Skip to comments.Sixth Circuit: Vatican Can Be Sued for Sexual Abuse
Posted on 11/28/2008 10:48:14 AM PST by Alex Murphy
The sexual-abuse litigation that has raged for years against the Catholic church just got a lot more interesting.
In a landmark ruling yesterday, the Sixth Circuit concluded that the Vatican could be held liable for negligence in sexual-abuse cases filed in the U.S. It is the first time a circuit court reached that conclusion, and the opinion is considered a breakthrough by those allegedly abused by priests. Heres the WSJ story.
Catholic dioceses in the U.S. have paid out more than $3 billion to alleged abuse victims, most of that coming since the scandal broke open nationwide in 2002. Click here to view the 1962 document that discusses Vatican policy on secrecy in dealing with complaints of a sexual nature against clergy.
The Sixth Circuit ruling came in a Kentucky case filed by three men who claim they were abused as children by priests. The Vatican claimed the suit was barred under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
The circuit court concluded that the Vatican was a foreign state, eligible for immunity. But, the court held, the plaintiffs could still sue the Vatican under an exception to the Sovereign Immunities Act, which allows suits that assert damages caused by the tortious act of a foreign state or any of its officials or employees.
The ruling opens the door to other clams against the Catholic church, says Jonathan Levy, a Washington, D.C., attorney who represents concentration-camp survivors in a suit against numerous parties including the Vatican bank. The Vatican, in that case, prevailed on sovereign-immunity grounds.
In the Kentucky case, the U.S. District Court in Louisville still must decide whether U.S. bishops are employees of the Vatican, and whether they acted on the Holy Sees orders.
(Excerpt) Read more at blogs.wsj.com ...
In the "Whispers in the Loggia" blog article from 11/25, titled Immunity, Denied, it says this:
The appeals court found that the church government may be held liable for actions taken in the U.S. based on the Vaticans policies or directives.In the InsideCatholic.com blog article titled Kneeling Before the World several weeks ago, this astounding statement was asserted:
What the court has allowed us to do is proceed against the Vatican for the conduct of the U.S. bishops because of the bishops failure to ... report child abuse, said William F. McMurry, the attorney for three men who claim they were abused as children by priests in the Louisville, Ky., archdiocese. He is seeking class-action status in the district-court case.
The ruling marks the first time that a federal appeals court recognized that the Vatican could be liable under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a 1976 law that governs when a foreign nation or its agents can be sued, said Marci Hamilton, a constitutional-law scholar who is part of the legal team in the Louisville case.
[Faithful Departed author Philip] Lawler points out that while less than five percent of American priests have been accused of sexual abuse, some two-thirds of our bishops were apparently complicit in cover-ups.Given that awards to victims have reached $3 billion dollar so far, with more than half a billion of that in one archodiocese alone, I can see why someone might pursue class-action status. Given that the WSJ article links to a 1962 document that discusses Vatican policy in these matters, and if two-thirds of all the Catholic bishops in the USA were in fact complicit, I can see why one might think any such "cover-up" might extend past American shores to the Vatican itself.
The case probably won’t go far.
Yeah, I don’t see the Senate or the USSC allowing this one.
I'll get the popcorn.
Things will really get exciting when those idiot courts announce that Mecca can be sued...
Well, "Held liable" for such things as 9-11, this massacres in Bombay (Mumbai), etc, etc.
Anyone who can prove that they were molested by a Priest should be able to sue the Vatican. If they want to deny these people and claim they’re a foreign state and immune, kick them out of the country.
This would set the RCC apart from all other Christian Churches. I don't believe any others operate as a separate nation.
congratulations....the second anti-Catholic piece you’ve posted today....
If the Moslems had just rolled over early on, there'd undoubtedly been no problem.
So, yeah, sue Mecca! Send the bill to Saudi Arabia.
The question of obedience and religious orders is separate and apart from corporate structures, ownership, liability, and all the other questions this Appeals Court decision seeks to bypass.
Just a bunch of judges trying to make it easy on themselves.
In the end the Vatican is an internationally recognized state.
This is quite an interesting article. I didn’t see anything anti-Catholic in it. Can you point that part out?
In the end the Vatican is an internationally recognized state.
I'm assuming that the Bishops are members of that internationally recognized state and are accountable to it. If so wouldn't that state be liable for their actions?
“Anyone who can prove that they were molested by a Priest should be able to sue the Vatican.”
Why? Were those people molested by the priest or the Vatican? Which is it?
“If they want to deny these people and claim theyre a foreign state and immune, kick them out of the country.”
The Vatican is NOT IN THE USA in case you didn’t know. Vatican City is in Italy and it IS foreign state. Having said that, the priests who did the molesting were almost always from RIGHT HERE IN THE USA.
You know this thing goes way back ~ centuries even ~ to a time when the Vatican held vast tracts of land in Italy.
You should read the concordant and check out all its provisions. I'm sure it's on the internet.
The bishops, however, are merely part of the hierarchy of a religious body ~ not a state. My own church has very little hierarchy ~ a church board ~ Catholic bishops do pretty much the same thing, plus they hold title to the property of the local diocese.
There are people who'd like to milk the entire Catholic church for the misdeeds of a handful of perverts in the United States ~ but it's not likely they'll ever get a chance to do that.
“This would set the RCC apart from all other Christian Churches.”
The Catholic Church has always been apart from other Christian churches and sects.
Catholic Church was founded by Christ. Others? Founded by men.
I believe the sovereign-immunity obstacle will be upheld, since otherwise all of us could sue some foreign country for some abuse, real or imagined. The courts, as well as trade, would come to a standstill. (How about suing Germany if your German car screws up?)
But even if that weren't an obstacle, there's the problem that the actions of sex abusers are not based on the Vatican's policies or directives. They're in direct contravention of them, in documents and traditions extending back to about 3,000 B.C., reinforced and elaborated on continuously since then.
As anyone familiar with the U.S. hierarchy will tell you, bishops involved with cover-ups are going to some pains to cover up the crimes from the Vatican. Moreover, while they are appointed by the Vatican, and subject to discipline from the Vatican, bishops are not paid by the Vatican. It's the other way around. Bishops have to raise their own money and send contributions at certain times of year (such as Peter's Pence) to Rome.
You could certainly make a case for suing the dioceses run by their respective bishops for the crimes of priestsand many lawyers obviously havebut going any further up the spiritual hierarchy is just the usual tort-lawyer overreach. It's like suing Christ for the crimes of Judas.
By the way, can I use the same logic and sue the American Bar Association for the crimes of a crooked or unethical tort lawyer, to take an example out of the air? After all, the ABA admitted him and keeps him under discipline. Whaddya say, Mr. Levy? Interested in taking that one? I thought not. Meanwhile, I'd like to make a class-action claim against the estate of John Dewey for the acts of sexual abuse of minors committed by public school teachers, which outnumber offenses by priests by a factor of 5, or 10, or 100, depending on the study. Lotta money in those numbers.
“I’m assuming that the Bishops are members of that internationally recognized state and are accountable to it.”
And that’s why you should not assume things. You are completely wrong. Except for a tiny handful of Vatican officials, bishops are not “members” of any state other than the one they come from. Those same men are accountable to the Pope, but are also accountable to the laws of the lands they come from.
“If so wouldn’t that state be liable for their actions?”
Then sue Massachusetts!
Now, back to the point ~ the court didn't say the Catholic church is a state, just that the Vatican, which is a state, can be sued under a special law which can be used against other states.
I think there is currently an American Cardinal present at the Vatican (in a rather non-operative position) who is the real target of this lawsuit. He fled the US to the Vatican lest he end up sued down to his sandles.
will not happen. thank God.
“Actually, the Mennonites make a better case than the Catholics for being founded directly by Jesus (although that claim is not widely known).”
The Mennonites were founded by an excommunicated Catholic priest named Menno Simons - hence MENNOnites.
That in itself would seem to put the lie to any Mennonite claims of antiquity. Also, the earlier roots of the Mennonites in the Anabaptist movement is EXTREMELY well documented and does not go further back than 1517. PERIOD.
“Now, back to the point ~ the court didn’t say the Catholic church is a state, just that the Vatican, which is a state, can be sued under a special law which can be used against other states.”
And I doubt it will go much further than that.
“I think there is currently an American Cardinal present at the Vatican (in a rather non-operative position) who is the real target of this lawsuit. He fled the US to the Vatican lest he end up sued down to his sandles.”
Untrue. If you mean Law, he did not flee from the US, nor would fleeing from the US prevent him from being sued. Please think.
This is the homosexual left at work. Send in the frontline queers. Assault the choir boys. Bleed the diocese of wealth. Then sack the Vatican. It's the queer communists undermining religion.
If they can destroy the Vatican, they’ll go after the Mormons next. Any organized religion is a danger to them.
I get a kick out of Sammy boy here, “just kick the Catholics out of the country”. What a bone head. That’s what your saying right. Yea We will leave and leave this country to you nut jobs
How do you go about “proving” a supposedly sexual act that may or may not have taken place 20 years ago? Do you have witnesses? And just who are you saying that should be deported - the victim? I suspect that may of the so-called victims discovered a way to make money of the church
You are not very clear with your rant.
You’re an idiot. Plain and simple that was about the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen posted here. Moron.
That’s because none other are seperate sovereign nations. The Vatican is. The defendents in these cases have absolutely no need to sue the Vatican. They’re sued the dioceses and have sucked over 3 billion dollars out of us already. Enough is enough!
“Anyone who can prove that they were molested by a Priest should be able to sue the Vatican. If they want to deny these people and claim theyre a foreign state and immune, kick them out of the country.”
I was molested and I don’t blame anyone but the priest, and possibly the bishop from his home country/diocese who may/may not have known about his pedophilia.
The vatican and the pope had nothing to do with what happened to me.
“He fled the US to the Vatican lest he end up sued down to his sandles.”
He did not flee.
The authorities chose not to pursue a criminal case against him.
The Vatican removed him from his diocese and gave him a position at a basilica, basically as a fundraiser.
The Vatican then appointed another bishop to tackle the fallout.
Law’s diocese was sued.
“Meanwhile, I’d like to make a class-action claim against the estate of John Dewey for the acts of sexual abuse of minors committed by public school teachers, which outnumber offenses by priests by a factor of 5, or 10, or 100, depending on the study. Lotta money in those numbers.”
Yes - can we sue all the universities who train these teachers?
I would never presume to speak on the religious significance here, but legally, when you get two countries in the mix, each can issue its own legal findings and judgements. So international cases often “go nowhere” because each country’s rulings trump the others, in that country. Civil suits even moreso.
Humanity should be able to sue your parents for spawning a mental eunuch.
One of these days “Murphy” is going to screw up and post one of these while he’s logged in as the Religion Moderator.
Bravo Sierra. You should read Saint Ignatius of Antioch's Letter to the Smyrneans, 107 AD; obviously for the first time, and then return and correct your post.
Don’t know anything about the case, but what can the court do if the Vatican tells it to shove it! Arrest the Pope?
Sorry, they argue their claim all the way back to Jerusalem and the church there ~
I think Law had "friends in high places or something", right?
Recall that even Jimmy Carter said "Sometimes life is unfair" (and when he was President it really was~!!!)
Which is to say that Sam's arguement is not "stupid", it's just irrelevant ~ and not at all the sort of thing to get angry about.
So, not to deprive the defrocked priest of his reputation, but at best, according to a variety of sources, he merely organized that which already existed. No doubt their story gets mixed with that of the Cathers.
There's a similar argument within Jewish tradition about Roman era Jewish congregations that lived "across the Rhine". I've always suspected the limited information we have about those Jewish groups and the equally obscure Christian groups was dealing with the same people, and not with any groups extant in the late Middle Ages.
No doubt the "truth" is in books buried away in the Vatican archives.
“The argument runs to a supposed pre-existing semi-independent Christian tradition along the Rhine in the first century.”
And any such theory would be nonsense.
1) There is no evidence whatsoever of any such Rhine Christian communities.
2) All along the Rhine - where Mennonites later showed up - was dominated by pagans well into the Christian era and had to be converted by Roman Christians.
3) Any and all stories about remnant, pre-Catholic Christians (an impossiblity in itself) are simply concocted myths created by Protestants from the 17th to the 19th century to dispell their own feelings of inadequacy at their lack of history. This sort of thing has been ably documented by James McGoldrick, a Protestant Church Historian.
“I first ran into it reading a lengthy history of a variety of bodies that eventually became known as Mennonites.”
There was no “variety” worth speaking of. Menno Simons gathered together the shattered remnants of Anabaptists after the disaster that was Munster. He knew that he was gatehring together people from a NEW sect.
“So, not to deprive the defrocked priest of his reputation, but at best, according to a variety of sources, he merely organized that which already existed. No doubt their story gets mixed with that of the Cathers.”
No, it doesn’t - at least not by anyone who knows anything about history.
1) Cathars were not Christians in any orthodox sense of the word.
2) Cathars were everywhere exinct by the end of the 14th century.
3) Anabaptists only appeared on the scene in the 16th century and were an entirely new sect. We know who their original leaders were, when and where they lived. They had no connections whatsoever with the Cathars.
4) The theory you are putting forward now is commonly referred to as the “Trail of Blood” theory and is a known fraud. James McGoldrick - and again, he’s a Protestant Church historian - has demonstrated this to be complete nonsense in his book called Baptist Successionism.
“There’s a similar argument within Jewish tradition about Roman era Jewish congregations that lived “across the Rhine”. I’ve always suspected the limited information we have about those Jewish groups and the equally obscure Christian groups was dealing with the same people, and not with any groups extant in the late Middle Ages.”
No. There were no other Christian groups beyond the Rhine other than Catholics. To confuse non-existent Christian sects with equally non-existent or unrelated Jewish groups is a serious mistake...and a telling one.
“No doubt the “truth” is in books buried away in the Vatican archives.”
No, the truth is known throughout the world and always has been: Mennonites date back to the 16th century. They had no connections with the Cathars who were already extinct. There were no secret Christian sects operating beyond the Rhine since the first century.
Real History is more interesting than fantasy.
Then what made them so dangerous that they had to be biologically destroyed?
Even Jews were not subject to similar extermination at that time ~ just severe persecution and repression, but the Cathers were murdered on sight.
“So Cathers weren’t really Christians?”
No more than Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, no. To be a Christian you must believe in an all powerful Christian God - the Trinity. The Cathars, however, were dualists.
“Then what made them so dangerous that they had to be biologically destroyed?”
Exactly their sectarianism and its evil practices: the endura, abhorence of oaths (in an oath bound society), abhorence of marriage (because marriage produced children and that meant, in their evil way of thinking, the trapping of a soul in an evil body of flesh), and most importantly their acts of murder and assassination. The Cathars were no more able to co-exist with Christians in a Christian Europe, than the Muslims are today with Europeans in a liberal, post-Christian one.
That’s all news to you, right?
Yeah, it helps to actually know what you’re talking about.
“Even Jews were not subject to similar extermination at that time ~ just severe persecution and repression, but the Cathers were murdered on sight.”
Nonsense. There was no way to murder them (even if that was desired - and it was not) on sight since they adeptly blended in with everyone else!
I suggest you read a few books:
If you want to learn about the Cathars (in English), you have to read the “two Malcolms”:
The Cathars: Dualist Heretics in Languedoc in the High Middle Ages, by Malcolm Barber (2000; a very good medieval historian).
The Cathars, by Malcolm Lambert. (1998)
Both books are available in relatively cheap paperback. So are these:
Strayer’s classic on the Albigensian Crusade. Google books has a large part of it online.
And the modern classic or classics on Catharism and the inquisition:
Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error, by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie (which was a bestseller in France 30 years ago and uses extensive inquisition records to show how tangled the relations and deceitful the actions of the Cathars were).
Ladurie’s book is amazing. Yes, some of his theories are a bit of over reach perhaps, but the book is endlessly fascinating because he used the inquisition records to reconstruct the lives of Cathars. Once you read it, you’ll understand why the inquisition was believed to be necessary - and that is by no means Ladurie’s point. Pierre Clergue, the main personage in the story of Montaillou’s Cathar sect, after all, was a Catholic priest using his priesthood to hide his Albigensian activities!
I think you are mixing in some of the info about the Waldensians though.
“The winners wrote the history ~ nothing new in that.”
What is that really supposed to mean? That is the left’s way of dismissing info they don’t like. Read the literature yourself and see.
“I think you are mixing in some of the info about the Waldensians though.”
Nope. Not one bit. I never mistake the two. EVER. The Waldensians were Christians. Heretics and schismatics, but Christians. The Cathars were not. PERIOD.
We’ll never know ~ because they were exterminated.
“Well never know ~ because they were exterminated.”
Actually we do know, and they weren’t entirely exterminated. Many Cathars were converted to Christianity or BACK to Christianity and lived well into the fourteenth century.
We do know.
Some people just want to pretend otherwise.
“OK, he didn’t “flee”. Kind of like “But Ken Lay was never sent to prison”!
I think Law had “friends in high places or something”, right?”
You are determined to read something sinister into this despite the facts.
The truth is that at one point the authorities in Boston had to make a decision whether or not to pursue a case against Law.
Law performed miserably on the stand, and they debated whether or not there was enough for a criminal case.
The authorities took a pass. They did not pursue it.
You cannot “flee” when no one is chasing you.