England: Court rules that priests are employees of bishops

Liberals and secularists rail against bishops who are too restrictive or who are perceived to be too controlling.  If a bishop actually seeks to govern, they accuse him of being authoritarian, mean-spirited, backward.  On the other hand, they think that bishops can and ought to control every possible aspect of the lives of priests and want to hold them liable for every thing a priest does… unless, of course, the priest is a good and faithful priest, sticking to the Church’s teachings and sound practices.

I read with a measure of horror that in England a court ruled that bishops can be help responsible for crimes priests might commit.  I wonder if a judge in England might be liable for the crimes committed by, say, a research assistant helping with cases.  The analogy is not perfect, but still I wonder about that.  Is a judge’s assistant employed by the judge?  A priest, however, is not generally employed by the bishop.  Most priests in the USA are, I think, self-employed.  I don’t know what the status is in England but I am guessing that it is similar.

From The Catholic Herald:

Court rules that Church is liable for crimes of priests

By Simon Caldwell on Thursday, 10 November 2011

A court has ruled that the Catholic Church can be held legally liable for the crimes of abusive clergy.

The ruling by the High Court in London for the first time defined in British law the relationship of a priest to his bishop as that of an employee to an employer, instead of seeing the priest as effectively self-employed.

This means that a bishop and a diocese can be punished for the crimes of a priest. Survivors’ groups hope that it will also mean that many people who claim to have been abused by clergy will be able to claim compensation more easily.

The court granted the trustees of the Diocese of Portsmouth extra time to appeal the decision.

The case involves a 47-year-old mother of three, referred to only by the initials JGE, who claims she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Fr Wilfred Baldwin as a seven-year-old girl in The Firs children’s home in Waterlooville, in southern England, in the early 1970s.

She claims that she also was attacked in the dressing room of a church on the day she made her first Communion.

Besides the Diocese of Portsmouth, she is also seeking damages from the English province of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, which ran the home, because she said the nuns witnessed the abuse but did not intervene.

The court was not asked to judge the truth of the allegations but was specifically asked, as a preliminary hearing on the case, to rule on the question of whether the “relationship between a Catholic priest and his bishop is akin to an employment relationship”.

Justice Alistair MacDuff said that although the priest had no formal contract of employment there were “crucial features” that made a bishop vicariously liable for his actions.

He said the Church gave Fr Baldwin the “premises, the pulpit and the clerical robes” and that he was given full authority and free rein in the community to “act as a representative of the church.”

“Whether or not the relationship may be regarded as ‘akin to employment,’ the principal features of the relationship dictate that the defendants should be held responsible for the actions which they initiated by the appointment and all that went with it,” said the judge.


Is this just an attack on religion in the public square?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Our Catholic Identity, The Drill, The future and our choices, The Last Acceptable Prejudice and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Supertradmum says:

    The argument of the Church, under the counsel of Crispin Hollis, was that priests are self-employed. This is disastrous as a decision, as it opens the gates for settlements to basically bankrupt any diocese. In the Davenport, Iowa Diocese, my home town, the bankruptcy settlement was in the millions, and only the unbounded generosity of the Catholics there made up the difference after an appeal. However, the Catholics in England and Wales are not as wealthy, except the few, being an immigrant Church, and this will cause tremendous hardship. I think it is a form of persecution similar to the Penal Laws, and of course, because of English Common Law, this sets a precedent for other denominations as well. Some people will see this as a decision based on a sensitivity to racism as well as the people involved were from Barbados, although I think it is just secularism gone wild.

  2. Legisperitus says:

    Once upon a time priests and bishops adopted the ways and ideas of the hedonistic secular culture, and now the chickens have come home to roost as that very culture is using the results to destroy the Church.

  3. Robert of Rome says:

    Father, do you really think that diocesan priests can honestly be described as being “self-employed”? While much may be lacking in the description of the the bishop as “employer” and the diocesan priest as “employee”, surely this description is closer to that of canon law than the concept of a diocesan priest as being “self-employed”?

  4. WaywardSailor says:

    I think an apt analogy might be that of the relationship of attorneys to the court. An attorney, by virtue of his admittance to the bar, is an officer of the court, subject to all laws generally and the canons of legal ethics specifically. If an attorney violates a law or canon, he is subject to discipline by the court according to his offense, up to and including dismissal from the bar. But no judge would ever consider an attorney an employee of the court, such that everything an attorney does is subject to supervision by a particular judge, which supervision would then subject a judge who fails to prevent an attorney’s wrongdoing to discipline himself or subject the court itself to liability to others. Even district attornies and public defenders, who are paid by the court itself, are either employees of the particular office for which they work or independent contractors with broad latitude to conduct themselves as they see fit and without supervision by a judge.

  5. WaywardSailor says:

    That’s “district attorneys” not “attornies”!

  6. Gail F says:

    This is a terrible ruling. And that’s not even taking into account that the particular case in question is about an incident that may or may not have happened FORTY YEARS AGO.

  7. APX says:

    I’m with Robert on this one. I don’t really see the “self-employed” for most priests, given that their paid and supported by the diocese under most circumstances.

    That being said, I’m reminded of the time I was a door-to-door saleswoman. Even though I worked for a company, and they provided me with a T4 statement of my earnings to file income tax, I was still considered “self-employed” for the purposes of income taxes.

    Maybe it’s the same thing. I don’t know.

  8. Supertradmum says:

    A diocese is not like a company, nor is a bishop like a CEO. The traditional relationship between a priest and his bishop is one of father to son, not employer to employee. I think too many people can only think in terms of “business models” instead of pastoral or church models. The decision will have serious, negative repercussions.

  9. Liz says:

    Scary! God help us!

  10. Titus says:

    This means that a bishop and a diocese can be punished for the crimes of a priest.

    This is misleading phraseology. The existence of an employment relationship does not allow the employer to be held criminally liable, via prosecution, for the criminal acts of his employee. It does allow an employer to be held civilly liable, via a private lawsuit, for the tortious acts of his employee. Those tortious acts may in some cases also constitute crimes, but they need not, nor are the standards of conduct at issue necessarily the same.

    I could see priests as independent contractors, but “employees” is really quite a stretch.

  11. teevor says:

    I don’t see this as particularly anti-catholic. There is of course, much to consider, but I think there are sound legal and policy arguments for considering priests as employees of their diocese.
    A diocesan priest is (ostensibly) trained, paid and supervised by the bishop. They receive their parochial appointments to diocesan churches by the bishop. They are subject to diocesan oversight.
    Ultimately, the responsibility for ensuring that priests are doing their job, with respect to both their spiritual and moral responsibilities, lies with their bishop. This is a responsibility incumbent on the bishop according to the teaching of the Church.

    Of course, it is a terrible thing that in some cases, dioceses could be severely harmed by lawsuits for damages inflicted by a single priest, who clandestinely and subversively harmed those in his care. However, the question for the courts is whether it is more just for a tort victim to receive a nominal sum from a priest who hasn’t got much money, when the diocesan bishop could probably have exercised greater oversight over pastors. I don’t think it is. I needn’t remind anyone that in many cases the way abusers were dealt with by the bishops was in many cases totally irresponsible. For its downsides, this finding has the practical upside of ensuring that bishops properly screen seminarians for attributes that would create the risk of harm… such as homosexuality.

    Wayward Sailor – I’m not sure your analogy holds up. No lawyer is required by the court or the bar association (according to the jurisdiction) to practice law. They are merely licensed to do so, and the rules of court or whatever ethical standards may be in place are more like quasi-criminal regulations that apply to a distinct part of the public. In master/servant law generally, an employer can only be liable for the acts of an employee committed in the course of that employee’s duties. There lies the distinction, because a diocesan priest is (as I understand it) assigned to a particular pastoral duty by the Bishop.

  12. asperges says:

    There are clear parallels in the judge’s ruling to the relationships used in UK employment law and the excuse that priests are self-employed (because they pay tax that way (‘Schedule E’) and are not ’employees’ in the generally accepted way) may have been the wrong point to start from as a defence. Self-employment is not an absolute thing. It may not preclude other relationships between parties such as “master and servant” relationship, control, right of substitution and other elements which do not rule out an underlying “vicarious liability” by a diocese or Church or immunity from it.

    English law works on precedent, which is why this ruling is important but not necessarily the last word on the matter. No doubt it will be challenged at a higher level.

  13. jhayes says:

    I think there is some confusion between the legal entity which is the diocese and the bishop as an individual person. I don’t know of any cases where the multi-million dollar settlements paid in child-abuse cases have been assessed against bishops as individuals.

    This can be confusing because the legal entity which is the Archdiocese of Boston, where Cardinal Law was the bishop, is named “The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, a corporation sole.” However, Cardinal Law had no liability to pay out of his own personal assets any of the judgments awarded against the diocese.

    I read the decision in the English case yesterday and it didn’t seem to come to any different conclusion that we already have in the US – whether or not a priest is technically an employee of a diocese, the diocese can, under some circumstances, be held liable for his actions.

    The bishop, as an individual person could, of course, have both financial and criminal liability for his own actions or failure to act – for instance for not removing a priest he has reason to believe may abuse children, or for not reporting him to the authorities in a state that includes clergy as mandated reporters.

  14. asperges says:

    Line 2: ‘Schedule D,’ not ‘E.’ Sorry.

  15. Supertradmum says:

    There is a much larger issue here, and that is the reason why St. Thomas a Beckett and St. Thomas More died. That is that the State does not have the right to change Canon Law, or interfere with the inner workings of the Church, or the doctrine of the Church, or the hierarchy. I know this is a foreign idea to many young ones, who have not grown up with the idea of the independence of the Church with regard to the State, but it is a crucial distinction, and one which has incurred the death of martyrs through-out the ages. The State has not right to interfere with the organization of the Church, as this will directly result in persecution. The Church, as instituted by Christ, has the higher call to earthly power, which may be shocking to some.

  16. jhayes says:

    This pretty much gives the idea that, in Boston at least, priests are employees of the diocese:

    BRIGHTON — The Archdiocese of Boston will increase priest stipends on July 1 in an effort to compensate for higher living expenses and defray the cost of Social Security. The goal of the new policy is to be “fair and just for all priests,” according to Father Robert Connors, chair of the Stipend Committee.

    The benefits package for archdiocesan priests was recently approved by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley after two consultations with the Presbyteral Council. The policy is usually reviewed about every three years but has not been changed since 2003, except for annual cost of living increases of 3 percent.

    Father Arthur M. Coyle, secretary for pastoral and ministerial services, laid out the two primary reasons for the increase in a letter to the priests of the archdiocese. The new policy takes into account both the significant increase in the cost of living in the last five years as well as the fact that priests pay all their own Social Security, he said.

    Priests are “dual-status taxpayers,” which means that the government considers them employees for income tax purposes but considers them self-employed for Social Security purposes. Normally an employer would pay half of Social Security, but priests pay the entire 15.3 percent. Under the new policy, the archdiocese will supplement the priests’ pay to assist with this cost. For priests who not participate in Social Security, an equal amount will be paid into the Clergy Fund for their health care in retirement.

    Under the priests’ stipend and benefits policy for the 2007 calendar year, the base pay for archdiocesan priests was just over $21,500. The new policy will take effect on July 1, 2007, and the new policy will compensate priests on a fiscal-year basis. The base pay will increase to $25,000, which is meant to cover the cost of living for a newly ordained priest.

    Father Connors said that Stipend Committee members sought a “fair and just amount that a young priest, newly ordained, would need.” They took into account that the amount should cover car payments, clothing and vacation, he said.

    Father Connors formerly served as the archdiocese’s secretary for ministerial personnel and continued to serve as head of the Stipend Committee after returning to parish ministry at St. Marguerite d’Youville Parish in Dracut.

    As in the past, priests will receive compensation based on their years of service in addition to their base salary. Under the new policy that amount will increase from $75 to $100 per year since ordination. There will be a new $1,000 minimum for all priests who have served one to 10 years. Additionally, the amount will cap at 50 years of service.

    This system is a way to honor priests for their many years of dedication to the archdiocese, Father Connors said.

    The previous policy offered priests $4,000 of tax-deductible reimbursement for work-related costs. Because under the new policy reimbursement will be taxable, the professional expenses allotment has been increased to $5,000.

    There will also be a change in the automobile insurance reimbursement policy. In the past, a priest paid the first $700 of his annual auto insurance bill and his parish paid the remainder. In the future, parishes will pay the initial $700 and priests will pay the remainder, unless they live in an area with high insurance. In those cases, the amount will be determined on a sliding scale.

    Additionally, the priests will receive an allotment for their required annual spiritual retreat.

    As part of their benefits, priests also receive room and board, medical insurance and personal property insurance.

    The introduction to the package outlines the policies on Mass stipends, bonuses, as well as offerings for weddings, baptisms and funerals.

    More Details

    Further on, the article explains that before the 1950’s, priests could keep whatever parish income wasn’t spent on expenses each year. Then the archdiocesan synod changed to a “universal income” for all priests.

  17. teevor says:

    I’m not sure this constitutes an interference with the inner workings of the Church or her rights. The courts are saying, merely, for the purposes of tort law, the relationship of the Diocese to diocesan priests is akin to an employment relationship. The implications of this relate to the duties of the Church and her clergy to civil society at large, and do not impact on how the church orders its own affairs. In a sense, the duties to the outside world flow as a matter of course from how the church has already freely and independently decided to organize itself internally.

    The state has and always will have an obligation to make laws which protect the people from others (whether in the criminal or tort context) and as long as there is in fact a separation of church and state, the state cannot wholly rely on private organizations, be they religious or otherwise, to have regard for the public welfare.
    The church acknowledges this and that is why there are no provisions under Canon law for matters which are under the exclusive purview of civil government, such as contractual disputes for example.

  18. MrTipsNZ says:

    Time to get smart…..
    If it is pointed out to a local Imam that he is now potentially liable for the actions of his assistants at the mosque, be from abuse to drug running, I would imagine this ruling would undergo substantive protest in England, the current home of the PC legalese virus. One may even get it overturned with their support.

    If you tolerate this, then your children will be next etc…

  19. John UK says:

    Fr. Ray Blake has a number of comments on his posting on this topic, some both interesting and knowledgeable – see

    Kind regards, and many thanks for your hospitality at the 2nd Blognic n the Coal Hole,

    John U.K.

  20. teevor says:

    Sorry I can’t resist
    MrTipsNZ – You may be right (though your scenario is hypothetical in the extreme) but it doesn’t in fact have any bearing on whether the decision is correct. If it is correct there is no reason to impute bad faith to the court.

  21. Dr. Eric says:

    If priests are employees of the bishops, why aren’t the bishops employees of “The Vatican”?

    I already see where this is leading- the successor of Pope Benedict will rule from a prison cell.

  22. Supertradmum says:

    Dr. Eric,

    I agree with you 100%. We are seeing history unfolding, as it did in the Penal Days of England, the Gulag of the Soviet Union, and Christianity considered a heresy by the Roman Empire. Those who cannot see this may not understand persecution by the State. This is definitely the State trying to take control over the Church.

  23. theophilus says:

    The relationship is not Employer, Employee. It is Father and Son. It is a family relationship. I can no more put a parent in jail for the crimes of a child than I could a bishop for the crimes of a priest.

  24. anilwang says:

    Robert, Father Z. is correct.

    Parishes are generally self-funding. While a bishop an remove a priest from a parish, the parish is run in trust by the priest. The ability to remove priests is more in keeping the the vow of obedience to the bishop and the trust that the parishioners have placed in the Priest to be in communion with the Bishop. It’s a bit complicated, but the relationship to the bishop isn’t one of employer-employee. If it were, the salary is lousy, especially considering the priests are on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

    Maybe a better model for explaining it is franchaising. Individual franchisees own their businesses, but they agree to do things a certain way for the franchisor. The franchisor can force the franchisee to stop using the franchise brand name if the franchise doesn’t follow the contract, but overall the franchisee is on his own. While the franchisor might have some vicarious liability, the extend depends wholy on the degree of control the franchisor has over the franchisee. If the franchisor requires a the franchisee to buy burders from a specific distributor, then the franchisor is liable if the burgers cause illness. If the franchisor leaves the purchase of the burgers up to the franchisee and only requires that it be cooked a certain way, the franchisee is liable.

    You only have to look at current Austrian and Irish priest revolt to see that bishops have a relatively loose control over their priests. Had such control been as tight as a typical franchise much less an employee agreement, the priests would have been forced to leave their parishes and sent packing immediately since they don’t seem to hold the basics of the Catholic faith (e.g. laity “consecrating hosts”?).

  25. AnAmericanMother says:

    Unless something in English common law has changed drastically, this is a profound misinterpretation of employment law.
    Priests are not so much “self employed” as they are “independent contractors” in law.
    An independent contractor works for somebody, and he gets paid by somebody. But the key to his status is not found there.
    With an employee, the employer has the authority to control “the time, manner and method” of the employee’s work.
    With an independent contractor, the person with whom he contracts controls the result of the work, and can demand a certain performance, and can pull the contractor off the job and put him somewhere else if he isn’t satisfied — but the details of the performance are up to the contractor.
    It seems to me that priests are in a classic independent contractor position. He reports to his bishop on general matters, but the time-manner-method of the Sacraments, Sunday School, activities, parish life, finances, etc. are controlled by the rector.
    This court decision is a major change, and I agree with Supertradmum and Dr. Eric that the government is setting the stage for major persecution.

  26. Volanges says:

    Maybe things work differently in the US and England but in Canada the priest is paid by the parish he serves. The amount he gets is set by the Diocese, which also negotiates with religious orders/congregations the amount of the stipend and which benefits their priests are to be paid. In my diocese priests are encouraged to pay into an RRSP but there is no pension plan; diocesan priests are given a taxable car allowance and their use of the rectory and food paid by the parish are taxable benefits. Their religious counterparts are paid less, have a car provided at the diocese’s expense and the parish pays the bills for the upkeep — of course as religious with a vow of poverty they pay no income tax.

  27. John UK says:

    The complete judgement (not too long) may be found here –

    John U.K.

  28. AnAmericanMother says:

    That judgment is embarrassing.
    It’s a mish-mash of contradictory legal opinions, and basically the judge winds up saying “this isn’t a classic employment case, and the situation is not one of employment, and the bishop exercised no control, and it looks like a priest is an independent contractor (not in so many words, but that’s what the law says) . . . BUT we’ll just find some sort of quasi-employment relationship here because child abuse is just so bad, and because the bishop put the priest in an independent position where he had a great deal of authority, the bishop is responsible.”
    What the latter rationale looks like is a “negligent hiring” or “negligent oversight” claim — the problem with the judge adopting this view (aside from the fact that the evidence shows that the bishop had very little actual power of oversight) is that negligent hiring/oversight requires a showing that the employer knew about the risk that the employee presented. That’s what makes the hiring negligent.
    Oliver Wendell Holmes said it years and years ago: “Hard cases make bad law.”
    This is about as bad as it gets — I can only surmise that the judge is (a) incompetent (b) political. Political judges are a running sore on the law.

  29. RuariJM says:

    To be frank, there is a lot of nonsense appearing on this thread. Let us be charitable and work on the basis that it comes from a situation of ignorance (as in, lacking in knowledge, uninformed).

    There is a lot of statute and case law relating to Employment Law in England (& Wales, which is the same legal jurisdiction; Scotland is different). Of particular relevance in this case is IR37, a regulation relating to the Inland Revenue which laid down the status of so-called contractors who were actually employees, but who sought self-employed status in order to manipulate the tax regime to their own benefit. The crucial points are: Does the individual set their own terms of work or are they laid down by another?
    Can the individual determine where, when and how they will perform their duties or are they set by another?

    While IR37 was originally to do with the position of IT ‘consultants’, it clearly has relevance. In the case of parish priests, the fact that ‘transgressor’ parish priests had been moved around single dioceses, by the authority of those dioceses, has made it difficult to find that the relationship is other than more towards the employer/employee end of the scale than anything else.

    Those who see the judgement as ‘confused’ or ‘contradictory’ are unfamiliar with English Law. Judgements always address points of law raised by Counsel during the case and the judge will take the time to discuss them – and indicate where submissions have merit, even if the ruling ultimately goes against. If the judgement did not then it would be appealed instantly.

    However, the defendants have been given leave to appeal on some specific points of law that the judge said may be open to interpretation and require clarification.

    Judges in England are not elected and, while judges are human and therefore imperfect, it is quite clear that this judgement is a long way from ‘political’. It hinges on Employment Law and it was so clear, from so long before the final statements, that one wonders why scarce resources were wasted on this case, rather than being used to seek expert guidance on the best way to mitigate the impact of diocesan liability.

    This may come a a disappointment to some, but Civil Law is not Criminal Law. Neither the Pope nor the Bishops are going to be put on trial and find themselves in gaol. It is about Civil Law, responsibility under it and possible awards in damages cases.

    The judgement is neither perverse nor confusing; it’s just about as clear as English Law gets. It was inevitable. It is not anti-Catholic; it is about civil liability. Under English Law it is individuals, not corporations, that are responsible for criminal acts of the nature under discussion. The employing organisation does not bear direct criminal responsibility (unless corporate conspiracy can be proved, which could be difficult); the perpetrator himself goes to gaol but the employer may be liable for civil damages – especially, if it can be proved that officers of the Diocese (Bishop, auxiliaries, permanent staff) knew about ‘irregularities’ and, for example, moved the individual elsewhere, rather than taking them out of parish work completely – in short, taking all reasonable steps to ensure there was no repetition.

    If the judgement had found the Church was not in any way liable, then it would have been a scandal and brought the Church into disrepute – which is something it can ill-afford in the abuse cases. And, last time I looked, bringing scandal was a grievous offence. If things have changed and scandalous behaviour is now permitted, I expect someone will enlighten me.

  30. RuariJM says:

    PS – “Is this just an attack on religion in the public square?”

    No, Fr Z, it is not. It is an attempt to determine liability under the core principle of English Law: ‘in equity’. The principle that the organisation bore civil liability to those damaged by persons working on its behalf was actually established in the cases of abuse in state-run children’s homes in Mold in North Wales. The state (local government, in those cases) paid out some pretty hefty damages. That was a long time before these cases of abuse within the Church (‘this filth’, as HH Benedict XVI described it) became widely known.

  31. AnAmericanMother says:

    Point taken that statutory law and regs change the common law. I had noted that caveat earlier.
    But I don’t think your analysis is entirely accurate.
    Item 25 in the opinion basically states the independent contractor law as I understand it. This is black-letter law that has been around for a long time.
    Item 29 recounts facts which are not in dispute — and those facts include that the bishop has no power to control the priest once assigned, and that a priest may not be transferred w/o consent. This appears directly contradictory to your statement that “In the case of parish priests, the fact that ‘transgressor’ parish priests had been moved around single dioceses, by the authority of those dioceses, has made it difficult to find that the relationship is other than more towards the employer/employee end of the scale than anything else.” I don’t see any stipulation to this effect in the judgment, and since the case is 40 years old nothing is likely to emerge. It also means that the tax-evading reg is irrelevant.
    Which leaves us where we were before — from outside, the decision appears to be cobbling together justification for a desired conclusion, in contradiction to the facts and the most obvious controlling law. There may be some statute or regulation that demands this result, but the opinion certainly doesn’t draw the threads together in a convincing way. We don’t number paragraphs here, which probably makes it look disjointed to me, but I’m still not impressed with the legal reasoning.
    We have had, by the way, a long debate over whether elected or appointed judges are more subject to political manipulation. My personal opinion is “both” — in this state’s local system we have both appointed and elected judges and there are good and bad ones in both categories. The good thing about retention elections is that you can get rid of the bad ones . . . .

  32. Michael J. says:

    Well, if you take this, “ruling”, to its logical conclusion, then every citizen of the United Kingdom is employed by the British Monarchy. After all, they are provided Universal Health Care, a generous welfare state, and protection from external attack by the military. Ultimately, even if we are made to believe that the Monarchy in the United Kingdom is just a, “figure-head”, it actually is the ultimate power of governance in Great Britain. So, any time a citizen commits a crime, go after the Monarchy. Any time there is a problem in that, “Kingdom”, blame the King, or Queen. Whatever the populace does, it can be fixed and corrected by the Monarchy. To start, they can pay back the Catholic Church for all of the land, holdings, riches, and jewels that it stole from Her under King Henry VIII. Then we can discuss how to make payments for all the Catholics the government has killed, imprisoned, or maimed, just for their Catholic Faith. After that, we can get into the whole English-Irish debate. Sound fair? I think if the Queen wants the title, she can pay the price.

  33. jhayes says:

    Article by an English Barrister:

    The decision is, as I have stated, not that surprising and had it been different and had the Court decided that Catholic Dioceses were not liable for abuse carried out by Catholic Priests then I suspect there would have been a demand for legislation which might have put Dioceses in an even more difficult legal position. As it is the case is clear that Priests are not employees in law which I suspect was the main point the Church was concerned about.


  34. Supertradmum says:

    St. Thomas a Beckett is a martyr because he did two things against the will of Henry II. First, Thomas insisted that the civil courts had not power over the clerics, only the clerical courts in the Church had a right to try and convict priests. Second, he excommunicated the man who killed a priest who was guilty of a crime according to the State.

    St. Thomas More was martyred for two reasons. First, he refused to acknowledge the marriage of Anne Boleyn and Henry XIII as valid, as only the Pope had the right to change marriage law. Second, he was against the title Henry XIII took as Head of the Church. However, the first reason was why he was martyred.

    Both of these saints stood up for the autonomy of the Church over civil law. This should still be the case and this stand has been eroded further by such a decision. Henry passed the Statute of Praemunire, which stated that no one had the right to petition Rome and this Statue became the basis of persecuting the Church, the monasteries and murdering Catholic priests and laymen. Parliament or a King does not have the right to change Church law or interior regulations. What is happening now in England is persecution and will lead to more persecution. Why can’t people see this? That Satan got his toe in the door via bad priests is not an excuse for a huge revamping of priest/bishop/Pope relationships. The civil courts have no right to do this.

  35. Supertradmum says:

    “primarily” is missing in the sentence at the end of the second paragraph

    And, Father Z, thanks for the artwork of Our Lady of Walsingham on this post.

  36. AnAmericanMother says:

    Just another indication that this is a political decision.
    Judges who distort the law because they are afraid “the legislature might do something worse” are shortsighted cowards. The branches are separate for a reason (even in Britain), and judges are not legislators.
    Every time the courts try to legislate, they foul things up. Roe v. Wade, Kelo v. New London, Dred Scott, and hundreds of less notorious examples from a court near you.

  37. jhayes says:


    The quote I posted is from the blog of an English barrister; it is not a quote from the judge.

    The barrister didn’t suggest that the judge’s decision was affected by concern about what legislation might be passed if he ruled otherwise.

  38. I also don’t see anything particularly nefarious in categorizing the priest-bishop relationship as essentially employee-employer for purposes of civil law. The diocese does employ the priest, i.e., provides him a salary and benefits, retirement,vacation time, and subjects him to diocesan policies and procedures in the performance of his duties. Sounds like employment to me.

    Moreover, in the US anyway, the doctrine of respondeat superior applies to attribute legal responsibility to the employer for the wrongs (“torts”) of the employee only in cases where the employee commits his offenses in the course of his employment. If a priest on his own time, and as a “private person” as it were, committed these crimes, without trading on his position of power as a priest, it might be that the diocese would not have to answer for it.

    But in most abuse cases, the priests are clearly using their office and position to commit the abuse, and in many, many cases the diocese knows or reasonably ought to know what’s going on with a particular deviant priest. The seminaries have notoriously advanced men with homosexual attractions, and more notoriously has shuffled them around to cover up for their misdeeds. As another commenter put it, the chickens are coming home to roost.

    That this might also be a convenient way to persecute the Church does not mean that the bishops and priests involved should not be held fully accountable to society for their crimes, especially since so little has been done, at least until lately, to address these crimes within the Church Herself.

  39. Michael J. says:

    Maybe, due to this decision, the Pope could put the entire, “United Kingdom”, under interdict? Also, when were Catholics, under the Bull Regnans in excelsis, rendered by Pope St. Pius V, which both excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I and freed English Catholics from any allegiance to the Holy See, actually forbade them from obedience to the English Monarchy, again permitted to give obedience to the English monarchy? What document did this? Are the Anglican Hierarchy and clergy considered employees of the British Crown? If not, why not? What’s good for the gander is good for the goose.

  40. ContraMundum says:

    Why should we be surprised? Don’t we all know by now that Mary Poppins was just a story, and that there is more to English history than Winston Churchill and the atmospheres portrayed in Dickens and Kipling?

    Of course I disapprove, as I disapprove of Iran’s threat to execute a Protestant pastor for “apostasy”. I disapprove of both cases, but neither one surprises me.

  41. mike cliffson says:

    Open season on the church.

Comments are closed.