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Supreme Court refuses church-state case involving child sex abuse by clergy

US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up an appeal by a man who says he was abused by a Roman Catholic priest decades ago. He sought to challenge the archdiocese's assertion that the First Amendment shields it from a lawsuit.

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The US Supreme Court declined on Monday to take up a case challenging the use of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state as a shield to block a negligence lawsuit against a Roman Catholic archdiocese that hired and supervised a priest accused of being a pedophile.

The high court action ends an attempt to hold the Catholic Church legally accountable for alleged sexual abuse that took place more than 40 years ago.

The plaintiff in the case says he was twice sexually abused by a trusted parish priest when he was 13 or 14 years old. The priest, who has since died, was assigned to a Catholic Church in St. Louis.

The plaintiff, identified only as “John Doe,” sued the Archdiocese of St. Louis for negligence for employing the priest in positions where he would have contact with children.

“The Archdiocese was aware of past instances of child sexual abuse involving [Father Thomas] Cooper, and knew that leaving him alone with children was likely to result in harm,” writes Marci Hamilton in her brief on behalf of Mr. Doe.

Because Father Cooper has since died, the civil case was dropped against him. But Doe sought to hold the archdiocese accountable for its failure to protect him and other children.

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