Church autonomy arguments are not protected by the present execution doctrine, and a suit filed against a now-deceased Roman Catholic bishop and other clergy can proceed, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled on July 28.

The doctrine, which allows defendants to make appeals before a final judgment is made, was invoked by a Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts, in an argument against a plaintiff who alleged the bishop sexually assaulted him while serving as an altar boy at a parish during the 1960s.