Friday, March 31, 2017

Ecclesiastical Abstention Leads To Dismissal of Suit By Expelled Student For Priesthood

In Doe v. Pontifical College Josephinum, (OH App., March 30, 2017), an Ohio appellate court applied the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine to dismiss a suit by a former student who was dismissed from an academic program designed to prepare him to become a priest.  The student was dismissed after the school's Vice Rector determined that there was a "credible accusation of homosexual activity."  The student sued for breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, unauthorized disclosure of confidential educational records, and unjust enrichment. In an internal canon law appeal of his dismissal, the student was unable to prepare a defense because he could not obtain relevant records from the school.  The court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the lawsuit, saying in part:
Although appellant argues that the trial court could resolve his claims without addressing ecclesiastic issues, it is clear that the alleged unjust dismissal lies at the core of each claim. Therefore, evaluating those claims would require the common pleas court to consider issues related to the Josephinum's disciplinary process and the dismissal.