• Key point. Statements made in the course of internal church disciplinary proceedings ordinarily cannot be defamatory, but some courts recognize an exception to this rule if information shared in such proceedings is disclosed to persons outside of the church.
A Louisiana court ruled that it could resolve a priest's claim that he had been defamed by statements church officials made to the media. A Catholic priest who had been accused of molesting a child was investigated by church officials. He later filed a lawsuit claiming that the investigating officials had defamed him by making unauthorized disclosures to the media about the case, and interfered with his future employment. The church officials asserted that the civil courts had no authority to resolve the priest's lawsuit since it was an internal matter of church discipline. A state appeals court disagreed.
The court began its opinion by observing: