Attorney in Louisville, Ky., lawsuit wants Pope Benedict XVI to testify on clergy sex abuse
By BRETT BARROUQUERE , Associated Press
May 12, 2008
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Pope Benedict XVI should be questioned soon about clergy sex abuse in the Catholic church because he is the most knowledgeable person on the topic and his advanced age makes future testimony unlikely, an attorney said Monday.
Many similar lawsuits have named the pope, the Vatican and other high-ranking church officials as defendants but have failed.
This request comes as part of a lawsuit by three men claiming top church officials should have warned about sexual abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Louisville. A federal judge last year let those claims stand while dismissing other aspects of the lawsuit. It's now pending before the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.Attorney William McMurry said Pope Benedict XVI has an unparalleled knowledge of the scope of sex abuse complaints because before becoming pope, he led Vatican offices that were directly involved with the investigation of sexual abuse by clerics.
"The pope has certain knowledge relevant to this case," said McMurry, who on Monday filed the motion seeking a court order for the pope's testimony.
The attorney also noted that the pope is 81 years old and may not be available or able to testify later in a case expected to reach the Supreme Court.
Jeffrey Lena, the Berkeley, Calif.-based attorney for the Vatican, had little to say about the motion.
"It's novel," Lena said. "It's not appropriate."
Along with the accusations against the Vatican, the lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, which generally gives immunity to foreign countries from most lawsuits.
McMurry said the law violates the plaintiff's rights to a trial on the merits of the case. McMurry also claims that the law doesn't apply to the Holy See because of its dual role as a religious institution and country.
The Bush administration defended the law, saying the U.S. government has recognized the Vatican as a country since 1984 and that the president alone, not the court system, may recognize a country.