July 3, 2010

John V. Doe v. Holy See: Potentially Devastating


The Guardian ran an encouraging article last week on the possible implications of the John V. Doe v. Holy See ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.
...the court's decision that the Vatican does not have legal immunity in a claim of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest could have far-reaching ramifications for the church.
Could this be the beginning of the end of the Roman Catholic Church? I doubt it, but the ruling does appear to call into question the repeated Vatican claims of immunity in cases of Catholic priests raping children.

According to the article, the ruling allows the civil suit brought against by an unnamed plaintiff to proceed against the Vatican. This may open the door to similar suits where it can be alleged that the Vatican served as an employer of priests.

But the real impact of the case appears to be that the Supreme Court rejected the Vatican's claim of immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). This appears to remove one considerable barrier preventing victims of clergy abuse from suing.

I tend to think that it is unrealistic to hope that this brings down the Church. However, I do think we can hope that this case marks the beginning of them being forced to take risk management seriously and adopt effective procedures to protect the children entrusted to their representatives.

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