Blog Post

Court Rules Victim of Clergy Abuse Can Sue Vatican

by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer A federal appeals court has ruled that an Oregon man who says he was sexually abused by a priest can pursue a civil lawsuit against the Vatican. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a 59-page decision on March 3 saying that a man who claims he was molested by a priest in the 1960’s can sue the Holy See because the priest allegedly abused him while serving in a religious capacity. The case involves the late Rev. Andrew Ronan, a Servite priest who, according to victims' lawyers, was sent to Chicago after being accused of molesting children in his native Ireland. Archdiocesan officials said Ronan worked for St. Philip High School on Chicago's West Side from 1960 through 1965. He was then transferred to a Catholic school in Oregon, where he reportedly assaulted the plaintiff in the case. Fr. Ronan died in 1992. Jeff Anderson, attorney for the victim, told The Los Angeles Times, "They (the hierarchy) have been choosing for years . . . to protect the clerics and not the kids. This really is another step forward, another door open. . . . The good news for the laity, the community of faith, the parishioners and all of us is that the Vatican can now be held accountable." The ruling does not permit victims to sue Pope Benedict XVI directly, although Anderson claims he intends to depose the pope. However, Jeffrey Lena, a California lawyer who represented the Holy See, said the ruling actually favored the Vatican by recognizing that every action everywhere could not be traced directly to Rome. The most recent ruling was actually on an appeal of an earlier decision that said the Vatican could not be sued because the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act "preserves immunity for discretionary acts." But the 9th Circuit said there could be an exception to the Act based on commercial activity by the church. The question of whether that exception applies hinges on whether an accused priest can be considered an employee of the Vatican. Mr. Lena called that a "dubious proposition" at best” and said he was “gratified by the judges' efforts and by the opinion's narrowing of any basis for jurisdiction over the Holy See." Other legal scholars are saying this ruling is not the last word and expect the 9th Circuit Court's ruling to be overturned by the Supreme Court. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.




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