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Florida court allows priest to sue diocese for defamation in abuse-report case

July 14, 2017

A Florida judge has ruled that a priest can proceed with his defamation lawsuit against the Diocese of Palm Beach, despite the argument by diocesan attorneys that religious issues should not be tried in secular courts.

Father John Gallagher argues that the diocese defamed him by accusing him of lying and questioning his stability when he charged that the diocese had covered up evidence of sexual abuse. The diocese attacked Father Gallagher’s claim in posts on the diocesan web site and in a letter from Bishop Gerald Barbarito that was read at all parishes in the diocese.

Judge Meenu Sasser ruled that the charge of defamation in such public statements “can be assessed usuing neutral principles of law and without resolving a church controversy.” The judge therefore rejected a bid by diocesan attorneys to dismiss the case.

 
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  • Posted by: unum - Jul. 15, 2017 12:42 PM ET USA

    The diocese may learn something about due process from the civil proceedings. Many times, the objective of the diocese is to protect the diocese rather than to assure justice for the accused!

  • Posted by: WBSM - Jul. 15, 2017 5:09 AM ET USA

    Yes, justice for the diocese and for Mr. Gallagher! I am not so sure Gallagher would be content with justice, but he certainly has asked for it. Let justice prevail, then, whether it seems to be favouring one or the other.

  • Posted by: feedback - Jul. 14, 2017 4:58 PM ET USA

    This lawsuit will actually help to curb sinful arrogance in diocesan bureaucracies. My prayers for justice for Father Gallagher.