Pedophile priest case vs. Pope takes big step forward

For immediate release:  Friday, Oct. 1

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Pedophile priest case vs. Pope takes big step forward

For first time ever, judge asks for Vatican’s help in sex suit

Deaf victim from Wisconsin school “moves closer to justice

A deaf man is one step closer to forcing Pope Benedict and two of his top aides to answer for their actions in the case of a notorious serial predator priest.

For the first time ever in a clergy sex abuse case, a US federal judge has issued three, two-page court documents asking for the Vatican’s cooperation in serving a suit on the Catholic church’s three highest-ranking officials –  Joseph Ratzinger, Tarcisio Bertone, and Angelo Sodano.  

Ratzinger is Pope Benedict’s given name, Bertone is the Vatican Secretary of State and Sodano is Bertone’s predecessor.

Judge Rudolph T. Randa of US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee is formally asking “in the interests of justice. . .the appropriate (Vatican) judicial authority. . . to effect service of process of the Amended Summons in a civil action, complaint and certified translations” on the three church leaders.

“The Vatican routinely makes service of process difficult for child sex abuse victims,” said Professor Marci Hamilton. “The judge’s decision will remove the first technicality the Vatican typically uses to try and delay and avoid liability for its actions that created the conditions for childhood sexual abuse by its clergy.  The Court has moved the victims of heinous crimes closer to justice.”


The case involves Terry Kohut of Wisconsin who was repeatedly molested by Fr. Lawrence Murphy at St. Johns School for the Deaf in Milwaukee. Some estimate that Murphy abused more than 200 boys at the boarding school.

Long secret church records obtained by Kohut’s attorneys show that then-Cardinal Ratzinger delayed defrocking Murphy long after multiple allegations of his extensive abuse had surfaced. Milwaukee’s archbishop repeatedly begged the Vatican to act but Murphy died still a priest in good standing.

Kohut filed his suit in April as a “John Doe,” but last weekend disclosed his identity and was featured on a one hour CNN special called “What the Pope Knew.”

 “This brave victim is one step closer to forcing the world’s top three Catholic officials to answer for their callous disregard for children’s safety,” said Mike Finnegan of St. Paul Minnesota, one of the alleged victim’s attorneys. “We hope each of the 200 men who were assaulted by this predator can take comfort in the fact that the Pope and his closest aides are moving closer toward a day of reckoning for their recklessness.”

“We’re encouraged that a judge is helping to move this arduous process forward,” said Finnegan.

“We applaud any step that speeds up an already a dreadfully long and tough effort to expose clergy sex crimes and cover ups,” said Peter Isely of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priest, a Chicago-based support group. “While our hearts ache for the suffering of Terry and his classmates, at the same time, we are very grateful to him for his tenacity.”

The formal legal term for the judge’s request for is “letters rogatory.” Copies of the judge’s decision are posted at

The case was filed on April 22 and the request for letters rogatory were sent to the court on Sept. 9.