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Vatican denies bid to name Pope as defendant in abuse case

Catholic World News - January 31, 2011

The Vatican has turned down a bid by a high-profile American lawyer to name Pope Benedict and other top Vatican officials as defendants in a sex-abuse lawsuit.

Jeffrey Anderson, a Minnesota attorney who has specialized in suits against the Church, asked Vatican officials to serve legal papers on the Pope, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The Vatican rejected the plea, saying that any such request should be forwarded through proper diplomatic channels.

As a sovereign state, the Vatican is generally immune from lawsuits. Vatican officials have also argued consistently that diocesan bishops bear the responsibility for handling sex-abuse complaints.

Anderson, who has made numerous efforts to list the Pope as a defendant in sex-abuse cases, swept aside those legal arguments, and complained that Vatican officials are trying to hold themselves above the law.

Jeffrey Lena, a lawyer representing the Vatican in US courts, responded that it was Anderson, not the Vatican, that had sought to short-circuit the justice system. Lena pointed out that the ordinary procedure in such a case would be to serve the legal papers through diplomatic channels, as the Holy See requested. The attempt to serve papers directly, he said, “is really just a form of grandstanding by Mr. Anderson for the press and the public."

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