Following the decision of a group of plaintiffs in Kentucky to drop a lawsuit against the Holy See, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi praised the move, saying it was “good news” that the allegations were ultimately proven “unfounded.”
On Tuesday, plaintiffs in the case of O'Bryan vs. the Holy See abandoned their lawsuit against the Vatican. Attorney William McMurry attempted to gain class-action status for the case involving three men who claim they were abused by priests decades ago. He also represented 243 sex abuse victims who settled with the Archdiocese of Louisville in 2003 for $25.3 million.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs attempted to implicate Vatican officials – and potentially even the Pope – in allegedly ignoring or covering up the mishandling of clergy sex-abuse cases by American bishops.
Lauding the abandonment of the lawsuit on Aug. 10, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told reporters “it is good news that a case that has lasted six years on the alleged involvement of the Holy See in concealing abuse and which has also had strong negative effects on public opinion, has ultimately been proven … unfounded.”
Fr. Lombardi also said that the outcome does not in any way diminish the Vatican's condemnation of sexual abuse or compassion for the victims.
“Justice for victims of sexual abuse and the protection of minors remain our primary objective,” he explained.
Vatican Radio reported on Tuesday that lawyers for the plaintiffs said earlier court rulings recognizing the sovereign immunity of the Holy See influenced the outcome, as well as the fact that most victims have already sought compensation from their dioceses.
Jeffrey Lena, the American lawyer for the Holy See, said the dropping of the Kentucky case shows there has never been a Vatican policy requiring concealment of child sexual abuse.
Lena added that although the case against the Holy See always lacked merit, it does not mean that the plaintiffs themselves did not suffer as a result of sexual abuse. The attempted lawsuit, he said, only served to distract from the important goal of protecting children from harm.