Judge OKs Sex-Abuse Lawsuits vs. Vatican

By Marie Szaniszlo
Boston Herald [Kentucky]
January 12, 2007

A federal judge in Kentucky yesterday ruled that three men who claim they were abused as children by priests may sue the Vatican for negligence.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II could have broad implications for others who say top church officials should have warned the public or police about priests who were known or suspected child molesters, said Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston attorney whose clients blew the lid off the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the United States.

"A door has been opened," he said, allowing victims' attorneys to depose Vatican officials in the United States. Many victims' lawsuits have named the pope, the Vatican and high-ranking clerics as defendants but have failed because the Holy See is typically immune from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts under the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act.

The Kentucky case may prod more U.S. bishops to settle out of court because as far as the Roman Catholic Church is concerned, "the only thing worse than damaging diocesan secrets being revealed is damaging Vatican secrets being revealed," said David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.


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