Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Vatican Files Motions To Dismiss U.S. Lawsuit Against It

Yesterday, the Vatican filed two motions to dismiss the clergy sexual abuse lawsuit that has been brought against it in federal court in Kentucky. The suit alleges that the Holy See is liable, under the doctrine of respondeat superior, for failure of clergy in the United States to warn parishioners that their children would be under the care of known pedophiles, and for the failure of U.S. bishops to report suspected abusers to civil authorities. (See prior posting.) One motion to dismiss focuses heavily on statute of limitations arguments. The Vatican's 56-page Memorandum (full text) supporting this motion sets out at length the Vatican's contention that the statute of limitations was not tolled. In addition to the statute of limitations, the Memorandum argues that the underlying claims fail because there are no allegations that supervisors had prior knowledge that the priests in question posed a danger to children. As to plaintiffs' international law claims , the Memorandum argues that neither the Universal Declaration of Human Rights nor the Convention on the Rights of the Child creates a private right of action. Finally the Vatican argues that clergy owed no fiduciary duty to plaintiffs.

The second motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction focuses on the argument that the Archbishop of Louisville was not an "employee" of the Vatican, so that the respondeat superior claim that is the basis for jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act collapses. The Vatican's 53-page Memorandum (full text) in support of this motion also deals with plaintiffs' focus on the Vatican's document Crimen sollicitationis, and argues that the document did not preclude the Bishop from reporting abuse to civil authorities. An AP article over the week end that quoted the Vatican's lead attorney in the U.S., Jeffrey Lena, previewed these arguments.