The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s July 21, opinion in Rice v. Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, disregards the court’s own prior decisions and creates a judicial rule of immunity for the Catholic Church. With that rule in hand, the church can now rest assured that it may not have to answer to hundreds of sexual abuse victims who were injured by its predator priests.

Up until now, the Supreme Court has mandated that the fact-intensive questions concerning the discovery rule and the doctrine of fraudulent concealment, such as when a plaintiff is on notice of the possible culpability of a defendant in causing harm, are reserved for a jury. The Supreme Court has never before issued an opinion allowing these factual questions to be resolved as a matter of law at the pleadings stage, before the parties had a chance to engage in the discovery process.