LIBERA ME, Domine, Iesu Christe, ab omnibus iniquitatis meis et universis malis,
fac me tuis semper inhærere mandatis et a te numquam separari permittas. Amen.

Friday, 8 October 2010

What, M'Lord . . ?

You may have read some of the recent posting about Mgr Loftus’ threat to Fr Ray Blake that he will sue him for defamation in respect of some comments on a post or posts of Fr Ray’s blog.

His Hermeneuticalness, for instance, has put up an excellent post (which refers to Neil Addison’s splendid ‘Religion Law Blogspot’) about the extreme unlikeliness of any British Court dealing with such a claim.

As HH correctly points out, Gray J said that ‘the court will not venture into doctrinal disputes or differences’; which means that a Court could not decide whether something was or was not heretical : which in turn would mean that it could not decide whether the allegation that something was ‘heretical’ was defamatory.

However, in the case from which Mr Justice Gray’s statement came (Blake v Associated Newspapers [2003] EWHC 1960 (QB)), it was in fact the Claimant who said (in his Skeleton Argument) that ‘It is a fact . . . that there is no forum . . . anywhere worldwide that can make an objective doctrinal determination’; and this was agreed by Mark Hill QC, the expert witness for the Defendants, who pointed out that it would involve ‘a detailed and painstaking examination of questions of doctrine, theology and ecclesiology combining an assessment of history and a full understanding of contemporary and emergent theology . . .’ – which would, of course, demand full understanding and the competence to undertake it : which Her Majesty’s Judges simply do not (and indeed will not) claim.

However, it seems to me that there is another interesting aspect to this case : namely that the allegation of defamation is not, in fact, against Fr Ray, but rather against certain Commentators who post comments on his blog – and do so under their names or labels.

Further and in any event, (to use the legal expression) Fr Ray’s blog bears a note on the sidebar which reads ‘Comments : Anonymous comments are never published. All comments are the opinions of those who make them, they are not necessarily mine.’

Given that, it seems to me that a Claim against Fr Ray would be highly unlikely to succeed, even if a Court would hear it, as it would be difficult to suggest that he was the person defaming Mgr Loftus.

Given that both these points are well known – at least in outline – to people with even modest legal knowledge, and that clergy aren’t meant to use the secular courts to resolve disputes between themselves anyway, one has to wonder about someone who makes a threat which wholly ignores all these points, and exactly what they’re trying to achieve . . .

(And the photo above has no direct connection with any of this : Mr Justice Philimore, later Baron Philimore, was a very well-knkown judge, but he was also of a very Puritan character, and would - I suspect - have had not time at all for a Catholic controversy . . . 
I just like the photo !)

No comments:

Post a Comment