A Scottish priest who says that his vocation was "destroyed" after he spoke out against sexual abuse is to claim unfair dismissal against the Catholic church at an employment tribunal. Father Patrick Lawson, was removed from St Sophia's parish church, in Galston, Ayrshire, in September by the Bishop of Galloway, John Cunningham, after he revealed to the Observer newspaper that he had been fighting for 17 years for appropriate action to be taken against a fellow priest who he claims sexually assaulted him and abused altar boys. He was also issued with a disciplinary warning for giving the interview.
"The church still cannot handle the truth," he told the paper. "For 17 years I have tried to get them to reach out to those who have been broken by abuse. All they do is protect the institution."
The Catholic church's director of communications, Peter Kearney, says the application is inappropriate: "For such a claim to be made, there would need to be an employer/employee relationship. Since the relationship between a priest and his diocese is not one of employment, reference to an employment tribunal would not be possible."
This is exactly the same excuse that the bishops of the Church of England automatically spew out when they are accused of the unfair treatment of a priest in their care. It may be legally correct but it is both an immoral stance to take and completely illogical. The bishops can hire and fire their priests as if they are employees, the government taxes priests as if they are employees and priests get a higher pension the longer they have worked for the church, just as if they are employees.
Quite honestly, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then bishops will, without any scruples, call it an ostrich if they think for a moment that it will get them off the hook for some blatant act of wrongdoing.