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Appeals Court Allows Vatican Suit for Alleged Abuse Cover-Up

Posted Nov 25, 2008 12:21 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal appeals court has held that the Vatican may be liable for a policy that could have led to a cover-up of child sexual abuse by clergy in the United States.

The ruling by the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the first to hold that the Vatican could be liable for negligence in sexual abuse cases here, the Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.).

The appeals court said the Vatican is a sovereign state that is largely immune from liability, but it could be sued for the actions of U.S. employees carrying out church policies, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. Still to be decided are whether U.S. bishops are Vatican employees and whether they acted pursuant to their employer's orders, according to the Wall Street Journal story.

William McMurry represents three men in the case who claim they were abused as children by priests in Louisville, Ky. "What the court has allowed us to do is proceed against the Vatican for the conduct of the U.S. bishops because of the bishops' failure to ... report child abuse," he told the Wall Street Journal. He is seeking class action status for all U.S. abuse victims.

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