Texas lawmakers, legal scholars, and diverse religious groups support Catholic diocese at Texas Supreme Court Diocese of Lubbock fights for transparency in light of sex abuse scandal
Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 email@example.com
WASHINGTON – Dozens of Texas lawmakers, prominent law professors, a range of religious organizations, including the Southern Baptist Convention and the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty, filed briefs supporting the Diocese of Lubbock, defending its right to religious autonomy in conducting its internal Church affairs. In Guerrero v. Diocese of Lubbock, a Catholic deacon sued the diocese after it published his name on a list of clergy members credibly accused of sexually abusing a “minor” within the meaning of Catholic Church law, known as “canon law.” Becket is asking the Texas Supreme Court to rule in favor of the diocese’s right to speak transparently about clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse.
In January 2019, consistent with the exhortations of Pope Francis and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Young People, all 15 Texas dioceses published lists of clergy members credibly accused of abusing a “minor.” According to canon law—the centuries-old body of law of the Catholic Church, which clergy are bound to follow—a “minor” includes any person who lacks the mental faculties of an adult. Based on that standard, the Diocese’s review of internal clergy files led it to include Deacon Guerrero on the list.
Following the list’s publication, Deacon Guerrero demanded that his name be removed, claiming that he was wrongly listed because his accuser was not a child at the time of the alleged misconduct, even though he does not dispute that the Church defines “minor” to include vulnerable adults as well. In March 2019, Deacon Guerrero sued the Diocese for defamation. Becket is representing the Diocese of Lubbock at the Texas Supreme Court arguing that the courts have no business interfering in the internal disciplinary action of the Church, and that punishing the diocese for including Guerrero’s name on its list could chill Church efforts to be more transparent in the future. Recognizing that religious autonomy matters for all religious groups, not just for Catholics, leaders from Jewish and Protestant traditions, as well as legal scholars, have joined in asking the Court to uphold the right of all religious groups to advocate transparency on issues arising from the discipline of clergy.
“The courts should not punish the Church for doing the right thing,” said Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “It is hardly justice to drag the Diocese through a lawsuit because it is trying to right past wrongs and be more transparent about clergy sexual abuse. And suing the Church for being transparent certainly doesn’t help victims.”
For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.