Rome responsible for clerical abuse procedures, say lawyers

 

LAWYERS FOR a man abused as a child by Fr Andrew Ronan have said internal Vatican documents show “policy and protocol” surrounding clerical abuse in the Catholic church ultimately rests with the Holy See.

The alleged victim, John V Doe as he is known in court documents, is seeking to hold the Vatican liable for allegedly being abused by the late Fr Ronan in 1965 or early 1966 when he was 15 or 16 years old.

He brought the case against the Vatican over nine years ago relating to abuse he alleged suffered by the former priest who died in 1992.

Lawyer Jeffrey Anderson, representing the plaintiff, received 1,800 pages of internal Vatican documents last Friday after a court in Oregon ordered that it release files relating to the case.

“All policies, all protocols, all laws pertaining to the control of priests and sexual abuse come from the top – the top is the Holy See,” Mr Anderson said.

“What these documents show is that the Vatican and the Holy See … makes the decisions, interprets the protocols, establishes the policies, enforces the policies and the practices concerning every priest globally and this priest in particular and requires two things – absolute secrecy and absolute avoidance of scandal,” Mr Anderson added.

He cited two letters, one of which references Fr Ronan’s time in a seminary in Ireland where he engaged in “homosexuality with the students”, a discovery made in 1959 after which he was moved to the US. Marci A Hamilton, counsel of record to the law firm and a legal scholar, said that documentation released by the Vatican, showed proof of the Catholic Church’s “pattern and practice of secrecy”.

“They require secrecy – secrecy is required for child sex abuse from the top down. These documents further support that,” Ms Hamilton said.

“Basically they establish that secrecy is mandated from the top, that Andrew Ronan was part of the system that the Holy See controls, that they controlled him specifically and that could not possibly have left his position where he was abusing children . . . without direct decisions by the Holy See and the Pope himself.”

She added that the documents, which run to 1,800 pages, did not contain all the available information relating to the case.

Vatican lawyer Jeffrey Lena yesterday labelled the press conference led by Mr Anderson as “another unfortunate attempt to mislead the public”. He said while the lawyers were suggesting that two letters addressed to the Servite Order’s prior general showed that the Holy See had prior knowledge of Fr Ronan’s misconduct.

He said the letters were received by the Holy See “only after” the alleged abuse took place and actually prove that knowledge regarding Ronan’s misconduct remained within the Servite Order until the priest petitioned for laicization in 1966.

He added the released documentation “represents all known documents relating to Ronan held by the Roman Curia”.