The Course of Reason

Diplomatic Immunity Has Just Been Revoked

June 30, 2010

Supreme Court declines to hear the Vatican's appeal of John V. Doe vs. Holy See

In order to avoid lawsuit for the molestation of children in the charge of their priests in the United States, the Vatican has attempted to claim immunity to such suits under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.  The FSIA gives diplomats and their employees immunity to criminal charges while in the United States, deferring to international courts to try them for their crimes.  The Obama administration has even gone to bat for the Vatican on that front:

The Obama administration in a brief to the Supreme Court has backed the Vatican's claim of immunity from lawsuits arising from cases of sexual abuse by priests in the United States.

However, last Monday the Supreme Court declined to hear the Vatican's appeal:

...the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the Vatican appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court ruling in the case of John V. Doe v. Holy See. This effectively removes the Vatican's claim of legal immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 and opens the door for priests, Vatican officials, and even the Pope to be sued, arrested and/or held to Justice in these United States.

This could get really interesting since there are a lot of potential lawsuits out there.  The first instance that comes to mind is that of Lawrence C. Murphy, the Wisconsin priest who molested two hundred deaf boys.  But there are plenty more cases in the United States.  According to the John Jay Report (a report commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops) the numbers for abuse cases in the Catholic church in the United States alone look like this:

  • Of the 11,000 allegations, 3300 were not investigated because the allegations were made after the accused priest had died. 6700 allegations were substantiated, leaving 1000 which could not be substantiated.
  • 56% of the priests were accused of a single allegation. 44.4% of the priests were the subject of more than one allegation. 3.5% of the priests were the subject of ten or more allegations.
  • Just under 6% of victims were 7 years of age or younger. 16% of the victims were between age 8 and age 10. 78% of the victims were between age 11 and age 17.

The Catholic church has a lot of money, and they have never shown reticence to put that money to use shielding pedophilic priests before.  Presumably they will now have that opportunity in droves in the courtroom—and not a minute too soon.



#1 Ani Sharmin on Wednesday June 30, 2010 at 4:54pm

Thanks for writing. Here's to hoping that people will realize that religious leaders should have to follow the same laws as everyone else and not be able to get away with hurting others. I look forward to reading more entries on this blog!




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