Why doesn't the Church sue?


#1

Why can’t/doesn’t the Church sue anti-Catholic organizations for slander and/or libel?

Maybe I lack some knowledge in the legal aspects of slander and libel, but it seems to me that these anti-Catholic organizations are guilty of one or both. Maybe the law doesn’t apply to theological issues?

It’s just a thought I had… It seems to me that we should be suing the pants off of Chick Publications, Loraine Boettner, Mission to Catholics International, etc.

Anybody have any thoughts on the issue?


#2

That was the first question which came to my mind after watching the movie: The Exorcist, in 1970 - Why doesn’t the Church sue?

With all the lawyers which the Catholic colleges produce, why aren’t they more visible?


#3

1 Cor 6: When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? 2Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters? 4If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? 5I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another, 6but a believer goes to court against a believer—and before unbelievers at that? 7In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? 8But you yourselves wrong and defraud—and believers at that.

Peace in Christ…Salmon


#4

[quote=Kevin Walker]That was the first question which came to my mind after watching the movie: The Exorcist, in 1970 - Why doesn’t the Church sue?
[/quote]

At the risk of moving this discussion off of my original topic, what did you find “sue-able” about the Exorcist? I didn’t find it to be particularly slanderous against the Church. I’ll even venture to say that it paints the Church in a good light; showing priests exorcising demons from a person can’t be considered a bad thing, can it?


#5

[quote=Salmon]1 Cor 6:1-8

Peace in Christ…Salmon
[/quote]

Hmmm, would that mean that all lawsuits are wrong? For instance, let’s say that I slip and fall in a restaurant and break my arm. Even if it’s completely the restaurants fault (let’s say they spilled cooking oil on the floor and never bothered to wipe it up), I still shouldn’t sue for damages?


#6

[quote=Salmon]1 Cor 6: When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? 2Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters? 4If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? 5I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another, 6but a believer goes to court against a believer—and before unbelievers at that? 7In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? 8But you yourselves wrong and defraud—and believers at that.

Peace in Christ…Salmon
[/quote]

Unless I’m misreading this passage it is talking about sueing between believers. Not between believers and non-believers.

Why can’t/doesn’t the Church sue anti-Catholic organizations for slander and/or libel?

I don’t really know anything about law, but doesn’t the “freedom of speech” come in here some where?


#7

[quote=RichSpidizzy]Hmmm, would that mean that all lawsuits are wrong?
[/quote]

I don’t think that is the message of the passage.

For instance, let’s say that I slip and fall in a restaurant and break my arm. Even if it’s completely the restaurants fault (let’s say they spilled cooking oil on the floor and never bothered to wipe it up), I still shouldn’t sue for damages?

Lawsuits arise when companies and their insurance companies are unwilling to meet your demands as a victim.

Are you making reasonable demands as a Christian regarding your loss? Insurance companies have no desire to go to court, but, in general they will do so if the victims demands are out of line.

We live in a litigous society, however, and we are taught to perceive ourselves as potential victims at all times.

How sad that we don’t embrace Christ’s command in John 15:12.

The courts would go out of business if we did.

Peace in Christ…Salmon


#8

[quote=JLove]Unless I’m misreading this passage it is talking about sueing between believers. Not between believers and non-believers.
[/quote]

I don’t disagree that Paul addresses “believer vs. believer”. It is clear that Paul is particularly fired up about that.

On the other hand, he is recommending Christian conduct:
". Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?"

I don’t think Paul is saying that we should only prefer being wronged by other believers, but sue the daylights out of any non-believer who wrongs us.

I checked Matthew 5 just to see if I could find:
“Blessed are those who prevail in lawsuits, for they shall inherit large settlements from insurance companies.”, but I couldn’t find it.

Peace in Christ…Salmon


#9

It would never work. Libel and slander have to be directed at a specific person, not at a general class of persons, and certainly not a system of beliefs.

The United States Supreme Court has found in the past that trashing the Catholic Church (or any religion) is within our First Amendment rights. See Cantwell v. Connecticut from 1940.

Anyway, I don’t think a lawsuit would be very effective in winning new converts! We don’t need the judicial system to validate our beliefs.


#10

is that really how you want the Church to spend its financial resources, which derive from your contributions, in enriching lawyers?


#11

What would they sue for? You don’t just sue for some injustice, you have to prove some damage - lost wages, injury, revenue, inability to get work, lost customers, etc.

Not sure there is any precedent for what the Church would sue for.


#12

I do believe something has to be done when really libelous things are published.

I believe there is a concerted campaign to build hatred against the Catholic Church by a campaign of vilification of Catholic history.

Where books like the Da Vinci code say Catholics slaughtered scientists and “millions” of witches, fellow Christians and others. Or lie about facts concerning the Templars and others, they need to be officially challenged, through courts and other means. Otherwise this sort of anti-history becomes accepted as “fact”, and the Church becomes considered as an evil organisation.

Imagine what would happen if someone in a book or TV programme made similar claims about the Jews, that they killed Christian babies in the middle ages, or something? Do you think the publisher would stay out of court for long?


#13

Sometimes I think that we gain converts when they realise how rediculous the lies are that they have been told. Those who have an arguement that includes some truth can disguise the misconceptions. Those who’s accusations are rediculous beyond belief look like fools when someone gets a glimpse of the truth and begins to investigate.

Romans 8:28
28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.


#14

[quote=RichSpidizzy]At the risk of moving this discussion off of my original topic, what did you find “sue-able” about the Exorcist? I didn’t find it to be particularly slanderous against the Church. I’ll even venture to say that it paints the Church in a good light; showing priests exorcising demons from a person can’t be considered a bad thing, can it?
[/quote]

Actually the film the Exorcist - the first one had actual catholic priest in the roles or priest not the 2 lead priest but the other priest were really priest for the most part. The priest served as technical advisors and the vatican supposedly supplied tapes of real exorcisim.'
Obviously the film has some problems from a moral standpoint but the overall theme is not anti-catholic but pro-catholic it paints the picture if you have a problem with evil call the catholic church they have the answers. Unlike Ghost busters where you call Bill Murray and Co. And I think the film wanted to show the realistic evil of the demon possessed to drive you over the edge and to realize this was not mere phschological problem the child had but a bonafide demon. The other subsequnent films are pure hollywood garbage but the first film had some value an actually had some catholics going back to church for answers.


#15

I do believe something has to be done when really libelous things are published.

That’s fine but I really don’t think the courts are the way to do this. It is not the role of the courts to settle disputed questions of history or call people out on their lies (unless they are criminal in nature). Why do we want to turn to the government to settle issues such as these? Instead, let’s make it our task to educate people about these issues and counter arguments attacking our faith.

Imagine what would happen if someone in a book or TV programme made similar claims about the Jews, that they killed Christian babies in the middle ages, or something? Do you think the publisher would stay out of court for long?

People make such erroneous statements all the time. You don’t see them in court. Why? Because such speech is protected under our constitution. Yes! We’re constitutionally free to offend people all that we want! There are exceptions to the First Amendment, but offensiveness is not one of them.

And in the end, isn’t that better? What I mean is that if we had a law that would find such items as Chick tracts or the like illegal because of their offensiveness, I guarantee you that many, many things posted by Catholics on these boards would also fall under the purview of that law. I would rather maintain free discourse and be able to take part in discussions and debates designed to lead other to the truth.


#16

[quote=atsheeran]It would never work. Libel and slander have to be directed at a specific person, not at a general class of persons, and certainly not a system of beliefs.
[/quote]

The Catholic Church in the US is organized in such a way that each diocese is incorporated. Thus each diocese is technically a legal “person”.

If you misrepresent Proctor & Gamble, you can expect their lawyer to come a-knockin. I suspect this would still qualify as a tort, but as for libel and slander, I’m not sure. My guess is that a natural person is treated differently from a legal person, as you imply.

And again, I think you’d have to show damages. All in all, the bar is set pretty high.


#17

I can certainly see the point of wanting to bust guys like Jack Chick in the chops for the vitriol they produce, but which judicial system would be our advocate?? Can you imagine the Catholic Church trying to get a fair shake in the American courts? Which judge but a Catholic judge would be well-cathechized enough to make a correct decision, and the Catholic judges would all be automatically recused.

The courts are not the place to take these fights - the pages of Catholic Answers publications are!! :clapping:


#18

Originally posted by digitonomy
The Catholic Church in the US is organized in such a way that each diocese is incorporated. Thus each diocese is technically a legal “person”.

That is a good point. But again, I think it would be a difficult argument that the libel/slander was directed against even that specific corporate person unless the diocese itself was specifically mentioned. I was thinking about examples where the Catholic faith is attacked (Chick publications and the Da Vinci Code have both been mentioned). Remember, it is not the Catholic Church that is a legal person, but rather the Archdiocese of Miami or Boston, etc.

But anyway, I don’t find the legal argument to be so important because, even if it were legally feasible, I think it would be a bad, bad idea. The thought that we would turn to the secular court system to defend our religion just doesn’t seem right. When you add to it that this is the same judicial system that created and continues to defend the right to abortion, it seems like even less of a viable option.


#19

[quote=awalt]What would they sue for? You don’t just sue for some injustice, you have to prove some damage - lost wages, injury, revenue, inability to get work, lost customers, etc.

Not sure there is any precedent for what the Church would sue for.
[/quote]

In a way, the Church “loses customers” when Catholics believe the anti-Catholic statements that they hear.

[quote=Axion]I do believe something has to be done when really libelous things are published.

I believe there is a concerted campaign to build hatred against the Catholic Church by a campaign of vilification of Catholic history.

Where books like the Da Vinci code say Catholics slaughtered scientists and “millions” of witches, fellow Christians and others. Or lie about facts concerning the Templars and others, they need to be officially challenged, through courts and other means. Otherwise this sort of anti-history becomes accepted as “fact”, and the Church becomes considered as an evil organisation.

Imagine what would happen if someone in a book or TV programme made similar claims about the Jews, that they killed Christian babies in the middle ages, or something? Do you think the publisher would stay out of court for long?
[/quote]

exactly my point… Judaism has the Anti-Defamation League, why doesn’t the Church have a similar group?


#20

like the Da Vinci code say Catholics slaughtered scientists and “millions” of witches, fellow Christians and others. Or lie about facts concerning the Templars and others, they need to be officially challenged, through courts and other means. Otherwise this sort of anti-history becomes accepted as “fact”,

The Da vinci Code was written and is marketed as a work of fiction, not as history.

Fiction works aren’t expected to be factual.


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