US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up an appeal by a man
who says he was abused by a Roman Catholic priest decades ago. He
sought to challenge the archdiocese's assertion that the First
Amendment shields it from a lawsuit.
The US Supreme Court declined on Monday to take up a case
challenging the use of the First Amendment's separation of church
and state as a shield to block a negligence lawsuit against a Roman
Catholic archdiocese that hired and supervised a priest accused of
being a pedophile.
The high court action ends an attempt to hold the Catholic Church
legally accountable for alleged sexual abuse that took place more
than 40 years ago.
The plaintiff in the case says he was twice sexually abused by a
trusted parish priest when he was 13 or 14 years old. The priest,
who has since died, was assigned to a Catholic Church in St. Louis.
The plaintiff, identified only as "John Doe," sued the
Archdiocese of St. Louis for negligence for employing the priest in
positions where he would have contact with children.
"The Archdiocese was aware of past instances of child sexual
abuse involving [Father Thomas] Cooper, and knew that leaving him
alone with children was likely to result in harm," writes Marci
Hamilton in her brief on behalf of Mr. Doe.
Because Father Cooper has since died, the civil case was dropped
against him. But Doe sought to hold the archdiocese accountable for
its failure to protect him and other children.
The archdiocese defended the suit by claiming the First Amendment
bars judicial examination of hiring and supervisory decisions within
a religious organization. The archdiocese also argued that the suit
must be dismissed because the alleged sexual acts did not take place
on church property.
According to the lawsuit, Cooper invited Doe to a "clubhouse,"
where the priest allegedly engaged in oral rape and attempted anal
rape with Doe.
The Missouri courts agreed with the archdiocese and dismissed the
In his appeal to the US Supreme Court, Doe had asked the high
court to reverse a 2010 decision by the Missouri Supreme Court
finding broad First Amendment protection against government
intrusion into church matters.
In throwing out Doe's lawsuit, the Missouri Court of Appeals for
the Eastern District noted that courts in Missouri have declined to
recognize a cause of action for negligent failure to supervise