A federal law that allows U.S. courts to hear lawsuits involving human rights
violations in other nations can be used in a case involving Catholic clergy sex
abuse, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled on Monday.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Josephine S. Tucker appears to be the
first time the 200-year-old Alien Tort Statute has been used to pursue a sex
abuse claim against the Catholic Church. And it illustrates the increasing
international reach of victims attorney Jeffrey Anderson of St. Paul, Minn., who
is suing the Vatican and has opened a practice in London to pursue cases in the
United Kingdom. Anderson represents a number of victims in civil fraud cases
against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
“This is huge, very significant,” said Anderson, who filed the case on behalf
of a Mexican boy after seeing the law used to bring cases involving Japanese
women conscripted as sex slaves in World War II.
Attorneys and a spokesman for retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony did
not immediately return calls.
In her ruling Monday, Tucker denied a motion to dismiss by lawyers for
Mahony, arguing that the federal court did not have jurisdiction. The lawsuit
also names as defendants Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera and Father
Nicholas Aguilar Rivera.
Aguilar is accused of molesting 60 children in Mexico before he was sent to
Los Angeles, where he is accused of molesting 26 others. He returned to Mexico,
where he allegedly molested four more children – including Juan Doe 1 named in
the Alien Tort Statute case – and his whereabouts are unknown, Anderson