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!
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