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Are the Catholic Church liable for abuse by priests?

We are currently awaiting the Judgment from the Court of Appeal in the case of JGE v The Trustees of the Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust. In this case, the Catholic Church has argued that they should not pay compensation to victims of sexual abuse by a priest because they do not have a sufficient level of control over their priests. This is the last in a long line of arguments brought by the Catholic Church to avoid paying compensation to the victims of sexual abuse. Lord Faulks QC argued, on behalf of the Church, that “the priest…exercises his ministry as a co-operator and collaborator rather than as someone who is subject to the control of his [bishop].”

I am surprised that the Catholic Church is claiming they hold little control over their clergy. For instance, a Catholic priest must be celibate and cannot be female. In truth, the control exerted over the clergy is as great as that between a normal employer and employee.

The arguments brought forward by the Catholic Church to avoid their responsibilities to the victims of abuse contradict the importance they otherwise bestow on their clergy. The Catholic Church only grants salvation to those who are held by their priests for baptism and who confide in their priests with confession. At the same time they are seeking no responsibility, and afford no protection, to those who suffer at the hands of these priests. By making such arguments, surely the Catholic Church is in danger of losing religious credibility.

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