The Vatican is expected to assert that bishops aren’t its employees because they aren’t paid by Rome, don’t act on Rome’s behalf and aren’t controlled day-to-day by the pope — factors courts use to determine whether employers are liable for the actions of their employees, Lena told the AP.

He said he would suggest to the court that it should avoid using the religious nature of the relationship between bishops and the pope as a basis for civil liability because it entangles the court in an analysis of religious doctrine that dates back to the apostles.

“He (McMurry) wishes to invoke religious authority to construct a civil employment relationship, and our view is that it’s an inappropriate invitation to the court to consider religious doctrine,” Lena said. “Courts tend to avoid constructing civil relationships out of religious materials.”