Vatican insists 'immunity' in US sexual abuse case

The US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by the Vatican for immunity in a high-profile pedophilia case, allowing a lawsuit filed in 2002 to go forward.

Vatican insists 'immunity' in US sexual abuse case

The Vatican said on Tuesday it would "prove" it cannot be held legally responsible for the actions of a priest at the centre of a sexual abuse scandal in the United States.

The US Supreme Court declined Monday to hear an appeal by the Vatican for immunity in a high-profile pedophilia case, allowing a lawsuit filed in 2002 to go forward.

In a statement, the Vatican's lawyer, Jeffrey Lena, said when the case returns to a U.S. district court it would prove it cannot be held responsible for the actions of the priest as he was not a Vatican employee.

"The decision not to hear the case is not a comment on the merits of our case," Lena said, adding that the case would now go back to the district court in Oregon.

The lawsuit, filed against the Vatican by a plaintiff identified only as John Doe, claimed he was sexually abused on several occasions in the mid-1960s when he was 15 or 16 by a Roman Catholic priest named Father Andrew Ronan.

According to court documents, Ronan molested boys in the mid-1950s as a priest in Ireland and then in Chicago before his transfer to a church in Portland, Oregon, where he allegedly abused the victim who filed the lawsuit. Ronan died in 1992.

The Vatican claimed "immunity" under a U.S. law, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976, that allows foreign states to avoid being sued in court.

But the law contains exceptions. The appeals court cited one of those, ruling the lawsuit has sufficiently alleged that Ronan was an employee of the Vatican acting within the scope of his employment under Oregon law.

The Vatican has said, the pope, as head of a sovereign state recognised by more than 170 countries, has diplomatic immunity from prosecution in other countries.

Senior clerics have been accused of protecting the priests involved by moving them to other parishes -- where they sometimes offended again -- instead of handing them over to civil authorities for prosecution.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 29 Haziran 2010, 15:59

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