Giant Step Forward in Vatican Lawsuit
Legal Attack on Vatican System of Secrecy
(St. Paul, MN) – A lawsuit by five clergy sexual abuse survivors against the Vatican is scheduled to be served upon the Holy See on Friday. Attorneys for the five survivors believe the Holy See will likely attempt to refuse service of the lawsuit based on past practices but say the Plaintiffs will not be deterred.
“We know from the past that the Holy See will put up barriers and hurdles to try and prevent the survivors from pursuing justice and accountability with the Vatican,” said attorney Jeff Anderson of Jeff Anderson & Associates, who represents the five Plaintiffs. “But we will continue to pursue this important case and are grateful to the survivors for allowing us to represent them on this journey for truth. In our experience in representing survivors of clergy abuse, we know all roads lead to Rome.”
The lawsuit was filed in federal court on May 14, 2019. The lawsuit alleges the Vatican is engaged in maintaining a public nuisance and public endangerment for allowing known clergy offenders to continue in public ministry through cover-up and reassignment. The five Plaintiffs are asking the court to order the Vatican to release the identities, files and histories held in secrecy by the Vatican of thousands of clergy offenders and top officials; and report all evidence held secretly by the Vatican of clerical crimes to law enforcement worldwide.
Pursuant to the federal rules, all of the legal documents for the lawsuit had to be translated into Latin, said Anderson, whose law firm just recently received the Latin translations. To effectuate service, the original summons and complaint together with the translations were mailed to the Vatican on Wednesday. If the Vatican refuses to accept service of Plaintiffs’ lawsuit on Friday, they will pursue service through the Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. and through diplomatic channels, Anderson said.
Three of the five Plaintiffs were sexually abused by former Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis priest Curtis Wehmeyer, who Archbishop John Nienstedt protected for years. The case reveals Vatican concealment past and present, Anderson said. The Vatican allows Archbishop Nienstedt to remain at large and in good standing, he said.
Another of the Plaintiffs, Manuel Vega, was abused by Fr. Fidencio Silva-Flores, a Missionaries of the Holy Spirit order priest in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who is still at large. The fifth Plaintiff, James Keenan, was sexually abused by Fr. Thomas Adamson in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Keenan is an outspoken leader in enforcing accountability and transparency in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.