Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Minnesota judge blocks bid to sue Vatican for clerical abuse

Stephen Hoffman, 21, left, and his brothers Ben and Luke.

A judge in St. Paul this week rejected a lawsuit that four clergy abuse victims from Minnesota filed against the Vatican.

Brothers Stephen, Ben and Luke Hoffman sued the Holy See in 2019 over sexual abuse by former St. Paul priest Curtis Wehmeyer that had started around a decade prior when they were children. 

A fourth plaintiff, James Keenan, alleged that Thomas Adamson, then a priest at an Apple Valley, Minn., parish, abused him in 1981.

St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who has represented clergy abuse victims for decades, attempted to draw a direct line of authority from the priests, through Minnesota bishops, up to Vatican officials.

But U.S. District Judge Eric Tostrud ruled that the Vatican is exempt from U.S. lawsuits under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, and the law’s limited exceptions do not apply in this case. 

Anderson sued the Holy See previously without success.

The Vatican removed Wehmeyer from the priesthood in 2015 after he went to prison for abusing children and possessing child abuse images. 

Adamson was suspended from ministry in 1984 and died in 2019.