Vatican Protected by Archaic Law that Shields Foreign Powers Over Innocent U.S. Children
“We are disappointed, but at the same time we acknowledge that no court has yet to adopt a legal argument that allows legal liability to be attached to the Vatican.” – Attorney Jeff Anderson
(St. Paul, MN) – This week, the Court rejected a lawsuit that five survivors of clergy abuse filed against the Holy See and the Vatican. Three of the survivors, who are brothers, were sexually abused by former priest Curtis Wehmeyer, who worked in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Another survivor, Jim Keenan, alleged that Thomas Adamson, then a priest at an Apple Valley, Minnesota, parish, abused him in 1981. Manuel Vega was sexually abused from approximately 1979 – 1984 by Fr. Silva-Flores in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The lawsuit against the Vatican was filed in 2019, charging nuisance and public endangerment, including allowing known offenders to continue public ministry through cover-up and reassignment.
“During 40 years of investigating and litigating clergy abuse, we are reminded every day that all roads lead to Rome. The Vatican makes all the laws of the kingdom. The Vatican hires the hierarchy, including the Cardinals and Bishops. The Vatican requires strict obedience to its rules, including celibacy, but relaxes celibacy requirements if kept secret. In brief – the global crisis stems from Rome. The solution must put light and heat on the Vatican for change to be.” – Attorney Jeff Anderson.
The lawsuit also claims that the Holy See bears responsibility because the case was mishandled by former Archbishop John Nienstedt and the Vatican’s former ambassador to the United States. The Court ruled that the Vatican is exempt from U.S. lawsuits under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, and the law’s limited exceptions do not apply in this case.
“For decades, we have fought on behalf of brave survivors who want only one thing: to expose abuse and cover-up so that what happened to them will not happen to another child,” said Anderson.
This ruling does not say that the Vatican is not responsible for crimes of abuse and cover-up against thousands of children. All it says is that the Vatican can hide behind the archaic Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
“We—and every survivor—know that the only way that priests like Curtis Wehmeyer, Thomas Adamson, and Fidencio Silva-Flores were able be ordained and assigned to parishes is through the explicit permission and knowledge of Vatican officials. Until those officials are forced to turn over documents and sit in a courtroom and testify, children will still be at risk, and survivors will not have complete justice.” – Attorney Jeff Anderson.
For that reason alone, we will continue to fight this legal battle until the Vatican is held accountable for its crimes against children and encourage everyone who was victimized by an employee or volunteer in the Catholic Church to come forward and seek healing and accountability.