5 Dec 2010

Vatican submits defense motion in Kentucky abuse case arguing legal fiction that bishops are not its employees

Agence France-Presse - May 17, 2010

Vatican to present legal defense in Kentucky abuse case

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican on Monday will submit a defense motion in a priest sex abuse court case in the U.S. state of Kentucky, arguing that bishops cannot be considered employees of the Vatican.

"This lawsuit is trying to say that the bishop in Louisville is an employee of the pope. I say that's not true," Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican's U.S. attorney told AFP in a telephone interview.

Three men allege they were abused decades ago by priests and believe the Vatican should be held accountable for the failure of the bishop of Louisville, Kentucky to report the abusers.

The Vatican on the other hand argues that dioceses are run as separate entities from the Holy See, and that the only authority that the pontiff has over bishops around the world is a religious one.

"The pope is not a five-star general ordering his troops around. The pope does not have the power of a king," Lena said.

"The Vatican and the Holy Father are not bound by this national jurisdiction, both as head of state and as the head of the Church," Ciro Benedettini, vice-head of the Vatican press office told AFP.

Two other cases, one in Wisconsin and another in Oregon, are seeking to prove the Vatican's liability for abuse committed by priests in the United States.

In recent months, large-scale paedophilia scandals have rocked the Roman Catholic Church in a number of countries, including Ireland, Austria, the United States and the pope's native Germany.

Senior clerics were accused of protecting guilty clergy by moving them to other parishes — where they sometimes offended again — instead of handing them over to civil authorities for prosecution.

The 83-year-old pontiff has himself faced allegations that, as head of the Vatican's watchdog for morals and doctrinal issues as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and earlier as the archbishop of Munich, he failed to take action against predator priests.

Pope Benedict has repeatedly said priests and religious workers guilty of child abuse "must answer" for their crimes in courts of law.

In April Federico Lombardi, the Vatican's spokesman, had argued that priests could not be considered Vatican employees, saying that "the Church is not a multinational."

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