Abuse Victim Withdraws Lawsuit against Vatican

By Annysa Johnson
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
February 11, 2012

The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee, which faces more than a dozen civil fraud lawsuits over its handling of clergy sex abuse cases, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January. As the case proceeds, we'll have updates, analysis, documents and more.

A federal lawsuit against the Vatican, filed in Milwaukee by an accuser of the late Father Lawrence Murphy, has been withdrawn.

The move came as a result of a key ruling in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy Thursday, according to an attorney involved in both actions.

Jeffrey Anderson, who represents the plaintiff in both cases, said his client "felt that his energies would be best spent working alongside fellow survivors toward justice and healing at the archdiocese level."

Vatican attorney Jeffrey Lena called the case a publicity stunt that "rehashes old theories already rejected by the U.S. courts" when it was filed in April 2010. He did not return messages seeking comment on Saturday.

Anderson withdrew the lawsuit late Friday in response to Thursday's ruling by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley that let stand, at least for now, two claims filed by childhood sex abuse victims dating from the 1970s and '80s. Kelley said the question of when the clock on the six-year statute of limitations on the victims' fraud allegations against the church should have started ticking must be answered at a trial.

A ruling in favor of the archdiocese could be used to throw out the vast majority of 570 claims filed in the bankruptcy, 350 of those represented by Anderson, plaintiffs attorneys have said.

The plaintiff in the Vatican case alleged he was molested by Murphy at the now-closed St. John School for the Deaf in St. Francis, beginning in the early 1960s when he was 12. Murphy is believed to have sexually assaulted as many as 200 deaf boys over three decades, according to court records.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee, alleged that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and others knew of the complaints about Murphy as early as 1995 and that the Vatican was responsible for decisions local bishops made about him going back to the 1950s.

A similar case against the Vatican was withdrawn from court in Kentucky in 2010.


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