Thursday, May 18, 2017

1st Amendment Requires Dismissal of Some Priest Sexual Abuse Allegations

In Roy v. Norwich Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp., 2017 Conn. Super. LEXIS 774 (CT Super., April 24, 2017), plaintiff sued claiming that from 1990 to 1996 when he served as an altar boy at a Pomfret, Connecticut Catholic church he was sexually assaulted hundreds of times by a now-deceased priest, Fr. Paul Herbert.  While the trial court permitted plaintiff to move ahead on a number of his claims, it dismissed three of them on the ground that these would impermissibly entangle the court in matters of discipline, faith, internal organization, or ecclesiastical rule, custom, or law. The allegations that were dismissed were that the church failed to adequately evaluate the mental fitness of Herbert to serve as a Catholic priest, and the allegation that plaintiff suffered emotional and spiritual loss, substantially affecting his belief in his faith. The court held that plaintiff's other claims, such as the failure to adequately train and supervise Herbert, can be decided by applying neutral principles of law.