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US court urged to dismiss abuse lawsuit against Vatican

Catholic World News - May 17, 2010

The Vatican is asking an American court to dismiss an effort by sex-abuse victims to bring suit against the Pope and the Holy See, saying that the Vatican is not responsible for administrative decisions by individual diocesan bishops.

Jeffrey Lena, an attorney representing the Vatican in a Kentucky court, argues that the lawsuit is based on the inaccurate notion that bishops are, in effect, employees of the Vatican. He warns that a secular court should not become involved in the doctrinal questions that underlie the description of a bishop's authority.

In attempting to bring suit against the Holy See, plaintiffs' lawyer William McMurry has argued that the 1962 Vatican document Crimen Sollicitationis is a "smoking gun" that proves a worldwide conspiracy of silence on sexual abuse. But Lena counters that while the 1962 document governed canonical proceedings in cases involving clerical misconduct, 'the canon law did not bar reporting of these crimes to the civil authorities." Moreover, he contends, there is no evidence that officials in the Louisville archdiocese were even aware of that document at the time the plaintiffs reported being abused.

The Vatican brief also argues that the Holy See, as an independent state, is protected by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which restricts lawsuits against foreign powers in American courts.

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