Civil court is not the place to judge whether a Roman Catholic priest committed a breach of fiduciary duty when he entered into a sexual relationship with a woman he was counseling, an appeals court has ruled.

By a 3-1 majority, the New York Appellate Division, Second Department, said in an unsigned opinion that the plaintiff’s claim that the priest betrayed his role as a spiritual counselor was really a complaint of clergy malpractice, which the court ought not to touch, since it may become entangled with ecclesiastical doctrine.