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US Supreme Court Allows Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Against the Vatican to Proceed

By refusing to hear an appeal from the Vatican, the US Supreme Court has allowed a sexual abuse lawsuit against the Holy See to move forward. The clergy sexual abuse complaint accuses the Vatican of working with US church officials to transfer a priest to different cities in the wake of allegations that he was abusing a number of young people.

The sexual abuse complaint, John V. Doe v. Holy See, was filed in 2002. The plaintiff, who is now a grown male, says that Rev. Andrew Roman molested him on a number of occasions during the 1960’s. He claims that that the Vatican, the Archdiocese of Portland, and others protected the priest from having to be held accountable for his crimes by transferring him to different locations.

Per the clergy sex abuse complaint, Ronan starting molesting boys in the mid-1950’s when he was a priest in Ireland. He was then sent to Chicago and later transferred to St. Albert’s Church in Portland, Oregon, where he allegedly sexually abused the plaintiff. Prior to Ronan’s passing in 1992, the priest admitted that he molested three boys while in Illinois.

The Vatican’s US attorney has attempted to have the federal courts toss out the complaint on the grounds of sovereign immunity. Under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, sovereign states are immune from lawsuits. However, the lower federal courts have ruled that there may be an exception in this case. One judge ruled that the connection between Ronan and the Holy See was strong enough that under state law he could be considered an employee of the Vatican. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. Meantime, the Vatican continues to maintain that it should not be held responsible for priests’ individual actions.

Massachusetts Sexual Abuse
Victims of sexual abuse are often left with permanent emotional and psychological scars for life. Sexual abuse is a crime. Over the years, the clergy sex abuse has injured many across the globe. In many cases, the Church looked away, and did not protect the victims-most of them children. Instead, the priests that were the abusers were the ones who were protected, which allowed many of them to continue molesting more people.

Court lets Vatican-sex abuse lawsuit move forward, Washington Post, June 28, 2010
Vatican Bid to Dismiss Suit On Abuse Won’t Get Review, The Wall Street Journal, June 29, 2010

Related Web Resources:
Abuse in the Catholic Church, Boston Globe
John V. Doe v. Holy See, C9uscourts.gov (PDF)

Vatican: The Holy See

Our Boston sexual assault attorneys represent adults and children who have been the victims of Massachusetts sexual abuse and assault crimes.