Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spotlight on Jeff Anderson: The Man Taking on the Vatican

Spotlight on Jeff Anderson: The Man Taking on the Vatican

By Ashby Jones
The scandal involving the Catholic Church and sex abuse by priests has been going on for years and years. But the saga ramped up decidedly in the past week, when the New York Times reported on a trove of documents supplied by Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn., lawyer who’s filed thousands of suits against the church in recent years, making tens of millions for his clients along the way.

So who is this Jeff Anderson?

According to this AP story, Anderson (pictured) has, since 1983, along with five other attorneys, sued thousands of Catholic priests, bishops, and dioceses over allegations of sexual abuse by priests and other church leaders. He told the AP he has no idea how much he has won in settlements; in 2002 he estimated that it was around $60 million.

“It’s not about the money,” Anderson told the Associated Press.

Rather, Anderson, who describes himself as a “former atheist,” told the AP he feels a “deep empathy with abuse victims,” whom he calls “survivors.” For years, Anderson has had his sights set not only on priests in the U.S., but the Vatican itself. Long ago, Anderson says:

I came to the stark realization that the problems were really endemic to the clerical culture, and all the problems we are having in the U.S. led back to Rome. . . . And I realized nothing was going to fundamentally change until they did.”

According to the AP story, Anderson hopes to use the Milwaukee lawsuit currently making waves to advance a separate lawsuit filed eight years ago in Oregon federal court. Writes the AP:

In that case, an unidentified plaintiff claims he was sexually abused as a teenager in 1965 or 1966 by the Rev. Andrew Ronan at St. Albert’s Church in Portland, Ore. According to court documents, Ronan was accused of abusing boys in the mid-1950s as a priest in the Archdiocese of Armagh, Ireland. He was transferred to Chicago, where he admitted abusing three boys at St. Philip’s High School, and after that was sent to Oregon.

The church removed Ronan from the priesthood in 1966. He died in 1982.

According to the AP story, the lawsuit claims the Vatican had to approve the international transfer. The Vatican claims it is protected by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which prohibits U.S. lawsuits against foreign countries.

Several lower courts have produced differing rulings on the suit, and the Vatican has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the question. The high court has not decided whether it will hear the case.

No comments: