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US lawsuit claiming that the Pope covered up abuse is withdrawn

By on Monday, 13 February 2012

Lawyer Jeff Anderson represented the plaintiff (AP)

Lawyer Jeff Anderson represented the plaintiff (AP)

A high-profile lawsuit in the United States accusing Pope Benedict XVI of covering up sexual abuse has been withdrawn.

Lawyers for the plaintiff in John Doe 16 v. Holy See filed a notice of voluntary dismissal last Friday, bringing the case effectively to an end.

The lawsuit was filed in April 2010 in the US District Court in Milwaukee by an unnamed Illinois man who claimed he had been molested by Fr Lawrence Murphy during the latter’s time on the staff of Milwaukee’s St John’s School for the Deaf.

The lawsuit claimed that the Vatican “has known about the widespread problem of childhood sexual abuse committed by its clergy for centuries, but has covered up that abuse and thereby perpetuated the abuse”.

The lawsuit also sought to prove that the Vatican is a global business empire, engaging in “commercial activity” in Wisconsin and across the United States, and holding “unqualified power” over each diocese, parish and follower.

Jeffrey Lena, an American lawyer for the Holy See, welcomed the withdrawal of “fallacious allegations of Holy See responsibility and liability for John Doe 16′s abuse”.

“A case like this one against the Holy See, which was held together by no more than a mendacious web of allegations of international conspiracy, amounted to a misuse of judicial process and a waste of judicial resources,” Mr Lena said in a statement.

The plaintiff was represented by lawyer Jeff Anderson, who has filed thousands of abuse lawsuits against priests and representatives of the Catholic Church. Mr Anderson is still pursuing a sex abuse lawsuit against the Holy See in Oregon. Another such case in Kentucky was withdrawn in 2010.

Fr Murphy worked at the school for the deaf from 1950 to 1974. In the early 1970s, multiple allegations of sexual abuse against the priest were made to civil authorities, who investigated but never brought charges. He was placed on a leave of absence for a while and later returned to pastoral ministry in the Diocese of Superior, where he worked until 1993.

In 1996, then Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee referred Murphy’s case to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Vatican decided not to laicise Fr Murphy, but eventually suggested that he continue to be restricted in ministry, and he died four months later, in 1998.

Pope Benedict was named as a defendant in the case because of his authority to remove priests, and because of his involvement in reviewing sex abuse cases when he was cardinal, as prefect of the doctrinal congregation.

“Mythology about the Catholic Church to the contrary, the Holy See is not responsible for the supervision of the more than 400,000 priests around the world,” Mr Lena said.

Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee, currently in Rome on an ad limina visit to the Vatican, called the outcome of the case a “reminder of the relationship of the Holy See to the dioceses”.

“The Holy See offers the direction we should go” but leaves administrative decisions up to local bishops, Archbishop Listecki said.

“When I studied law they said in tort action that if you wanted, you can go all the way back to blaming Adam and Eve,” the archbishop said. “Reasonable people and society can say: ‘This is where responsibility ends’.”

  • Sszorin

    Yes, Adam and Eve, and even a bit further. If there was no life, there would be no abuse.

  • Anonymous

    Adam doesn’t have authority over 4,000 bishops who have authority over 400,000 priests. The Pope does. According to Vatican I he has “supreme, full, immediate jurisdiction” over all Catholics. This implues that he has “supreme, full, immediate jurisdiction” over all Catholic priests.  And haas therefore – assuming the Pope to be a Catholic bishop of considerable authoruity in the CC – authority over them, & therefore, moral responsibility for them. He cannot  dodge to & fro between a Christian bishop, & a head of state: If he falls short as a bishop, he cannot hide behind diplomatic immunity. He has to take responsibility for his actions. Jesus, whose Vicar the Pope claims to be, did not leave the weak to the mercies of the strong – that is what Popes do.

  • Bruce Roeder

     And according to the report, the Holy See provided all of its records regarding this situation and they showed Rome was first notified of this case one year after the abuse had taken place and laicized the priest within weeks.Looks like best example this grandstanding lawyer could use only managed to point out where the Vatican acted appropriately and swiftly. No wonder he withdrew this case. This was headline stuff for the mainstream media when it was filed in 2010 – how come only small Catholic media are carrying this significant end of the case?

  • Cal-J

    Look again. There are more than 400,000 priests in the world that the Holy See does not “supervise”. These priests are directly under the supervision of their particular bishop, who may or may not tell the pope the problems. The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, and oversees the priests below him.

    The problem here is that the Bishops responsible to the Pope may not be doing their jobs.

  • TMLutas

    In accordance to your theory, the Pope should be named in any civil lawsuit against any Catholic. Should he share in the verdict in any judgment won by any Catholic too or is this a one way money transfer?