October 07, 2005

Vatican enjoys foreign immunity in abuse case

USA Today

VATICAN CITY (AP) A federal judge in Kentucky has ruled that the Holy See is a foreign state that enjoys certain immunity protections, placing restrictions on a lawsuit by three men who allege the Vatican covered up the sexual abuse of children by priests.

According to a ruling obtained Friday by The Associated Press, Judge John G. Heyburn II of the U.S. District Court in Louisville rejected the victims' argument that the Holy See is an international religious organization and ruled that it is a foreign state subject to provisions of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

The ruling is significant because it says that the Holy See's religious activity is irrelevant to the immunity protections it enjoys as a foreign state. It could have implications for other cases in which the Holy See is named as a defendant in the clerical sexual abuse scandal.

The 1976 act restricts when foreign states can be sued in American courts, although it provides exceptions, such as when the states engage in commercial or certain harmful activities in the United States.

The act also requires that service of a lawsuit follow strict protocols. In this case, it required documents to be translated into Latin and served to the Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo.

Posted by kshaw at October 7, 2005 07:26 PM