Peter Steinfels weighs in on the New Mexico funeral case. To recap, a family is suing a priest and the archdiocese because the priest allegedly said the deceased was in hell and then proceeded to talk badly about him. The priest denies it as does the archdiocese.
Of course, the plaintiffs’ lawyers want to prove that archdiocese somehow ratified the priest’s alleged behavior, because that’s where the money is. Steinfels presents some of the archdiocese’s defenses and gives some background on the priest, who sounds like someone who’s no-nonsense about the Church’s teachings.
Steinfels opines on the ramifications for the Church, and all churches, with this case. To what extent is a whole church responsible for the words and actions of one clergy member? How much liability does a bishop—or the equivalent in another Church—have? Can someone sue for having the hard parts of a religion that they voluntarily subscribed to preached to them or about them? Can or should someone sue for allegations of “gross pastoral insensitivity,” as Steinfels puts it?