A Catholic priest can’t sue several members of his former Pennsylvania parish whom he claims got him fired by spreading malicious and false tales about his conduct, a state Superior Court panel concluded Friday.
In fact, Judge Victor P. Stabile found his court can’t intervene in the dispute because of its religious nature.
Stabile reached that conclusion in upholding a Lackawanna County judge’s dismissal of the lawsuit filed by Father Jim Tracy following his removal from the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Parish.
The Scranton Diocese of the Catholic Church appointed Tracy to that post in March 2019. Tracy contended in his suit that several parishioners who had influence over parish affairs didn’t like changes he made that reduced their authority.
So, he claimed those congregants circulated baseless complaints about him, including assertions that he engaged in unjustified spending of parish funds. They even filed a false harassment complaint against him that was deemed unfounded by the Jermyn police, Tracy contended.
The intent of his foes, Tracy insisted, was to convince the head of the diocese, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, to terminate his pastoral contract. Bambera did terminate Tracy’s contract in July 2019.
Tracy appealed to Stabile’s court after county Judge Terrence R. Nealon dismissed his suit on grounds that the courts are precluded from intervening in such disputes by the free exercise of religion provision in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.