A U.S. court could have jurisdiction over a foreign state (The Vatican)

Re Court lets Vatican-sex abuse lawsuit move forward.
From Scott P. Richert’s blog:

The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by the Vatican in the case of Holy See v. John Doe, which allows the case to proceed in an Oregon court. Brought by infamous sex-abuse lawyer Jeffrey Anderson, the case involves allegations of abuse against a priest, Fr. Andrew Ronan, who died in 1992.

There are two surprising and disturbing aspects to the Court’s decision. Lower federal courts have accepted Anderson’s arguments that the Vatican, though a sovereign state, is not covered by the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, and that priests should be considered employees of the Vatican, rather than of their dioceses. (In a similar case in Kentucky, a lawyer has made the argument that bishops are employees of the Vatican, in order to try to convince a federal judge to allow him to force Pope Benedict XVI to give a deposition.)

The idea that a U.S. court could have jurisdiction over a foreign state is ridiculous on its face, and anyone who knows anything about the structure of the Catholic Church could testify that priests are not employees of the Vatican. Why, then, did the Supreme Court let the lower-court decision stand?

Why, then, did the Supreme Court let the lower-court decision stand?

Our three choices are:

  1. ignorance
  2. apathy
  3. malice

After starting this thread I started reading the ‘comments’ left on the blog.

I found the response to the first one quite interesting. Here is the first response followed by Scott’s response. Great response!

  1. janet marsh says:
It is about time that someone has been made to take
responsibility for the crimes committed. A trial will set
the record straight.
Remember, it is said by saint { who } that the floor of
Hell is covered with the skulls of Bishops. I do not remember
which one. Also, silence is complicity. Need I say more?
One of many thousands dis illusioned Catholic. Who is
going to take the responsibility of the thousands upon
thousands that have lost the Catholic Faith? Do you have
an answer for that?
janet marsh
hastings, ny

(2) Scott P. Richert says:

Janet, that quotation is ascribed to St. John Chrysostom, who may or may not have actually said it. Most accounts say that he was referring to Arian (heretical) bishops.
As for the rest of your comment, you’re wrong. A lawsuit against the Vatican will not make someone take responsibility. It will attempt to place responsibility for specific actions on Pope Benedict and others who had no direct authority over the priests in question.
It would be as if you had a minor grandson who lived on the other side of the world and committed a crime, and rather than arresting him or filing a civil suit against his parents, a lawyer attempted to sue you for his actions. Surely you would regard such a lawsuit as unjust.
As Jeffrey Anderson has made clear, his many lawsuits aren’t about “setting the record straight,” but about making money and attempting to destroy the Catholic Church. That is why he has tried repeatedly to sue the Vatican directly. His Da Vinci Code conspiracy theories about the Catholic Church have no basis in reality.
Finally, you ask, “Who is going to take the responsibility of the thousands upon thousands that have lost the Catholic Faith?” There are two answers: First, those who brought about the scandal that led some to lose their faith will pay in the next life–no doubt about it. God is merciful, but He is also just.
Second, those who have used the scandal as a pretext for abandoning their faith, rather than strengthening it, will answer for their own failings.

There are exceptions to the Foreign Immunity Act:

§ 1605. General exceptions to the jurisdictional immunity of a foreign state
(a) A foreign state shall not be immune from the jurisdiction of courts of the United States or of the States in any case—

(5) in which money damages are sought against a foreign state for personal injury or death, or damage to or loss of property, occurring in the United States and caused by the tortious act or omission of that foreign state or of any official or employee of that foreign state while acting within the scope of his office or employment… ](http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/28/usc_sec_28_00001605----000-.html)

As of now the Supreme Court has simply decided to stay out of the question of whether priests and bishops are Vatican employees. It’ll let the lower courts shake it all out and then consider acting on any appeals…

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