Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Lawsuit Over Priest's Molestation of Boys
Court finds church and diocese not liable.
Pennsylvania
Key point. A church may not be legally responsible for a worker's acts of child molestation not occurring on church premises or in the course of a scheduled church activity.

A Pennsylvania court ruled that a church and diocese could not be legally responsible for a priest's repeated acts of child molestation occurring off of church premises. A Catholic priest repeatedly molested a number of boys. His pattern was to befriend young boys, lure them into a sense of trust, and then molest them. He often would take boys out to meals, do special favors for them, and take them shopping or on trips. One victim, who had been molested more than fifty times by the priest, sued the church and diocese on the basis of negligent supervision of the priest. A state court ruled that the church and diocese could not be guilty of negligent supervision since all of the priest's acts of molestation occurred off of church premises. The court noted that the Restatement of Torts (an authoritative legal text) imposes liability for negligent supervision upon employers only for misconduct occurring on their premises. It pointed out that all of the priest's acts of molestation occurred in motel rooms while on trips, and not on church premises.

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