VATICAN CITY (RNS) A prominent sex abuse lawyer has dropped a high-stakes lawsuit that sought to hold Pope Benedict XVI and other top church officials responsible for a clergy sexual abuse case.
The Vatican’s U.S. attorney, Jeffrey S. Lena, welcomed the decision to drop the suit on Friday (Feb. 10), saying the case was “held together by no more than a mendacious web of allegations of international conspiracy.”
The plaintiff’s attorney, Jeffrey Anderson, said the case was withdrawn as a consequence of progress in a separate court case involving the bankruptcy bid of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
The case involved the victims of the late Rev. Lawrence Murphy, a priest who was accused of molesting some 200 boys at the Milwaukee-area St. John’s School for the Deaf between 1950 and 1974.
Documents published by The New York Times in March 2010 showed that, in 1998, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — led by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI — refused to defrock Murphy despite requests from U.S. bishops involved in the case.
The Vatican’s top spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, explained at the time that the Vatican had taken into account Murphy’s old age and ill health.
Anderson had argued that the documents demonstrated that the Vatican’s leadership had direct responsibility in protecting abusive priests. His suit had named Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, and his predecessor, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, as co-defendants in the case with Benedict.
Lena said “the Holy See is not responsible for the supervision of the more than 400,000 priests around the world.” The Vatican declined to add further comment on the case, referring to Lena’s statement.