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Americas

Alleged victim sues pope, Vatican for release of sex abuse files

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-04-23

An alleged victim of sexual abuse by a US priest is suing the pope and the Vatican in an attempt to open the Catholic Church's internal files on its investigations into claims of abuse.

AFP - The alleged victim of a US priest accused of being a serial pedophile sued the pope and the Vatican on Thursday in an attempt to open secret files containing internal investigations into sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.
   
"There is a painful and long history of the Vatican and the top officials ... muffling and suppressing the truth and protecting themselves and their own reputation instead of protecting the children," attorney Jeff Anderson said at a press conference.
   
"This suit demands further action by the Vatican and the removal of every single priest that has offended a single child and every single bishop and cardinal that has been complicit in those crimes."
   
Anderson, who has spent decades pursuing justice for victims of child sex abuse, said the case is far broader than a suit he brought against the Vatican in 2002 and is "unprecedented" in its scope and demands.
   
That case is currently before the Supreme Court to determine whether the Vatican, which claims sovereign immunity, can be sued in a US court.
   
Thursday's lawsuit was filed on behalf of an unnamed alleged victim of a serial pedophile priest called Father Lawrence Murphy, who is accused of molesting up to 200 boys at a school for the deaf in Wisconsin.
   
It is the fifth case Anderson has brought forward on behalf of Murphy's victims.
   
He released documents in March showing that Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was made aware of the allegations against Murphy in 1996 but took no action.
   
Anderson said that while Murphy's abuse was reported to the archbishop in the 1950's and to local law enforcement in 1974, he remained a priest in good standing until his death in 1998.
   
Already under pressure from a slew of scandals spreading across Europe, the Vatican vigorously defended the pope, arguing that Ratzinger's office chose not to begin defrocking proceedings against Murphy due to his ill health and seclusion.
   
Benedict XVI on Wednesday said the Roman Catholic Church was taking action against the scourge of pedophile priests and "shared" the suffering of abuse victims.
   
Anderson dismissed the pope's assurances as "lip service."
   
He insisted that the only action which would satisfy victims and protect children would be to open the Vatican sex abuse files to the public so parents can be warned of abusers in their parish and law enforcement officials across the globe can initiate prosecution.
   
"The hot light of scrutiny needs to be put on their actions," he told reporters.
   
"We demand and require... (that the Church) remove the priests who they know to be offenders or suspect immediately - not years later. Protect the kids. Don't worry so much about your reputation."
   
A 55-page civil complaint filed in a Wisconsin federal court details an alleged decades-long coverup of Murphy's rampant abuse and the Church's "secret policy" of harboring and protecting abusive clergy worldwide.
   
It argues that the Vatican, the pope and other top officials named in the suit should not be granted immunity because the Church engaged in commercial activity in the United States and the crimes are sufficiently grievous to satisfy exceptions written into the law.
   
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, issued a statement hailing the lawsuit.
   
"We applaud this brave victim for coming forward, seeking justice, pushing for more openness, and releasing his heartbreaking appeals to Rome," the group said in a statement.
   
"Before real remedies can be implemented, it's crucial that we know more of the truth about the recklessness and duplicity of Catholic officials. Sadly, legal action seems to be the only way to really get the truth exposed."
 

Date created : 2010-04-23

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