Vatican will tell US court that it has no authority over bishops
Published 18/05/2010 | 05:00
The Vatican has insisted it is not responsible for sex-abuse cases in America because bishops are not technically employees.
It has made the claim in response to court cases relating to incidents in which bishops knew about paedophile priests but failed to tell the authorities.
Plaintiffs who filed lawsuits in Louisville, Kentucky, said the church should be held to account. But Vatican lawyers said they will argue bishops are not paid by Rome and therefore not technically its responsibility.
Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican's US lawyer, said that bishops' relationship with the Vatican was "religious" rather than "civil" so they were not liable under normal employment laws.
The church is also anxious to block the demands of victims' lawyers that Pope Benedict should be called to appear in court. The Vatican contends that as the head of a sovereign state the Pontiff enjoys immunity from prosecution.
An alleged victim of a paedophile priest in Wisconsin last month filed a lawsuit against the Pope, Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals.
In its case, the Vatican will insist that bishops are not its employees and that a 1962 Vatican document did not require them to keep quiet.
Mr Lena said it would include a response to claims that the 1962 document 'Crimen Sollicitationis' -- Latin for "crimes of solicitation" -- barred bishops from reporting abuse to police.
The lawyer behind the Kentucky case, William McMurry, said the document was "evidence of a 'written' policy that demands no mention be made by a bishop of priest sex abuse," he said.
The case was filed in 2004 by three men who claim they were abused by priests and claim negligence by the Vatican. (© Daily Telegraph, London)