RELIGION: Europe court rejects case to blame Vatican for abuse

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

RELIGION:

ROME – Tuesday’s European court ruled that the Vatican could not be sued in a local Court for sexual abuse by Catholic priests. It also affirmed that it enjoys sovereign immunity, and that priests and their superiors can not be attributed to Holy See.

The European Court of Human Rights rejected a case brought in by 24 victims of abuse priests in Belgium. The 24 argued that the Holy See was liable because of the “structurally flawed” manner in which the Catholic hierarchy for decades had covered up cases involving priests who raped or molested children.

The 24 made an appeal to the Strasbourg-based court, after Belgian courts had ruled that they were not competent because the Holy See is a sovereign state and was immune from prosecution.

The European court affirmed that the Belgian judges had been correct and that victims weren’t denied access to a court. The European court affirmed the Belgian court’s ruling that the Holy See is sovereign immune and that there was no exception to this rule since the misconduct of the bishops in handling abuse cases could not be attributed solely to the Vatican.

Citing the Belgian decision the European court stated that the pope was not the “principal of his bishops” and “that the misconduct attributed directly the Holy See hadn’t been committed on Belgian soil but in Rome; and, that neither the Holy See nor the pope had been present in Belgium when the misconduct attributed the leaders of church in Belgium had taken place,” according to a summary.

The European court ruled that it was not appropriate to replace its own assessment, since the Belgian decision wasn’t arbitrary or unreasonable.

Tuesday was the first time that the Holy See’s immunity had been tested by the European Court. It was a Chamber judgement. Each side has three months to request that the case be heard in the Grand Chamber of the court for a final ruling.

A dissenting opinion was presented by Judge Darian Pavli, who disputed the Belgian court’s conclusion about the authority the pope has over his bishops. He claimed that Belgian judges had not considered evidence that the pope actually hires and fires bishops, and that the Vatican policy had placed a code for silence regarding the handling of abuse cases around the world.

Pavli claimed that the European Tribunal should have concluded that the Belgian judges had indeed denied victims access to a court.

The Holy See successfully argued before U.S. courts the pope isn’t the boss of his bishops. This has blocked victims from trying to hold the Holy See or the pope responsible for their abuse. In recent years, more such lawsuits were filed, including those from victims of ex Cardinal Theodore McCarrick who was defrocked in 2019 by Pope Francis after a Vatican investigation revealed that he had sexually abused minors as well as adults.

These lawsuits cite a Vatican-commissioned study published last year, which found that a number of Holy See officials and popes dismissed or downplayed reports of his sexual misconduct while he rose up the church hierarchy.

The Vatican declined to comment. An email asking for comment was not immediately answered by the victims’ lawyers.

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