Judges reject immunity plea in Irish priest case

By John Cooney

AMERICA’s highest court has cleared the way for a lawsuit against Pope Benedict by refusing to entertain Vatican immunity in a case involving an Irish priest.

The Government is studying the landmark decision by the US Supreme Court, which could have major implications for Ireland’s relations with the Vatican in the cover-up of paedophile clerics.

In Washington, the supreme court refused to consider whether the Vatican enjoyed legal immunity over the sexual abuse of minors by priests in the US, thereby allowing a lawsuit filed in 2002 to proceed.

This decision could set a precedent for Irish courts to give the go-ahead to hear claims against priests ordained in Ireland but who served in the US.

Until now, the Government and Irish courts have dismissed clerical child abuse claims on the grounds that the Holy See is an independent state with diplomatic immunity recognised by Ireland.

Previous attempts to make the Papal Nuncio in Dublin appear in the High Court to answer charges of collusion with paedophile cleric Sean Fortune in the scandal-hit diocese of Ferns were declared inadmissible.

This special status of the Vatican caused uproar last year when the Murphy Report into the cover-ups in the archdiocese of Dublin complained bitterly that neither the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, nor the Papal Nuncio in Dublin, answered its queries for files.

The Washington decision could also give impetus to a case being taken by Patrick Wall, a senior attorney with Manly & Stewart, Newport Beach, California, who is suing notorious Tipperary-ordained cleric, Fr Oliver O’Grady.

Mr Wall is also suing the Archbishop of Thurles, Dr Dermot Clifford, claiming the archdioceses ordained O’Grady while knowing he was a paedophile.

The lawsuit in Washington yesterday was filed by a plaintiff identified only as ‘John Doe’, claiming he was sexually abused on several occasions in the mid-1960s when he was 15 or 16 by an Irish Catholic priest named Father Andrew Ronan.


According to court documents, Fr Ronan molested boys in the mid-1950s as a priest in Ireland and later in Chicago before his transfer to a church in Portland, Oregon, where he allegedly abused the victim who filed the lawsuit. Fr Ronan died in 1992.

The suit claims there was an international conspiracy on the part of church leaders to move Fr Ronan from Ireland after he allegedly sexually abused a boy while he was working at a seminary in Benburb, Co Tyrone, which is Cardinal Sean Brady’s archdiocese of Armagh.

The victim’s Minnesota based lawyer, Michael Finnegan, described the Supreme Court decision as “absolutely huge” and said he was very confident that his firm, Anderson Advocates, would be able to prove the case in court.

– John Cooney

Irish Independent 29th June 2010


8 Responses to “Vatican can be sued over abuse — US supreme court”

  1. Rob Northall says:

    The latest Question on Diplomatic Immunity


    Michael Martin has a short Memory??

  2. dont forget that any complaints made by oursiders were sent to the person in charge of the institutions. This left the child about whom the complaint was made to face the angry nuns. burst eardrums fear and of course the landing. whose fault was that , was it the relious or the government . who was afraid of who

  3. Rob Northall says:

    Brian Cowen disagrees he thinks the office of the Tánaiste & Minister for Education & Skills, Ms. Mary Coughlan T.D. should decide on whether the Vatican should have diplomatic immunity as it her he asked to reply to the letter above.

    His Country need him?

    Well it needs strong moral leadership; but I couldn’t comment?

  4. Rob Northall says:

    The above is a letter sent today via email to Brian Cowen

    Haven’t had areply to me first letter yet!

    Thne frustration has lead me to set up shameofireland on Yahoo groups

    Wher you can vote on the Statutory Trust fund and other matters

  5. Rob Northall says:

    14 Gonhill, West Cross, Swansea, SA3 5PL

    28th July 2010

    Dear Mr Cowen,

    My original letter of the 1st June was on two issues; one of these is as you suggest a matter for the Department of Education and Skills; the other is for yourself to consider.

    The United States Supreme Court no longer recognises the Diplomatic Immunity of the Vatican and its employees (as in John Cooney’s article in the Irish Independent 29th June 2010)

    “and it the duty of the Irish Government to sue the Holy See in “The Court of Human Rights” to recover the total cost to the Irish Tax Payer associated with the Administration of the Redress Board it’s Compensation; and the total cost of the Murphy Commission and Report and the Ryan Report.

    This should also incorporate a class action on behalf of those that suffered under the hands of the religious orders including the Magdalene Laundries and other that did not come under the scope of the Redress Board.”

    The “Holy See” is a corporation with a Sovereign State and if they have profited (in the form of donations from C.O.R.I. over the last hundred years) from the abuse of the young of Ireland are culpable; as they should have made sure that the contributions that they accepted where clean and not covered in “SIN”.

    It is about time that the “Corporate and Religious Veil” was lifted.”

    The Industrial Schools knew when they were to be inspected and hid the evidence of the conditions they where keeping the children in; this is not the fault of the Government or their Inspectors; but the responsibility of the religious orders.

    The above is an extract of my original letter of the 1st June and as a man with a legal background, and in charge of your Country’s future I feel you are the appropriate person to make this decision.

    Yours Sincerely

    Robert Northall

    Previous correspondence is attached for your convenience

  6. Andrew says:

    I’d love to know exactly what ‘investigative techniques’ ‘Inspector’ Brady used in the Fr.Brendan Smyth case … it’s my contention that Brady cleared Smyth to continue his abuse for another 18 years. Did ‘Inspector’ Brady ‘investigate’ other cases of child rape – particularly the Fr. Ronan case? It’s also notable that promotion within the criminal conspiracy AKA the Roman Catholic Church seems particularly to be based on SILENCE – silence in the face of the horrendous rape of children by fellow clerical colleagues.

  7. dead man walking says:

    why not here in ireland ? is it cos we are neutral ? haha what a farce !!! we are not worthy ! we are but lesser individuals . oh well yet again we watch as justice is seen in a foregin land .