A lawsuit charging that the Vatican is guilty of sheltering a priest with a history of molestation has been given the green light by a US District Judge, a decision that is the first of its kind in abuse victims’ struggle to hold their abusers accountable. Lawyer Jeffrey Anderson said of the decision, “to get a shot at the Vatican has never happened before. That’s where the buck stops and that’s where it starts. And holding them accountable is tantamount to a legal impossibility and a moral imperative,” reports the Chicago Sun-Times. Anderson said that no previous sexual abuse case against the Vatican has gotten this far in American court, according to the Associated Press.
Anderson sued the Vatican in a civil court in 2002 on behalf of a man who claims he was abused by Reverend Andrew Ronan during the 1960s, according to the Sun-Times. Before working in a Portland, Oregon parish, Ronan had been accused of sexually abusing boys in a seminary in Northern Ireland and a boys’ school in Chicago. The Associated Press (AP) reports that Ronan had confessed to abusing the boys in both situations. (He died in 1992.)
The lawsuit filed by Anderson argues the Vatican abetted Ronan by continually reassigning him despite his confessions, according to the AP. The Vatican has claimed that it is protected from prosecution by the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act but US District Judge Michael Mosman ruled that an exception from protection in cases of “injurious conduct” applies to the case, according to the Sun-Times. The AP reports that the Vatican has already filed an appeal.