White House Supports Vatican Immunity

Solicitor general backs Vatican in abuse suit
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2010 2:50 AM CDT
Pope Benedict XVI addresses the faithful at a Vatican mass. The US has recognized the Vatican as a sovereign state since 1984.   (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

(Newser) – The Vatican should not be held liable in civil lawsuits over clergy abuse cases because it's a sovereign nation, according to Obama administration lawyers. The acting solicitor general has urged the Supreme Court to set aside a ruling from an appellate court allowing an Oregon man claiming abuse by a priest in the 60s to sue the Holy See, the Wall Street Journal reports. The White House brief argued that the lower court had misapplied the law setting out the standards under which foreign governments can be sued.

Exceptions to sovereign immunity ought to be narrowly construed, the brief argued, not expanded to the extent they were in this case, explains the National Catholic Reporter. “Improperly subjecting a foreign state to suit can in some circumstances raise foreign relations and reciprocity concerns,” the brief notes. The man's lawyer says he is "perplexed" by the brief—which the Supreme Court isn't required to follow—but he's heartened that the solicitor general recommended sending it back to the appellate court for reconsideration, not dismissing the case altogether.

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