US sex abuse attorney extends practice against Catholic Church overseas

04 06 2010 Anderson2 Attorney Jeff Anderson appears at one of his high-powered news conferences

Attorney Jeff Anderson, who claims to have won more than $60 million from the U.S. Catholic Church in clerical sex-abuse lawsuits, has extended his practice to the U.K.

Anderson – a lawyer based in St. Paul Minnesota – has filed more than 1,000 sex-abuse cases against the Catholic Church in the U.S. and is starting a new firm in London in the hopes of continuing lawsuits aimed at the Church. The new practice will involve London-based solicitor Ann Olivarius.

The lawyer told the U.K newspaper The Guardian on Jan. 10 that he was "deeply concerned" and had "every reason to know" that the Church was "recycling offenders" – moving them from parish to parish –  and failing to turn in abusive priests to authorities.

Anderson, given his track record, may also try to implicate the Vatican in his U.K. lawsuits.

In recent months, Anderson's most high-profile cases have included suits against the Vatican filed in Oregon, Wisconsin and Kentucky, which have attempted to implicate the Holy See in obstructing justice for clerical perpetrators.

A recent setback for Anderson, however, involved plaintiffs in the Kentucky case – O'Bryan vs. the Holy See – who chose to withdraw their lawsuit in August. Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi reacted to the decision by saying the accusations against the Holy See were ultimately proven “unfounded.”

Earlier court rulings recognizing the sovereign immunity of the Holy See influenced the outcome, as well as the fact that most victims had already sought compensation from their dioceses.

U.S. Vatican lawyer Jeffrey Lena, who has been critical of Anderson's efforts, said at the time that 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.

On the Milwaukee case, which is still currently underway, Lena described the lawsuit as "completely without merit," because it "rehashes old theories already rejected by U.S. courts."

As for the involvement of the Holy See in the case, the Vatican's lawyer told CNA in April 2010 that it had "no role whatsoever in causing plaintiff's injuries," having not known about the cases "until decades after the abuse occurred."

This lawsuit, he said, is "simply the latest attempt by certain U.S. lawyers to use the judicial process as a tool of media relations."

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