ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — For more than three decades St. Paul attorney, Jeff Anderson, has pursued clergy sex abuse cases against the Catholic Church.
His latest suit is seeking much more than punitive damages for his plaintiffs – it seeks a Federal Court order to force the Vatican to release names of accused clergy, their case histories and those who kept the alleged cases out of public view.
“This is a 71-page complaint brought in Federal District Court,” explained Anderson at a Tuesday news conference.
The lawsuit filed in St. Paul seeks the release of decades worth of information on clergy sex abuse within the Catholic Church. Anderson says the alleged cover-up dates back to a 1962 decree from Pope John Paul which kept a tight lid on cases of clergy sex abuse within the church.
Former California police officer and Marine sniper Manuel Vega is among the five named plaintiffs. Vega was abused as a young choirboy and says his abuser priest remains on the lam.
“We need to hold all those who knew about it responsible, accountable for their actions,” says Vega. “That’s what we’re looking for, looking to get at the truth.”
Attorney Anderson says the Vatican is not shielded by a “sovereign immunity” claim. Which was struck down in prior cases filed against the church hierarchy. This current case seeks a Federal Court order to force the release of names of all credibly accused, estimated at over 10-thousand.
“Because it is the Vatican and the Pope, both present and past, that have made a conscious choice to keep all of that secret,” explains Anderson.
A recent decree from Pope Francis on clergy abuse stops short of requiring full disclosure to law enforcement. While an attempt to deal more openly on the clergy abuse scandal which has rocked the church, Anderson says it still places priority with the church, not the judicial system and to victims.
Ben Hoffman and his two brothers were all abused as children growing up in the church. Hoffman said he decided to take on the Vatican in the lawsuit to protect his young son.
Explains Hoffman, “I never want to go into church where I need to question the fact my son is safe, nobody should. The church is a beautiful place and I want it to go back to being that way.”
Plaintiff Jim Keenan hopes for the same, adding, “I came forward today to sue the Vatican and the Pope because it needs to stop. They’re not above us and in fact, they should be setting the bar.”