Vatican lawyer responds to abuse accusations

As is well known, the tragic issue of sexual abuse has brought criticism of the Holy See, often in the press, and sometimes in the form of legal actions which attempt to show that the Holy See is responsible for abuses committed.

One such case is Doe v. Holy See, which is presently in course in a United States court of first instance in the State of Oregon.

The case involves a Religious Order priest named Andrew Ronan who committed abuse against a 17 year old in Portland, Oregon in 1965.

While most of the case has been dismissed, two accusations made by plaintiff’s attorneys have persisted and have been repeatedly reported in the press: that the Holy See knew that Ronan was an abuser; and that the Holy See transferred Ronan from one place to another with that knowledge.

Those would of course be very serious accusations -- if true.

But, as we are learning with the development of the case, the accusations are decidedly not true.

To assist those in the public who wish to study the matter carefully, and to assist the United States court in resolving the remaining issues in the case, the Holy See is releasing today documents relating to Ronan, principally with respect to Ronan’s dismissal from the clerical state.

These documents are being posted on the Vatican website for public consultation at:

In addition to the documents, attorney Jeffrey S. Lena, who represents the Holy See in this case, has issued a statement which underscores the falsity of the claims against the Holy See. As Mr. Lena notes, the documents released show that the Holy See was only first informed of Ronan’s misconduct after plaintiff was abused, and never was involved in any “transfer” of Ronan.

Mr. Lena also described the accusations against the Holy See as “calumnious” and noted that the Plaintiff’s lawyers who have continued to persist in this case have “misled the public” and “misused the legal system.”

In a separate comment to Vatican Radio, Mr. Lena said, “While the judicial system sometimes works slowly, these documents can be expected to be of assistance in bringing the case to a more rapid conclusion. He added, finally, that release of the documents today should, “give pause to those persons, who all too willingly engage in sensational and intemperate comment without bothering to acquire a sound grasp of the facts.”

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