A court case which initiated in 2002, John V. Doe v. Holy See, was initially seen by the Vatican to be a publicity stunt. The Vatican appealed the case but the Supreme Court has now ruled to give it the green light.
This case could see the Vatican take legal responsibility for their abusive priests.
In 2002 a Seattle man brought the case to court claiming that an Irish priest, Father Andrew Ronan repeatedly molested, him in the late 1960s. According to information from that original lawsuit Ronan began abusing children in the mid-1950s in County Armagh, Ireland. He was transferred to Chicago where, he admitted, he abused three boys.
He was then moved to Portland, Oregon where he abused the plaintiff. In 1966 he was removed from the priesthood. He died in 1992.
Jeff Anderson, a Minnesota attorney representing the plaintiff said “I have known for 25 years that all roads lead to Rome…This is the beginning for us of a new journey, a uniquely difficult odyssey.”
The original case will now go ahead in Oregon. Anderson has worked with hundred of abuse victims over the years attempting to sue the Vatican. He hoped to convince the judge that Vatican officials should be thrown out of power.
An American attorney representing the Vatican, Jeffery Lena, has argued that the Vatican cannot be responsible for every priests actions. He said in this case “was unknown to the Holy See until after all the events in question”. The Obama administration agrees with this argument.
However, Anderson’s argument is that under American law every priest is technically an employee of the Vatican. If Anderson can get the judge to agree this would mean an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act. In the past this Act has kept the Vatican out of trouble in U.S. Courts.
Previously a lower court in Oregon ruled that there was enough of a connection between Father Ronan and the Vatican to deem him an employee.
The defense attorney Lena asked that the case be thrown out. He said “The Holy See does not pay the salary of the priest, or benefits of the priest, or exercise day-to-day control over the priest, and any of the other factors indicating the presence of an employment relationship.”
The lawsuit also suggests that the Vatican was responsible for moving Father Ronan from community to community, covering his tracks and putting countless children at risk.