Newly released documents from the Vatican have now been translated. That’s allowed lawyers on both sides of an Oregon clergy sex abuse case to pore over the records.
Who controls priests is important, because so far the Vatican has avoided being held liable for sex abuse by priests. It has claimed sovereign authority and sovereign authorities cannot be sued — except under extraordinary circumstances.
Attorney Marci Hamilton is trying to prove those circumstances by showing the Vatican knew that priest Andrew Ronan abused children in Ireland and Chicago before being sent to Oregon in 1965.
Hamilton is representing a Washington man who claims Ronan molested him in Oregon. She read the set of documents over the weekend.
“It’s chilling. It’s absolutely chilling. And it’s very clear that there’s one concern and one concern only, and that’s secrecy,” Hamilton said.
The documents were released last week. But lawyers are only now reacting because the records needed to be translated from Latin and Italian.
Hamilton says they clearly show churches and their priests are under the control of the Vatican.
“In order to remove Ronan, even though everyone seems to have known that he was abusing children, the only way to remove him was to petition the Pope, petition the Holy See, and ask permission to remove him from the priestly state. And unless the Pope agrees he remains a priest,” she added.
Vatican attorney, Jeffrey Lena, says there’s nothing in the documents to show the Vatican had knowledge that Ronan abused children before he was stripped of his clerical duties.
“The papers do not show in any way or form that the Holy See either transfered Ronan or had knowledge of Ronan’s abusive tendencies until after the laitization of Ronan in 1966,” Lena said.
Ronan died in 1992.
The documents were released on the order of a federal judge in Portland. If the court decides there is enough information in them to proceed, then the Vatican will be asked for many more papers.