Catholic Church Denies Legal Responsibility For Sexual Abuse


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. Such a decision could have massive consequences for abuse victims.

Britain’s Channel 4 reports that the Roman Catholic Church took the unprecedented step of arguing in a court case earlier this month that it is not responsible for sexual abuse committed by its priests, arguing that the relationship between a Catholic priest and the bishop of the local diocese is not an employment relationship and therefore the diocese does not have vicarious liability.

Catholic Church Not Responsible For Priests’ Behavior?

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 favor would set a legal precedent.

From The Observer:

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.


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.”

Previous Hearings Have Found That The Church Is Responsible

Previous hearings in the House of Lords and the court of appeal relating to other church organizations have found that ministers should be treated as employees.

Of course they should. Catholic priests are employed by the diocese in which they live, and receive their stipend from that diocese. As the daughter of a minister of the Church of England, which uses the same system, I remember well my father discussing with his diocese the possibility of a pay increase to his meager salary.

Not Christian Behavior By The Church

But the much bigger point is, “How dare they even try to claim this?” How can the Catholic Church call itself “Christian” at one moment, and at the next moment show a total lack of compassion by seeking to deny any responsibility for the immoral behavior of its priests?

The President Of Ireland Has Raised This Exact Point

Again, from The Observer:

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”.

It is simply unbelievable that the Catholic Church is claiming that it isn’t legally responsible for the behavior of its own priests, in order to avoid ever having to compensate the victims of their abuses.

That is an unthinkable prospect, and will serve only to drag the image of the Roman Catholic church even lower in the eyes of the world. Yet another example of people using the word “Christian” when they are decidedly not.

Irish Report: Cover-up Of Sexual Abuse By Priests Ongoing

Philadelphia Archbishop Resigns Amid Sex Abuse Scandal

Photo Credit: Jim, The Photographer via Creative Commons


G S.
v s5 years ago

These pedophiles are inately homosexual. That said, the church should not be held responsible for their legal bills. Just like the microsoft corp isnt. If they have to defend themselves, there is a better chance of them getting the justice they deserve.

Harry T.
Harry T6 years ago

Catholic Church rocked by Dutch abuse sex scandal world news...

Harry T.
Harry T6 years ago

Catholic Church rocked by Dutch abuse sex scandal world news

Joy Jin
Joy Jin6 years ago

The Catholic church has some brushing up to do with their ideals and standards...

Danny Haszard
Danny Haszard6 years ago

Not to diminish the high crimes of the RCC but Please examine the Jehovah's Witnesses who go door to door and come on our property.

Jehovah's Witnesses pedophiles.
Many court documents and news events prove that Jehovah's Witnesses require two witnesses when a child comes forward with allegations of molestation within the congregation. Such allegations have customarily been treated as sins instead of crimes and are only reported to authorities when it is required to do so by law, (which varies by state).

It has also been shown that child molesters within the organization usually have not been identified to the congregation members or the public at large. These people engage in a door to door ministry, possibly exposing children to pedophiles.

The Watchtower corporation has paid out millions in settlement money already.
-- Danny Haszard abuse victim


Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener6 years ago

Of course they don't take responsibility, for they have god behind them... or don't they?

Tony S.
Tony S6 years ago

Anmari L.- Too many times, those who proclaim 'piety' are those who are the most in need of reform! During the 1,700 years of the RCC's existence (I defy almost ANYONE to challenge me on that number by much more than 100 years!), they have proclaimed a manipulative and deceptive doctrine that has more to do with political expediency than it has to do with spirituality! Words which meant something totally different had new meanings attached. There are examples I can give of this, if people would like.

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B6 years ago


Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

I'm not surprised at the actions of the rcc. It goes well with their hypocrisy around chastity, poverty, etc. The pope, cardinals and their staff live in a complete different way than what they preach. Look at the vatican; it's enormous wealth. The richest institution in the world and they preach poverty! They are all hippocrites, abusers/abuse enablers and liars. And now they show their real faces with the greed and self absolutions. Get rid of them all! Stuff them in the trashcan of historical mistakes and forget about them. Religion has never helped anyone, only enriched the few.

Tony S.
Tony S6 years ago

Here's the continuation of my previous post:

If the RCC is smart, they'll address the problem and start to weed out the undesirables in their clergy. If they're REALLY smart, they'll make needed changes in their doctrine. This will be the only way they'll gain back any sort of credibility.