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Accountability and the Roman Catholic Church: From Melbourne to Rome and Back

Accountability and the Roman Catholic Church: From Melbourne to Rome and Back

Event Venue:

Room C2.05, Level 2, Building C, Deakin University Burwood Campus 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, VIC, 3125, Australia ( Map )

Please join us on Wednesday 17 April for our next ADI Lunchtime Seminar, featuring Dr John Morss who will present his research on “Accountability and the Roman Catholic Church: From Melbourne to Rome and Back”. 

The ADI lunchtime seminars are an opportunity for a relaxed, informal, monthly discussion of current research projects and recent publications over a 60-minute lunch session. An associated ADI researcher speaks for 20-30 minutes followed by 20-30 minutes of Q&A discussion.    

We invite contributions from any researcher, or team of researchers, associated with ADI, from proposed and in-progress projects through to completed research and publications. ECRs are especially welcome.    


Criminal assaults by priests give rise to attempts to seek accountability in Church authorities both locally (such as a Diocese) and on some occasions overseas (the Vatican). These attempts are generally based on a claim of negligence. To succeed a claim in negligence requires a clear chain of causation from (eg) a decision-maker to the wrongful act of the perpetrator (who may be in prison or deceased) or in the case of ‘vicarious liability’, a connection of sufficient control of a perpetrator by another such as an employer. 

Recent legislation across Australia recognising the long term effects of sexual assault means that what would once have been called ‘historic’ accusations of sexual assault, ie claims about events from decades ago, may be investigated and subjected to trial if evidence is available. Such evidence is sometimes to be found in institutional records. 

A claim against the Vatican authorities will raise the question of foreign state immunity from jurisdiction in Australia. This will in turn call for an evaluation of the (always controversial) statehood claim for Vatican City/Holy See, and the no less controversial claim that the Pope is entitled to Head of State protections. 

This paper will overview recent decisions in Australia and elsewhere that taken together suggest that the accountability tide may be turning. 

Speaker Details

John Morss is an Honorary Fellow in Deakin Law School and an Adjunct Professor in La Trobe Law School. 

Additional Details

This seminar will be held in-person at Burwood (C2.05.01), but you can also join us via Zoom:

Meeting ID: 848 3474 4327
Password: 29999790


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