VATICAN FACING TWO POWERFUL LEGAL TIMEBOMBS
For Immediate Release
Jonathan Levy and Tom Easton, Attorneys
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Vatican Facing Another Legal Time Bomb
April 6, 2002 - The current pedophilia scandal rocking the Catholic Church in America has resulted in several lawsuits against multiple archdioceses due to a pattern of cover ups and pay offs. The Vatican has been added, as a defendant in at least two lawsuits filed by sexual abuse victims who claim sovereign or diplomatic immunity is no defense for the battered institution known as the Roman Catholic Church. This trend will likely continue as more victims come forward and more lawsuits are filed.
But, the Vatican faces another legal time bomb that has been quietly wending its way through the federal court system since November 1999 and may be just as financially devastating. In November 1999, Ukrainian Holocaust survivors later joined by Serb and Jewish plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against the Vatican Bank, alleging complicity in the laundering of Nazi World War II loot including the proceeds of genocide from several Croatian run concentration camps where upwards of 500,000 Serbs were liquidated between 1941 and 1945.
The Vatican Bank has claimed sovereign immunity to the lawsuit declaring that it is an arm of the Holy See. However, the lawsuit persists and the thorny question of whether a US Court can hear a lawsuit against a Vatican organization remains unresolved. Plaintiffs attorneys claim immunity is not available for the Vatican Bank which is no stranger to scandal; Federal Judge Maxine Chesney has yet to rule on the case.
Jonathan Levy, one of plaintiffs counsels, suggests the Vatican is particularly vulnerable to legal process since it is both a Church and a quasi state, but has only enjoyed United States recognition since 1983 as a sovereign entity. Levy said, Many of the Vaticans activities fall outside the traditional actions of a state, particularly when it comes to financing the Church. In the case of the pedophilia cover up, a Vatican policy of protecting guilty priests violates customary international law as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by over 190 nations including the Holy See and expressly prohibits sexual exploitation of children. According to Levy, Some in the Vatican feel they are above temporal laws, there is a parallel here, after World War II the Church assisted Nazi war criminals and helped them escape justice. Now it is pedophile priests who have escaped punishment with help from Rome. In my opinion these are the actions of a rogue state and subject to full legal process in our courts.
For more information on the Vatican Bank lawsuit see:
Attorney Jonathan Levy