Court: Man Can Sue Vatican for Alleged Abuse

By Manya Brachear
Chicago Tribune
March 4, 2009,0,1434100.story

For the first time in the American judicial system, a court has ruled that a man alleging abuse by a Roman Catholic priest can sue the Vatican for not only liability but fraud.

In a 59-page decision issued Tuesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a man who says he was sexually assaulted in the 1960s by a religious order priest can pursue civil litigation against the Holy See.

Lawyers for the victim argue that in a hierarchy such as the Catholic Church, decisions come down from Rome and therefore leaders there should be held responsible for clergy sex abuse and attempts to cover it up.

"They have been choosing for years ... to protect the clerics and not the kids," said Jeff Anderson, a lawyer for the victim. "This really is another step forward, another door open ... The good news for the laity, the community of faith, the parishioners and all of us is that the Vatican can now be held accountable."

The case in question involves the late Rev. Andrew Ronan, who went to Chicago after being accused of molesting children in his native Ireland. In Chicago, lawyers for the victim say, he allegedly abused three boys at St. Philip Catholic Church. He was then transferred to an Oregon Catholic school, where he reportedly assaulted the victim in this case.

It is unclear if Ronan served at St. Philip the Apostle in Northfield, St. Philip Neri in Chicago or another parish named for St. Philip that has since closed.

Ronan died in 1969.

While Pope Benedict XVI cannot be sued, Anderson said he hopes to conduct a deposition with the pontiff. Anderson deposed Chicago's Cardinal Francis George last year.


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