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Defamation of Ministers by Denominational Officials

Court rules that chancellor's statements were not defamatory.

Key point: Critical statements made by a denominational official about a minister's contentious relationship with the denomination are not defamatory per se.

• An Illinois appeals court ruled that statements made about a priest by the chancellor of a Catholic diocese were not defamatory. A priest was removed from his parish assignment by his bishop because of the "extreme animosity" between him and members of a family within the church over an estate. A deceased family member left 160 acres to his son and daughter "for the perpetual use and benefit" of the church. The priest maintained that neither he nor the church was ever informed by the family about this gift. When the priest learned of the gift, a lawsuit was brought to determine the ownership of the 160 acre tract and the $160,000 in profits derived from the farming of this land. The court found that the land belonged to ...

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  • September 1, 1994

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