Lawyer For Wis. Accuser: Vatican Rejected Lawsuit

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The attorney for a man who says he was sexually abused decades ago by a now-deceased priest at a Wisconsin school for the deaf alleged Sunday that the Vatican refused to be served with a lawsuit over the matter.

St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who frequently clashes with the Catholic hierarchy over abuse allegations, said Sunday in a news release that his office tried to serve the lawsuit naming as defendants Pope Benedict XVI and other high-ranking officials at the Vatican, but that it was returned via Federal Express.

Anderson’s client, listed in court papers as John Doe, is a deaf man from Illinois who alleged in his lawsuit that the late Rev. Lawrence Murphy molested him for a number of years while Murphy worked at a Milwaukee-area school for the deaf. The lawsuit contends that Pope Benedict and other Vatican officials conspired to keep quiet decades of abuse allegations against Murphy.

Anderson did not immediately return a call Sunday seeking comment. According to his release, he is planning a news conference Monday in which he’ll accuse the Vatican of “dragging out the healing of deaf victims.”

Jeffrey Lena, the U.S.-based attorney for the Vatican, said in an e-mail Sunday that the lawsuit should have been served through diplomatic channels as would be done with any foreign state. He wrote that holding a news conference on such a matter “is really just a form of grandstanding by Mr. Anderson for the press and the public.”

A U.S. federal judge had in October asked the Vatican to cooperate in serving court papers to the pope and two other Vatican officials, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Cardinal Angelo Sodano. The Vatican is not obliged to comply with such requests.

Murphy, who died in 1998, has been accused of sexually abusing some 200 boys at the deaf school from 1950 to 1974. In 1996, Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland had complained about Murphy in a letter to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the powerful Vatican office led by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 1981 until he became pope in 2005.

That office initially ordered Weakland to hold a canonical trial against Murphy in 1997, but later changed course after a letter from the accused. The Vatican noted Murphy’s advanced age, failing health and lack of further allegations.

The Vatican argues it’s not liable for clerical sex-abuse cases under canon law and a church structure that holds bishops — and not Rome — responsible for disciplining pedophile priests.

Plaintiffs in a similar case in Oregon have sued the Vatican using a similar approach. Anderson represents clients in that proceeding as well, and on numerous occasions has expressed a desire to hold prominent Vatican leaders liable for sexual abuse by priests.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • helper

    The church is disgusting! I think their ruling time has come to an end…

  • mary

    hey sorry about that However the priests are normal too they have needs I don’t like what SOME of them have done, BUT I have heard of other pastors, rev. and other church officials from not just Catholics but Lutheran and other religions have done the same thing but it is not as big of a deal as with the Catholic priests

  • Grammy

    The Roman Catholic church has been corrupt since the Middle Ages. Human tradition is as important to Catholics as what the Bible says. I think that’s wrong and we are seeing the bad fruit from that approach in the lives of abused children. The church needs to look at its history and make some BIG changes.

  • ttt

    the catholic church is for fools and as such have been preyed upon by the church’s preists whom i believe many went into that field for that reason alone. It is and always has been a perfect forum to prey on people and have very little to worry about in terms of reproach or prosecution——until now. The roman catholic church is evil hiding behind the facade of holiness…..know it, believe it.

    • Shelly

      Believe it or not there are pedifiles in other churches as well. It is too bad that good Catholics/Christians are lumped together with the ones who are doing evil. With this type of logic should we then say that all poliice officers, teachers, doctors are curupt because one has done a great evil? Lay off the Catholic Church! Think before you sterotype someone! This can apply any group you you choose- Whites, Blacks, Latina or …. shall I go on?

  • Victim Du Jour

    Public Schools are sexually abusing kids more frequently than anyone.

    I bet DFL school teachers have sexually abused more children in the past few years than the entire history of the catholic church in the State of Minnesota.

    Perhaps if Priests paid Union dues to the DFL, the media won’t talk about them.

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  • helper

    Victim Du Jour sounds like he’s s pedofile. What a freak!

    • Victim Du Jour

      Is that like being falsely accused of being a communist or a pinko during McCarthy era?

      Bring it on schizo!

  • drawa

    Pedophiles are everywhere. The percentage of priests who offend is lower than that of the regular population. BUT, of course, Jeffrey Anderson will only go after
    PRIESTS who are pedophiles to get his name out there and also the $$$ from the
    Catholic church. He will not go after any broke pedophile where there is no money or fame.

  • T

    Some comments above miss the larger point: the vatican covered up crimes, plain and simple. There are bad individuals in many aspects of society, but crimes should not be covered up.

  • DaveM

    Just nail the papers to the church door of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome ala Martin Luther.

  • Victim Du Jour

    Local Media plays down and ignores DFL public school sex abuse, especially involving school teachers during the 70’s.

    The media establishment is the bishops for public school sex abuse.

  • JAmo

    The reason why sexual abuse in the catholic church is such a huge topic now is because of the coverups the church did and all the shuffling of priests that occured if someone accused them of sexual abuse. These are not current cases and Sexual Abuse is taken much more seriously these days and is dealt with in a serious manner whereas back in the 1950’s it was unconceivable for a PRIEST to commit a crime. ANd in regard to Jeff Anderson you might want to look into the real reason why he is so supportive of victims of sexual abuse by clergy members, When you find out his story about one of his first clients I’m sure your opnion will change he is not in it for the money

    • Victim Du Jour

      Public Schools passed the trash before anyone had sex abuse policies too.

      A Colorado school teacher just got busted in a school parking lot having sex with a student, and the only newspaper reporting it is in England.

      So I have to believe Preists are being used by the media to gloss over public school sex abuse.

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