Catholic Church not Accountable for Priests Actions

by Poztate 20 Replies latest watchtower child-abuse

  • Poztate

    Yes indeed... This is the new legal defence of the RCC to avoid paying out lawsuit money to victims of abuse.

    I am sure the WT is keeping a keen legal eye on the outcome of this attempt and will no doubt follow their lead if successful.

    Published in the

    Victims of sexual abuse by priests will no longer be able to sue the Catholic church for damages if a landmark judgment rules that priests should not be considered as employees.

    In a little publicised case heard this month at the high court, the church claimed that it is not "vicariously liable" for priests' actions. The church has employed the argument in the past but this was the first time it had been used in open court and a ruling in the church's favour would set a legal precedent.

    The use of the defence raises further questions about the church's willingness to accept culpability for abuse. It follows a damning report into abuse at the diocese of Cloyne in Ireland which prompted the Irish president, Mary McAleese, to call on leaders of the church "to urgently reflect on how, by coherent and effective action, it can restore public trust and confidence in its stated objective of putting children first".

    Those planning to bring claims in relation to the high court case expressed dismay. "As children, we weren't given an innocent, carefree and safe environment," said one. "We weren't given a peaceful structure in which to grow and develop normally. By some miracle, some of us are still here to voice the words of so many who can't. Only a small number of victims ever come forward. The full potential of who we could have been as adults has been stolen."

    The church's defence has been condemned by lawyers. "I think the Catholic church's attempt to avoid responsibility for the abhorrent actions of one of its priests is nothing short of scandalous," said Richard Scorer of the law firm Pannone, which specialises in abuse cases. "The Catholic church would be better served by facing up to its responsibilities rather than trying to hide behind spurious employment law arguments."

    The ruling is being made as part of a preliminary hearing into the case of "JGE", who claims to have been sexually abused while a six-year-old resident at The Firs, a children's home in Portsmouth run by an order of nuns, the English Province of Our Lady of Charity. "If we fail, it would mean that no other victims of Catholic priests would be able to be compensated," said Tracey Emmott of Emmott Snell, a specialist in working with sexual abuse claims who is representing JGE.

    JGE alleges that she was sexually abused by Father Wilfred Baldwin, a priest of the Roman Catholic diocese of Portsmouth and its "vocations director", who regularly visited The Firs during the 70s. Her legal team claim the nuns were negligent and in breach of duty, and that the diocese was liable for Baldwin's alleged abuse as he was a Catholic priest engaged within the work of the diocese.

    Previous hearings in the House of Lords and the court of appeal relating to other church organisations have found that ministers should be treated as employees. But there has been no judgment yet on whether the relationship between a Catholic priest and his bishop is akin to an employment relationship.

    "They claim that the relationship between the bishop of the diocese and the parish priest in question does not amount to anything akin to a relationship of employment, and therefore there cannot be any 'vicarious liability' for the priest's acts," Emmott said.

    "That is to say, whatever sexual abuse their priests might commit, it is not their responsibility. They are absolved of blame. We need to show that, while Father Baldwin wasn't strictly an employee of the church, he was acting on the bishop's behalf and that the bishop clearly had a degree of control over his activities."

    Criminal proceedings against Baldwin, who was the subject of a police investigation, concluded when he died of a heart attack in 2006.

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    Master servant liability started in England. It is very late to be deciding this for the firs time. Perhaps the Church lawyers are only going through motions. I don't understand why they would b/c I expect bishops are repeat litigators. Hundreds of cases have already been resolved in the UK. What happened in those cases. I have an outline for vicarious liability but it is not specific to any place.

  • talesin

    I know that one of the parishes here is selling off a lot of its assets to pay for monies awarded to victims of CSA.


    excerpt from the article:

    The diocese needs to raise $18 million to cover a $15-million settlement reached last August with victims of sexual abuse by priests dating back to 1950. Another $3 million is needed for claims by six other people.

    The settlement with abuse victims was negotiated by Raymond Lahey, the former bishop of the diocese of Antigonish. He has since been charged with possessing child pornography.

    The landmark deal was hailed as the first time the Roman Catholic Church apologized and set up a compensation package for people who claimed they were sexually abused by priests, without fighting the charges in court.

    hey, Poz :)


  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    As a lawyer I understood that the Catholic lawyers had to represent their client zealously, regardless of their personal beliefs. What floors me from working on large corporate liability cases is that you don't have to go on a religious crusade for your client. In fact, the most dangerous thing I see is lawyers too enmeshed with their clients. Certainly, it was in the interests of the Roman Catholic Church for these cases to be settled for as little as possible and for these cases to fade away into the woodwork. Also, for the church to be the Church, some of the NT bs must be sought. Charity, justice, and due process are all Christian concepts. Jesus was quite clear in the Sermon on the Mount.

    Most of the lawyers went pit bull. A rogue priest is one thing. An institutional response from the Church of God lying and evading legal authorities to protect pedophile priests goes against every expectation of what God's people do. The authority vested in priests seems unique. Perhaps the Eastern Church also empowers its priests so fully. I attended Christmas service with my sister who is Catholic. The way the lay people interacted with the priest made me sick. Father is said in a very different way than an Episcopal father.

    I bet the Pope wished his lawyers acted in a different way. Gung-ho is rarely the way to go. But did lawyers represent the church for decades without any instructions from dioceses? It is strikingly similar to Watergate or John Edwards. There is some excuse for flawed humans but for the institution of God to throw children under the bus all around the world for so many decades, centuries is disgusting. It is satanic in my view.

    I was raised to hate the Roman Catholic Church. The Witnesses truly have a thing for it that cannot be explained rationally. Someone recently remarked to seek vengeance against the WT by hanging cheap rosary beads around the KH door. I laughed so hard. We are the Catholic Church. Every pedophile sells tickets and provides seating and refreshments so he has two witnesses to the deed. B/c if there are not two witnesses, certainly nothing happened. I might ask why two, why not thirteen? Thirteen is a much better way to go. Ties will be less frequent. B/c the most important rights are of an adult knocking on doors. Children just do not rate. I don't know how Witness women live with themselves. Maybe in WT land, adult men come before protecting infants and toddlers.

  • wobble

    I wonder if the WT will use a similar argument in the Australian Courts, that they are not liable for the actions or inactions of their appointed Elders.

    I bet they try, and I hope they lose.

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    This UK case makes no sense to me. If any church is hierarchical, it is Roman Catholic. Clearly, if the Catholic Church is not vicarously liable for their priests' actions, JWs are not liable. Perhaps the basis of legal actions has been that despite notice, the diocese actively aided the pedophiles and gave lay people no notice. Some of these priests were reassigned to six and seven parishes while the church had multiple allegiations against them.

    I can see that pedophilia is not within the scope of one's job duties to impose vicarious liability. Fairly, I don't think the WT should be sued for an individual member. Heck, we don't have priests. Liability should exist when a reasonable person would expect notice of a pedophile or alleged pedophile and the orgs. actively covers up notice.

    This could be written better.- my own writing. This post, out of context, has something unexplainable to it. I post here casually.

  • sabastious

    The Watchtower actually has a more exploitable system for potential sexual predators, imo. It's too easy to win Witnesses trust with their own game.


  • sabastious
    I wonder if the WT will use a similar argument in the Australian Courts, that they are not liable for the actions or inactions of their appointed Elders.

    They are liable to any victim of which it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt that the Watchtower knew about the victim's abuse and didn't take any actions to remedy it or tried to cover it up. Which of course is an infinitely difficult undertaking with the Watchtower's legion of lawyers.


  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    Wait. In America, and I thought in all common law jurisdiction, preponderence of the evidence is the standard burden for civil actions. Beyond a reasonable doubt is much higher and is the criminal burden of proof.

    I was doing my own work and came across allied cases dealing with hierarchical vs. nonhierachal churches. Since I had no time to more than skim two cases, I am not certain what the point is. Someone who posts regularly on WT legal issues always made this distinction. It makes sense that the more direction and money that flows from the top, the more reasonable it is to impose vicarious liability.

    I am not impressed with WT lawyers. The concept seems silly that someone could be an active Witness and yet have the reasoning ability necessary for law school and to pass a local bar exam. Also, I had to swear an oath of allegiance to be admitted. Lawyers , even private ones, are arms of government which the WT always trounces. We are not talking about elite lawyers. I can't imagine a stranger combination. There are definitely strategies around their defenses. Every case is unique. In fairness to these bizarre lawyers, they may only be doing what any lawyer would be bound to do. It is not their jobs to make moral judgments. They can make moral judgments as individuals on their own time.

    Of course, I know something about hierarchical churches from being Anglican. The laity have a strong role in the governance of the church. People demand an arms length relationship from priests to properly run the church. Canon lawyers are available for lay people. What body of lawyers represent Jehovah's Witnesses as Jehovah's Witnesses?

    I don't have time to reseach vicarious liability in the States and other common law jurisdictions. Hopefully, someone who does will come along.

    Does the WT have a legal duty to children who attend meetings? Morally, they do. Scripturally, they do. This is such bs. How many people when they join a religion research whether said religion owes them a legal duty? I don't know if the Anglican church owes one to my children. Tort law is not my strong point.

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    Rather than devising new legal strategems, Archie Bunker would suggest the church sell .000000000001% of their candle stick assets. I understand they may not have ready cash but poor they are not.

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