Lawyer: Vatican thinks it’s ‘above the law’

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StarTribune Local

Updated: August 22, 2011 – 9:37 PM

Article by: ALLIE SHAH , Star Tribune

Jeff Anderson says the historic release of more than 1,800 papers tied to a 2002 sex-abuse case is incomplete.

A St. Paul lawyer on Monday called the Vatican’s court-ordered release of more than 1,800 pages of documents “deficient, but revealing.”

Jeff Anderson, whose law practice has specialized in abuse lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church for decades, told reporters at a news conference that the documents released last week were a “small fraction” of what was required by a federal judge in an Oregon sex abuse case.

Standing in front of the stack of released papers, Anderson said the documents, written in both English and Latin, show church officials at the highest level knew about the accusations against the priest in the case.

“This is a secretive, deceptive, incomplete production at best,” he said, “and in my view, typical of the Vatican’s view that they’re above the law.”

But an attorney for the Vatican, Jeffrey Lena, insisted the Vatican has released everything ordered by the court.

“There’s been no withholding of documents,” he said.

This is the first time the Vatican has turned over such documents in response to a sex-abuse lawsuit.

Anderson vowed to push for the release of more information.

Anderson is representing an unidentified Oregon man who filed suit in 2002, alleging he was sexually abused as a teenager by the Rev. Andrew Ronan in the mid-1960s.

The priest was reassigned to Oregon after being accused of similar abuses in parishes in Chicago and Ireland. He left the priesthood in 1966 and died in 1992.

Anderson has argued that the Vatican can be sued for sexual abuse if church officials have knowledge about accusations made against priests and reassign them to other parishes.

The Vatican has countered that U.S. courts lack jurisdiction over the church. But a recent appeals court decision ruled the 2002 case falls under an exception for employees acting within the scope of their employment.

Anderson pointed to two letters from 1963 and 1966 that he said highlight the Vatican’s pattern of secrecy and desire to avoid scandal.

But Lena said that Anderson is misleading the public with his claims that the letters prove the Vatican knew about and covered up the accusations involving Ronan.

The letters, Lena argued, prove that although the people in Ronan’s order, the Friar Servants of Mary, knew about Ronan’s abuse allegations, the Vatican didn’t until the order petitioned for him to be removed of his priestly duties.

“He’s making a connection between the order, which has its headquarters in Rome, and the Holy See,” Lena said. “The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has already been very clear that you can’t attribute a knowledge of the order to the Holy See.”

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488

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U.S. lawyer says Vatican knew of priest’s sex abuse

Thomson Reuters News & Insight

22 August 2011 

MINNEAPOLIS, Aug 22 (Reuters) – A lawyer representing a victim of priest abuse in a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic church said on Monday Vatican documents show the church hierarchy and the pope were ultimately responsible.

A lawyer for the church disagreed, saying the newly released documents show the Holy See was not involved in the offending priest’s transfer from Ireland to Chicago and then to Portland, Oregon, where the victim was a minor in the 1960s.

In April, U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman in Oregon ordered the Vatican to produce documents in the case that alleged a cover-up of priest sex abuse.

At the time, the judge’s order was termed a “historic step” by attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who sued the Holy See in Rome and U.S. archdioceses and church officials on behalf of an unnamed man in Oregon.

Anderson said on Monday an analysis of the 1,856 documents written in Latin, Italian and English showed the Vatican had direct control over the placement and laicization of Rev. Andrew Ronan, who left the priesthood in 1966 and died in 1992.

“At all times, Father Andrew Ronan’s life from profession to dismissal was under the control of the Holy See,” a report released by Anderson said.

One document from early 1966 showed that Ronan had asked the Holy See to remove him as a priest. The request was granted that year.

Also among the documents was a letter from a Provincial Minister to the Prior General in Italy in 1966 that said “we believe it will be possible, if the Holy Father will grant Father Ronan’s request, for him to leave quietly and without any open scandal.”

When confronted, Ronan admitted the abuse to his superiors at Our Lady of Benburb, Ireland, according to the documents, but was transferred to a Chicago high school anyway. He abused children there, the documents show, then was transferred to St. Albert’s Church in Portland.

On Monday, Anderson said the documents showed authority stems from “the top of the hierarchy, and that is to the papacy.” He said he would ask for additional documents.

“This is a selective, deceptive, incomplete production at best and in my view typical of the Vatican’s view that they are above the law,” Anderson said.

Jeffrey Lena, a lawyer for the Roman Catholic church in the United States, said the accusations of Vatican involvement in Ronan’s transfers were groundless. The Vatican has long held that its priests are under the local control of bishops.

“Like the documents previously released — and contrary to the plaintiff’s lawyers’ long-standing accusations — the written responses confirm that the Holy See was not involved in Ronan’s transfers and had no prior knowledge that Ronan posed a danger to minors.

“The responses also show that there is no support for the plaintiff’s lawyers’ spurious theory that Ronan was ever the Holy See’s employee,” Lena said.

The case is John V. Doe v. Holy See et al, U.S. District Court, District of Oregon, No. 3:02-cv-00430.

For Doe: Kevin Strever and William Barton of Barton & Strever; Marci Hamilton; Michael Finnegan and Jeffrey Anderson of Jeff Anderson & Associates PA.

For Holy See: Alexis Haller of the Law Office of Alexis Haller; Jeffrey Lena of the Law Office of Jeffrey S. Lena; Thomas Christ and Wendy Margolis of Cosgrave Vergeer Kester.

(Reporting by David Bailey and Andrew Stern)

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