Employer's name? “God.” His address? “Heaven.” In more self-confident
days, that is how Anglicans used to answer pesky bureaucrats demanding
particulars of a clergyman’s employment. But for better or worse, the
old idea that “religious workers”—to use more modern language—belong in a
legal and metaphysical category all of their own is being chipped away.
London’s High Court ruled this week that the Roman Catholic church—in
this case, the diocese of Portsmouth—could be held responsible for the
actions of a priest, now dead, who is alleged to have abused a young
girl at a children’s home. This was because the church had put the
priest in a position where he could perpetrate abuse, creating a
relationship similar to employment. The decision will make it easier for
victims of clerical crimes to demand compensation, and it could
eventually oblige the church authorities to compensate abuse victims on
the large scale seen in other countries.
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