Top Vatican Official Testifies in Sex Abuse Case

By Adam Tanner
SwissInfo [Switzerland]
January 9, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - One of the Vatican's highest officials gave a legal deposition behind closed doors on Monday in the priest sex scandal that prompted the Catholic archdiocese in Portland, Oregon, to declare bankruptcy.

William Levada, the Vatican's chief doctrinal enforcer, was Archbishop of Portland from 1986-1995, and it is in that capacity he was subpoenaed to provide testimony on sex abuses of children by priests.

"We expect to find out what he knows and when he knew it," Michael Morey, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, told reporters as he headed into a deposition by lawyers, which could last all day.

Although the Roman Catholic Church has faced lawsuits alleging abuses across the United States, the Archdiocese of Portland was the first to seek bankruptcy protection from creditors. Since then the archdioceses in Spokane, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona, have also filed for bankruptcy.

Dressed in a suit, Levada went to a central San Francisco office building for the deposition. Eyewitnesses said he avoided a few protesters by using a side door.

As he entered the building, one man served him a subpoena to testify in another sex abuse case, said Joe Piscatelli, Bay Area coordinator for SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

"He is in charge of the sexually abusive priests," he said. "He's second to the Pope now and he hasn't been doing his job on getting rid of them. Instead he's been protecting them."

Levada succeeded Pope Benedict as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected to lead the Roman Catholic Church.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Francisco did not return calls for comment.

Levada has apologised to the victims, saying last year: "I again express to these victims, and all other victims of the clergy child abuse scandals, my sincere apology for the pain they have endured."


A U.S. bankruptcy judge handed the Portland archdiocese a major setback in the 18-month-old bankruptcy case, by ruling on December 30 that the assets of its parishes and schools were controlled by the archdiocese and thus available to pay abuse and other claims.

The archdiocese had argued that parish and school assets could not be tapped because it did not control them.

"Our attorneys believe that the various aspects of the ruling will not stand up under eventual review by higher courts," Portland Archbishop John Vlanzy wrote last week.

There are about 150 related sex abuse cases yet to be resolved, said David Slader, an attorney for 12 sex abuse survivors.

The cases will likely be sent back to the courts and assigned trial dates. Attempts to solve them through mediation were "a dismal failure," Slader said.

From the 1950s to 2003, the Archdiocese of Portland paid about $53 million (30 million pounds) on 130 claims of sex abuse by clergy, archdiocese spokesman Bud Bunce said.

Some current cases will likely be settled before they reach trial. The archdiocese has about $100 million in investments and accounts that could be used to settle. The archdiocese has proposed a $40 million bankruptcy settlement plan, but that was declined by plaintiffs' attorneys.

(Additional reporting by Teresa Carson in Portland)


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