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Courts rule that First Amendment does not bar clerical abuse suits

Catholic World News - August 22, 2013

In separate decisions, a federal district judge and a Connecticut court have rejected dioceses’ arguments that the First Amendment bars lawsuits against clerical sexual abuse, according to the Religion Clause blog.

Rejecting a motion by the Diocese of Yakima, the federal judge ruled that “the Free Exercise Clause does not bar a negligence claim against Defendants for hiring [Deacon Aaron] Ramirez and placing him in a position of trust and authority from which he was able to sexually abuse Plaintiff.”

According to the BishopAccountability.org database, the deacon fled to Mexico after being accused of raping a 17-year-old male in 1999. Blessed John Paul II subsequently laicized the deacon, and he became an Episcopal priest.

In the other case, “a Connecticut trial court rejected the contention of a Catholic diocese that the First Amendment and the ministerial exception doctrine preclude civil courts from deciding claims against religious institutions growing out of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy,” according to the blog.

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  • Posted by: Savonarola - Aug. 22, 2013 6:36 PM ET USA

    The absurd argument posed by these dioceses is yet another embarassment for the Church in America. Lawyers, with no sense of what the Church is about, are apparently continuing to tell cowering bishops how to mount pathetic defenses in these cases. The abuse-and-coverup crisis is NOT over.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Aug. 22, 2013 3:12 PM ET USA

    What an outrage! That anybody would CLAIM that the First Amendment protects child abusers---or their enablers!

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