Tuesday, March 31, 2009

US court allows man to sue Vatican

US court allows man to sue Vatican over sexual abuse by priest
A US federal appeals court has opened the way for a man to sue the Vatican after he was allegedly sexually abused 40 years ago as a teenager by a Roman Catholic priest.
By Tom Leonard in New York Last Updated: 2:39AM GMT 05 Mar 2009
In one what lawyers said was a landmark ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, Oregon, decided that victims of sexual abuse by priest can take legal action against the Vatican - which has been accused of covering up for offenders - even though it is considered a sovereign nation.
The case was originally brought seven years ago on behalf of a plaintiff named only as John Doe, who claimed that he was sexually molested on several occasions when he was 15 or 16 by a priest named Father Andrew Ronan.
Before he was transferred to Portland, the late Mr Ronan had been moved out of two previous parishes, one in Ireland and the other in Chicago, after he admitted to sexually molesting young boys.
When the case finally came to court last year, the Holy See claimed immunity under an American law - the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) - that grants immunity before US courts to foreign states.
However, the court said that abuse could be an exception to the act, adding that the Vatican has "control over the priest in terms of his removal and his transfers, enough control that it can be held legally responsible as the master of the priest".
The ruling was "a major breakthrough in the sense that the problem emanates from the top", said Jeff Anderson, a lawyer for the plaintiff.

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