Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Appeals courts allow Vatican cases to proceed

Federal appeals courts have allowed two sexual abuse lawsuits against the Vatican to proceed in the states of Oregon and Kentucky.

The Kentucky case involves three people who alleged they were abused by three different priests between the 1920s and 1970s, according to a report in The Age.

The Oregon case involves a person allegedly abused in 1965 by a priest who was moved from Ireland to Chicago to Portland - and who was accused of abusing along the way.

Vatican lawyers have asked the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the Oregon case, said the report.

Lawyers for both sides in the Oregon proceedings were in Washington two weeks ago making their arguments before a roomful of government officials, who could wind up weighing in if the Vatican - considered a foreign country with immunity to lawsuits - is found a liable party in an American case.

If the Supreme Court declines to take up the case and the lawsuits proceed, lawyers could begin subpoenaing decades of documents and calling Vatican officials under oath.

Correspondence between the Vatican and US clergy has always been subject to subpoena if the documents are located in the US, attorneys say.

In the Oregon case, lawyers are arguing that priests around the world are employees of the Pope, for whom he is responsible.

William McMurry, who is representing alleged abuse victims in the Kentucky case, said: "We're trying to get what's never been uncovered before - documents only the Vatican has. That's the linchpin of liability."

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