The U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson to sue the Vatican on behalf of sex-abuse victims.
The nation's high court on Monday decided to let stand a lower court's decision that refused to let the Vatican stay out of a clergy abuse lawsuit. The Catholic Church had said it was immune from U.S. lawsuits as a sovereign power.
The decision stems from a 2002 lawsuit in Oregon, John V. Doe v. Holy See, alleging the church moved a priest, the Rev. Andrew Roman, from Ireland to Chicago to Portland, while knowing he'd abused seminarians and minors.
Anderson filed one of the nation's first clergy abuse lawsuits in St. Paul in the early 1980s. He says he hopes to question ranking church officials, including the pope, about the ongoing scandal.
"I think this is a huge change. It's a seismic and important decision rendered by the highest court and all the courts now have said the Vatican can be held accountable," he said. "They are not above the law and that is very promising for child protection."
The decision doesn't guarantee the Vatican has to cooperate. St. Paul attorney Mike Finnegan says the unnamed victim may have to ask Italian courts to force cooperation.
"I don't think there's ever been a case like this and its unprecedented, the position we're in right now," he said. "This was the first case filed against the Vatican back in 2002, and everything that's gone on in this case has been pretty much ground breaking territory."
The court also turned down a request by the federal government to drop the case because the courts don't have international jurisdiction.