The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston faced the threat of large tort judgments as a result of acts of sexual abuse committed by its priests. Because the Archdiocese is a public charity, it has been suggested that the Archdiocese could invoke the Massachusetts charitable immunity statute, which in certain circumstances places a $20,000 cap on the tort liability of a charitable organization. This Article explores the role of charitable organizations in our culture, and the distinctive type of state oversight to which they are subject. It then discusses various rationales for the doctrine of charitable immunity. The Article determines that charitable immunity is best understood as a limitation on vicarious liability. Finally, the Article examines these competing policy objectives as applied to the particular facts of the Archdiocese sexual abuse scandal. Although many of the cases involved have recently been settled, the legal and moral propriety of invoking the charitable immunity statute in such a situation is still an open question.
Catharine P. Wells, Churches, Charities and Corrective Justice: Making Churches Pay for the Sins of Their Clergy, 44 B.C.L. Rev. 1201 (2003), http://lawdigitalcommons.bc.edu/bclr/vol44/iss4/11