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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Priest Cleared in Suit Over Secret Recording

(CN) - A priest is not liable for fraudulent concealment after a woman claimed he wrongfully recorded a conversation in which her husband accused her of infidelity, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled.

Father Jerry McBride officiated at the wedding of Ray and Julie Mabus. Ray invited him to be present when he leveled the accusations at his wife. Ray also informed the priest that he would be recording the conversation on the advice of his attorney.

Ray gave Julie three options: save the marriage, agree to a no-fault divorce, or prepare for "war," including an alienation-of-affection lawsuit against her alleged lover.

Ray won the "war" as far as legal custody of the children was concerned. His expert witness used the transcript to determine that Ray was the more stable parent.

Julie took McBride, the church and the diocese to court, asserting claims of breach of fiduciary duty, invasion of privacy, and clergy malpractice, among other charges.

The trial court granted the church summary judgment on all charges, with the exception of the fraudulent concealment claim.

McBride argued that Julie discovered during the meeting that it was being taped, but Chief Justice Waller ruled that she only suspected the recording. However, Waller decided that McBride must prevail for a different reason.

"Julie was not dependent on McBride, nor did she repose any trust and confidence in him, Waller wrote. "Nothing resembling a marital counseling session ever occurred.

"In the absence of a fiduciary relationship," Waller added, "we find that Julie's claim of fraudulent concealment against McBride must fail."

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