Thursday, June 08, 2006

Vatican Loses Sovereign Immunity Claim In Priest Abuse Case

Yesterday's Washington Post reports that a federal district court in Portland, Oregon has held that the victim of a priest's sexual abuse may continue with his claim against the Holy See, ruling against the Vatican's claim of sovereign immunity. The suit says that the Vatican conspired with the Archdiocese of Portland and the archbishop of Chicago to protect the Rev. Andrew Ronan by moving him from Ireland to Chicago to Portland despite a history of abuse. Federal District Judge Michael Mosman held that there was enough of a connection between the Vatican and the priest that he could be considered an employee of the Vatican under Oregon law. This then could bring the Vatican within an exception in the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act that permits personal injury suits to be filed against a foreign government if the plaintiff's injury was caused by a tortious act or omission of an employee of the foreign government acting in the scope of employment (with certain exceptions).

UPDATE: The full opinion in John Doe v. The Holy See (D. Ore., June 7, 2006) is now available online courtesy of Mirror of Justice.