Landmark Sexual Abuse Case in UK Makes Catholic Church Accountable for Priest Misconduct

The London High Court ruled in a landmark case Tuesday the Catholic Church can be held responsible for abuse committed by priests, which opens the door for hundreds of victims to now sue the church.

The ruling came in favor of a 47-year-old woman who said the late Father Wilfred Baldwin, who died in August 2006 at the age of 75, The Daily Mail Reported, raped her as a young child in a care home.

The defense for the Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust, who was representing the church, said that although they take sexual abuse allegations very seriously, the church has little control over the actions of independent priests. They argued the church could not be held financially liable for priests who are ordained but carry on their own ministry.

The ruling, however, puts the relationship between church and priests as an employer and employee one, meaning people who have suffered abuse at the hands of church members can now step forward and claim compensation.

The woman, who chose to be identified only as JGE, revealed that Baldwin raped her on a number of occasions, once on the day of her first Holy Communion in a robbing room, and the nuns at the children’s home were aware of the assaults, but did nothing to stop them or reported the crime to anyone.

JGE said she has had to deal with the trauma for her entire life, which has resulted in her suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, struggling with borderline personality disorder, attempting suicide, and it damaged her career prospects.

In November 2009, the High Court dismissed a high-profile case where 150 former pupils of St. William's School in Middleborough tried to sue the Catholic Church over sending priests to the school who carried out abuse for over 30 years.

The court said the Church could not be held accountable for the personal abuse committed by the priests, but Tuesday’s ruling could spark big changes on a nationwide scale.

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