Vatican can be sued for clergy abuse, judges rule
Posted: Fri Mar 06, 2009 6:45 am
http://news.opb.org/article/4433-court- ... s-vatican/http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld ... 1926.story
An Oregon man who alleges he was molested in the 1960s by a priest can pursue a civil lawsuit against the Holy See, a federal appeals court says.
By Manya A. Brachear
March 5, 2009
Reporting from Chicago -- A federal appeals court ruling has brought an Oregon man one step closer to suing the Vatican for sexual abuse he says he suffered by a Roman Catholic priest.
In a 59-page decision issued Tuesday, a three-judge panel from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the man -- who says he was molested in the 1960s by a priest at a Catholic school -- can pursue a civil lawsuit against 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
But Jeffrey Lena, a California lawyer who represented the Holy See, said the ruling favored the Vatican by recognizing that every action everywhere could not be traced directly to Rome.
"The court did recognize, based on the plaintiff's complaint, that within the Catholic Church there exists different and separate legal entities," he said.
Some legal scholars say the rulings are not the last word and expect the 9th Circuit Court's ruling to be overturned by the Supreme Court.
Legally, the Vatican is a foreign country. And foreign countries cannot be sued under U.S. law -- except under extraordinary circumstances
Anderson and attorney Marci Hamilton argued three issues to the 9th Circuit.
The first: that the actions of one Catholic Order can be treated as a dictate to all orders from the Holy See – on that point, the attorneys lost.
The second issue they also lost: that the church can be seen as a commercial entity.
But the third issue: that a priest might reasonably be regarded as an employee of the Holy See, they won.