The Vatican has published details of an internal report into abuse allegations against an Irish priest in America – and denied it is at loggerheads with Enda Kenny’s government.
The Holy See has taken the steps in response to a US court claim taken by a victim of deceased Armagh born priest Rev. Andrew Ronan.
The files relating to alleged abuse by Ronan were released on the Vatican Radio website after an Oregon judge ordered it to turn over documentation relating to the case.
The Catholic Church is trying to prove it has no culpalibility in the case relating to Ronan who was accused of sexually assaulting an altar boy in Ireland in the 50s before he moved to America and re-offended in the 60s.
Lawyers for the Church believe their move proves that it was unaware of the suspected abuse of the claimant, named John V Doe in court documents, by Fr Ronan until after it had taken place.
In a statement accompanying the documents, Vatican lawyer Jeffrey Lena said that the unusual step would: “calm down those people who are too quick to make sensational and unfair comments without taking the time to get an adequate understanding of the facts.”
He has since confirmed to the Irish Independent that the remarks were not a criticism of the Irish government or its leader Enda Kenny after his recent criticism of the Vatican and the Catholic Church in the wake of the Cloyne Report.
“My comments were not directed personally at him,” Lena told the paper. “It was a reference to both lawyers and politicians but not a direct reference to Mr Kenny.”
But he added: “Mr Kenny’s speech to the Dail seemed intemperate.”
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In the Fr Ronan case, the Vatican argues that it cannot be held to be the direct employer of the late priest who was attached to the Order of Frior Servants of Mary when the alleged abuse took place in Oregon in 1965.
John V Doe is seeking to hold the Vatican liable for the alleged abuse but the Church has maintained in court that it cannot be held accountable.
The documents posted to the internet include a 1966 case file in which Fr Ronan requested to be laicised and removed from his position as a priest after his superiors became aware of the accusations against him.
Lena pointed out to the Independent that the last claim of abuse against the priest was made in Oregon in November 1965 but the Holy See only became aware of Fr Ronan’s request for laicisation the following year.
The Oregon case could have implications for the Vatican’s international exposure to clerical sex abuse claims.
The Irish Times reports that John V Doe’s lawyer Jeffrey Anderson alleges that when Fr Ronan was assigned in 1955 and 1956 to Our Lady of Benburb, Servite Priory, Co Tyrone, in the archdiocese of Armagh, he molested a youth there.
Fr Ronan was moved in the early 60s to St Phillip’s boys school in Chicago where he molested three boys before a transfer to Portland, Oregon, where he was spiritual adviser in the Doe family parish.
In June 2010, the case came before the US supreme court, which refused an appeal by the Vatican to halt the legal action after the Holy See argued that a sovereign state was generally immune from law suits.
The paper reports that court ruled that the lawsuit had sufficiently alleged that Fr Ronan was an employee of the Vatican acting within the scope of his employment under Oregon law.
In April a federal judge in Portland ordered the Vatican to respond to certain requests for information from John Doe’s lawyers by tomorrow, the first time the Holy See has been forced to turn over documentation in a sex abuse case.
Anderson, who has filed hundreds of lawsuits against priests and dioceses in the US concerning clerical sex abuse, said he would ‘reserve comment’ until the document production is received and reviewed.