Pope sued by man claiming Vatican knew about school abuse priest
A MAN who says he was molested by a US priest as a child filed a federal lawsuit yesterday accusing Pope Benedict and senior Vatican officials of failing to protect children.
The suit filed by a man from Illinois also claims that the Vatican knew that the cleric was a possible child molester.
The plaintiff, who was not identified in court papers, said he was repeatedly molested by the Rev Lawrence Murphy while he was a student at the Milwaukee-area St John's School for the Deaf in Wisconsin. The lawsuit says abuse occurred over a number of years and included incidents where Fr Murphy solicited sex in the confessional.
It seeks the release of confidential Vatican files detailing clergy abuse allegations, as well as unspecified monetary damages. It also seeks a jury trial. The lawsuit doesn't list the years of the alleged abuse. Fr Murphy taught at the school from 1950 to 1974. Fr Murphy, who died in 1998, is accused of sexually abusing some 200 boys at the school during that period. His case drew renewed scrutiny after the recent release of documents suggesting that a Vatican office led by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger failed to aggressively discipline Murphy.
The accuser said he wrote two letters to Vatican official Angelo Sodano reporting the abuse and asking for help.
The lawsuit says Cardinals Sodano, Ratzinger and fellow Vatican official Tarcisio Bertone all knew about the allegations and conspired to keep them secret. The claims are based on "information and belief" but don't offer proof.
The court document suggests that the Vatican failed to discipline Murphy because he was a prolific fundraiser. The defendants are the Pope, Dr Bertone, Dr Sodano and the Holy See.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev Federico Lombardi, has previously said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was only informed of the Murphy case some 20 years after the diocese knew of the allegations and after civil authorities decided to drop their investigation.
Rev Lombardi has said that given Fr Murphy's age and health, and that no further allegations had been levelled against him, the Congregation suggested that the Wisconsin bishops restrict his ministry rather than stage a full-blown canonical trial against him.
He died while still a defendant in a canonical trial.