This Tuesday, U.S citizens alleging sex abuse by a priest from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed a lawsuit in the U.S Federal Court, against the Vatican. The massive lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota, by five plaintiffs seeking monetary compensation as well as a direction to reveal the names of more than 3400 “credibly accused” priests whose cases have been referred to the Holy See. [also known as the See of Rome is the universal ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the worldwide Catholic Church and a recognised sovereign subject of international law, headed by the Pope.] The plaintiffs demand that all related records including names of church leaders who have been actively covering up abuse cases in the past several decades should be released to the public.
The victims, which includes three brothers, allege that they were abused during camping trips by former Minnesota priest Curtis Wehmeyer between 2006 and 2012. It is further alleged in the lawsuit that another plaintiff was sexually abused by former Minnesota priest Thomas Adamson in the early 1980s, and that the fifth man was molested by former priest Fidencio Silva-Flores in California sometime between 1978 and 1984. The plaintiffs have also sought a direction from the court to require the Vatican to make the information public and report all alleged crimes to law enforcement worldwide.
The Vatican has been previously evading lawsuits claiming immunity under the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act which exempts other sovereign states from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts, but it allows U.S. courts to adjudicate lawsuits seeking monetary damages from a foreign country for personal injury caused in the United States by an employee of that country “while acting within the scope of his office or employment.” This includes wrongful acts committed against U.S. citizens and commercial activities undertaken by foreign nations.
Rampant Allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and Church involvement in cover-ups by bishops came to public attention in 2002. The abuse scandals have already cost the church billions of dollars in outside settlements while also questioning its moral authority in handling such cases. State and Federal authorities in the United States are investigating how the church has been handling decades of allegations of sexual misconduct by priests. At least nine sexual abuse lawsuits have named the Vatican as a defendant or a co-defendant in recent years. Several other lawsuits have already been dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction as it is difficult in U.S. Federal courts to sue a foreign state like the Vatican.