English judge ties priests to bishops in sex abuse cases

Riazat Butt reports for The Guardian that a judge has found in favor of an accuser in a clerical sex-abuse scandal, noting along the way the certain "crucial features" that identified the accused with the Catholic parish he represented.

In a test case, heard on Tuesday at the high court, Mr Justice Macduff gave a decision in favour of a woman, known as JGE, who claims she was sexually assaulted by a Portsmouth priest at a children's home in Hampshire....

"He was provided with the premises, the pulpit and the clerical robes. He was directed into the community with that full authority and was given free rein to act as a representative of the church. He had been trained and ordained for the purpose. He had immense power handed to him by the defendants [the trustees of the Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust]. It was they who appointed him to the position of trust which (if the allegations be proved) he so abused."

It is the first time a court has ruled that the relationship between a Catholic priest and his bishop is akin to an employment relationship. It sets a precedent for similar cases, by providing further guidance for such trials in the future, while also putting the church in unchartered territory. It has been granted extended leave to appeal the decision.

Does wider (yet more focused) accountability create greater accountability structures? Does the legal ascription of employee status under the law promote higher levels of transparency, or merely greater attempts to obfuscate the facts of a known case?

Comments (2)

Finally, a bishop is being held accountable!

Cullin R. Schooley

Higher levels of transparency (and accountability), I *hope*.

JC Fisher

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