Disclosure of Vatican Letter to Irish Bishops Lends Additional Credibility to Lawsuit in U.S. Federal District Court Against the Holy See.

Jeff Anderson says Oregon case, John V. Doe v. Holy See, will seek additional secret Vatican documents

Statement of Counsel in John V. Doe v. Holy See:

Jeff Anderson:  “The recent discovery of a 1997 letter sent from a Vatican official to Irish bishops warning them not to report child abuse cases to police is an important development that severely undermines claims of Church hierarchy that officials in Rome were not part of a conspiracy to suppress evidence of sexual assaults by Catholic priests.

Link to AP news story

“As counsel in John V. Doe v. Holy See, I believe that the discovery of this letter is merely a foreshadowing of additional ‘smoking guns’ secretly vaulted away in the bowels of the Vatican fortress in Rome.

“The airing of this news gives hope to the thousands of survivors of clergy abuse around the world who have not been able to come forward because of the shame, silence and secrecy imposed upon them by the self-righteous behavior of Church leaders in Rome who, incredibly, believe that they are above the law of countries around the world.

“They are not.  And evidence of that is the United States Supreme Court’s recent denial of the Vatican’s request for the high court to rule on John V. Doe v. Holy See and the Holy See’s argument that they are a foreign government and enjoy sovereign immunity.

“As the discovery of this letter, and the forward moving lawsuit of a courageous Oregon survivor against the Vatican clearly indicate—the very difficult roads traveled by those who suffered childhood sexual abuse by priests will eventually lead to Rome.”


John V. Doe was allegedly abused multiple times in 1965, when he was a minor, by Father Andrew Ronan, in Portland, Oregon. Before Portland, Father Ronan was caught by Catholic Church officials sexually molesting seminarians in Ireland and children in Chicago.  John V. Doe brought suit against the Servites, a religious order, and the Holy See, which is the head of the Catholic Church.

The claims against the Holy See included vicarious liability for the acts of its instrumentalities and domestic corporations, respondeat superior for the actions of Ronan as an alleged employee of the Holy See, and direct liability based on the Holy See’s own negligence in retention and supervision of Ronan, and its failure to warn of his harmful propensities. In response, the Holy See claimed sovereign immunity from suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and moved the court to dismiss the case.

The district court denied the motion to dismiss and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also denied the Holy See’s motion.  As a result, the Holy See petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case on appeal.  Recently the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition and returned the case to the United States District Court for the District of Oregon.

Jeff Anderson, Attorney for the Plaintiff in John V. Doe Versus Holy see, is an internationally known St. Paul, Minnesota-based trial lawyer widely recognized as a pioneer in sexual abuse litigation and has earned a reputation as a tireless champion of civil rights for children and the underprivileged. One of the first trial lawyers in America to publicly and aggressively initiate suits against religious organizations and hold them responsible by utilizing the American civil justice system, Anderson has represented thousands of survivors of sexual abuse by authority figures and clergy and recently has opened Anderson Olivarius Advocates in the United Kingdom.