MANCHESTER, England -- A British court has ruled that the Catholic Church can be held legally liable for the crimes of abusive clergy.
The Nov. 8 ruling by the High Court in London for the first time defined in British law the relationship of a priest to his bishop as that of an employee to an employer, instead of seeing the priest as effectively self-employed.
This means that a bishop and a diocese can be punished for the crimes of a priest. Survivors' groups hope that it will also mean that many people who claim to have been abused by clergy will be able to claim compensation more easily.
The court granted the trustees of the Diocese of Portsmouth extra time to appeal the decision.
The case involves a 47-year-old mother of three, referred to only by the initials JGE, who claims she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Father Wilfred Baldwin as a 7-year-old girl in The Firs children's home in Waterlooville, in southern England, in the early 1970s.
She claims that she also was attacked in the dressing room of a church on the day she made her first Communion.