Is the Roman Catholic church liable if it’s priests commit acts of sexual abuse?
That’s the question which is being tested in the High Court which has been asked to decide if the relationship between a bishop and his priests is the same as that between employer and employee.
The case arose after a woman brought a case against the diocese of Portsmouth, alleging that one of its priests had abused her while she was a resident at a Catholic children’s home. The hearing will focus on the issue of corporate liability.
Her cousel argue that “In effect, priests are carrying out their working assigned to them by their bishop and furthering the cause of the diocese. He was dependent on the bishop to assign him a post and to control when he moved from one post to another and even to control when he was permitted to retire. The degree of control was, if anything, in excess of that in the typical employer/employee relationship.”
If the answer is “yes, there is a relationship”, then was the priest carrying out the actions complained of in circumstances that were “closely connected” with his role and/or work as a priest?
If the answer was “no” there would be “no circumstances where the Roman Catholic church is liable for the actions of one of its priests whether deliberate or careless and however closely connected those actions were to the role of priest”.
The diocese denies liability and is defending itself against the claim. A ruling in its favour would mean the church could avoid paying compensation to victims of clerical sexual abuse.
( You can read more about this story in the Guardian by clicking here )