18 Dec 2010

Kentucky Lawyer drops case against Vatican, says courts placed impossible burdens on plaintiffs

The Montreal Gazette - AFP August 10, 2010

Vatican child abuse cases falling apart in U.S.: Lawyers

Washington - A U.S. lawyer who has successfully sued the U.S. Catholic church over the long-running child sex abuse scandal on Tuesday said cases against the Vatican are crumbling and he was throwing in the towel.

"You have to have an impossible alignment of planets and moons to win any case against the Vatican," attorney Bill McMurry told AFP a day after he asked a Kentucky court to dismiss a case he brought six years ago to hold the Vatican accountable for all child sex abuse by Catholic clergy in the United States.

"It's out of my hands now. It's impossible to meet the burdens that the courts have placed on plaintiffs" who take on the Vatican, said McMurry.

On Monday, McMurry filed a motion with Louisville district court in Kentucky to dismiss a case against the Vatican filed by three men who claim they were sexually abused when they were boys by members of the Catholic clergy.

The suit, which was originally filed in 2004, sought to hold the Holy See accountable for the acts of pedophile clergy and alleged that the Vatican had a policy of keeping secret any cases of pedophile clergy members.

In March, McMurry filed a motion in a Kentucky court to take sworn testimony from Pope Benedict XVI on what the Vatican knew about the long-running scandal of predator priests.

The three plaintiffs in Kentucky asked to drop their case after earlier rulings in U.S. courts recognized the Vatican as a sovereign state with broad immunity from prosecution, and efforts to find other complainants to add to their lawsuit failed, the dismissal motion said.

Other child sex abuse cases against the Vatican were also fraying at the edges, according to Jeffrey Lena, the lawyer who has represented the Holy See in a number of cases that have come before U.S. courts.

The cases of an alleged serial pedophile priest in Wisconsin and another in California "made a big splash in the newspapers but they've never filed anything," Lena said.

And a high-profile case involving a man in Oregon who alleges that he was abused by a priest as a child will file for dismissal at the end of the month, said Lena.

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1 comment:

  1. Explosive sex abuse lawsuit against Vatican dropped

    by John L Allen Jr., National Catholic Reporter Feb. 11, 2012

    ROME -- A Wisconsin sex abuse lawsuit against the Vatican, which helped trigger a global firestorm in early 2010, was withdrawn late Friday. It marks the formal end of a case that seemed to cast doubt on Pope Benedict XVI’s role in the abuse crisis, and shifted focus from local bishops to an alleged cover-up in Rome.

    Lawyers for the victim filed a notice of voluntary dismissal on Friday, effectively abandoning the lawsuit. It had named not only the Vatican but also Pope Benedict XVI and two senior Vatican officials, Cardinals Tarcisio Bertone and Angelo Sodano, as defendants. The suit had been filed by Minnesota-based attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who has frequently represented sex abuse victims against the church.

    Anderson said at the time the case was filed that he hoped to take formal depositions from Benedict XVI, Bertone and Sodano, concerning the Vatican’s role in the sex abuse crisis. Bertone is the current Secretary of State, the top official in the Vatican after the pope, a position formerly held by Sodano.

    Anderson told NCR on Saturday that the decision to withdraw the case was "pragmatic and practical," based largely on the fact that as a result of proceedings related to the bankruptcy of the Milwaukee archdiocese, he had already obtained most of the files regarding the Vatican's involvement he could have gotten through a separate lawsuit. Those documents are presently under seal, he said, but he said they paint an "ugly picture" of the Vatican's role.
    "We have not in any way abandoned our effort to hold the Vatican legally and fully accountable," Anderson said.

    While Anderson said he does not plan to refile the Wisconsin case, he still hopes to pursue depositions of Vatican figures such as Bertone and Sodano as part of other litigation. In the meantime, he said, he plans to depose Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York, a former archbishop of Milwaukee, about his role in the Wisconsin case.

    The Vatican’s lawyer, California-based Jeffrey Lena, nevertheless welcomed the withdrawal of the case.

    “A case like this, which was held together by a mendacious web of claims of international conspiracy, amounts to what appears in its aftermath to have been little more than a misuse of judicial process and waste of judicial resources,” he said.

    With the collapse of a similar case in Kentucky in 2010, Friday’s dismissal leaves only the Doe v. Holy See case in Oregon, originally filed in 2002, as an active sex abuse claim against the Vatican in American courts. (Another lawsuit in Chicago has been filed but not served on the Vatican through diplomatic channels.)

    Anderson said that another reason for dismissing the Wisconsin case is that it allows attorneys to concentrate on the litigation in Oregon.

    In terms of jurisdiction, lawyers for the Vatican argued in the Wisconsin case, as they have in others, that the Vatican is immune because it’s a sovereign state. Substantively, they contended that under church law, responsibility for supervising priests and other church personnel rests with local bishops, not in Rome. ...

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