition are globalists and hate everything American.

  42. swathdiver says:


  43. Kathy says:

    By all means vote democrat if you want more of this one world order garbage and you will get what you deserve. Too bad that those of us with some critical thinking skills will suffer for your greed-yes greed- and lunacy.

  44. Richard_Iowa says:

    This should not even be an issue. Where is the ACLU?? The leftist, progressive judges who rule from the bench, and those who scream “Separation of Church and State” when it comes to putting up a Christmas tree in the market place are now ohh soo interested in “just maybe” the state knowing what was told to a minister. Never mind fairness, or consistency. You either have separation of church and state or you don’t, except if you are a leftist loon, then the rules are what they say they are.

  45. AlexU says:

    This “Pastor” violated the basic principle that a confession is an inviolable trust. If he is still a Pastor, why? It would seem to me that his denomination would defrock him for this.

  46. JustAGuy says:

    I hope this 3 judge panel had prepared for this case by actually consulting the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

  47. David says:

    If you confess a crime to your spouse, they can’t be compelled to testify against you because you are protected by spousal privilege.

    if you confess a crime to your lawyer, he can’t be compelled to testify against you because you are protected by attorney-client privilege.

    Since the founding of this country the same has applied to the relationship between a person and his or her priest.

    If this long standing privilege falls, it will be much easier to kill the other two.

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