Vatican lost bid for immunity in Oregon clergy abuse lawsuit

On June 7, 2006, a federal judge in Oregon allowed a sexual abuse lawsuit against the Catholic Church to move forward, rejecting the Vatican's bid to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction. The ruling allowed a Seattle-area man to continue with his claim that the Holy See is liable for transferring Reverend Andrew Ronan from Ireland to Chicago to Portland, even though the Church knew Ronan had a history of sexual abuse. The lawsuit, filed in 2002 in the US District Court for the District of Oregon, alleged that the Vatican, the Archdiocese of Portland and the archbishop of Chicago conspired to protect Ronan by transferring him from city to city. The court ruled that Ronan was an employee of the Vatican under Oregon law and that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which typically grants foreign states immunity in US courts, did not shield the Vatican from liability. Despite proceeding on this legal theory, the district court ruled in August 2012 that the evidence presented does not establish an employee-employer relationship between Ronan and the Holy See.


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Learn more about clergy abuse lawsuits from the JURIST news archive, and read commentary on the suits from Thomas Moran and J. Michael Ritty on JURIST Hotline.

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