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Priest Sues Bishop and Diocese for Defamation

Courts generally refuse to interfere with churches' decisions regarding a minister's status.

Texas
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Key point. Statements made by church officials regarding a ministers status are an internal church concern that generally are free from civil liability, and this includes claims that the statements were defamatory.

A Texas court ruled that a bishop and diocese could not be liable on the basis of defamation for statements made about a priests status within the church. A priest had a history of conflict with his diocese culminating in his association with a dissident Catholic sect. A parishioner asked the priests bishop about the priests standing in the Catholic Church, and was informed that "he is not in good standing with his diocese and does not enjoy the [authority] to function as a priest in [this] or any other diocese." The bishop advised another person that the priest was excommunicated, and not in good standing, and "says mass to a small number of people, including elderly women ...

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Posted:
  • July 1, 1997

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