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Abuse victim drops suit against Holy See; Vatican lawyer says case collapsed

Catholic World News - August 07, 2013

An Oregon man has dropped his attempt to hold the Holy See legally responsible for the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of a Catholic priest.

The plaintiff, identified only as John Doe, had charged in a lawsuit that the Vatican employed the priest who abused him, and approved his transfer despite prior complaints of sexual abuse. The plaintiff had already received a financial settlement from the religious order of which the accused priest was a member.

Last August a federal court ruled that the Holy See could not be treated as the “employer” of the accused priest. Facing a deadline for an appeal of that decision, the plaintiff chose not to pursue the case. His lawyer, Jeffrey Anderson, who has sought repeatedly to bring suit against the Vatican, said that the effort would continue “through other means.”

Jeffrey Lena, the American attorney who represented the Vatican in the case, said that the lawsuit should never have been filed. "They just continued to beat on this case way beyond when they knew it should have died,” he said.

Lena explained that a priest is not “employed” by the Vatican, but by his superiors in his diocese or religious order. In this case, the attorney had provided evidence showing that the Vatican was not acquainted with the case of the accused priest until 2011—well after the abuse had taken place and the lawsuit had been filed.

Lena pointed out that the Oregon case is one of several in which Anderson and others have sought to hold the Vatican liable for priests’ misconduct. “John v. Doe is the third case of its kind against the Holy See to disintegrate in the face of legal and factual challenge,” he said.

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