Document dump doesn’t stop wrangling in abuse case
When the Vatican released documents in mid-August related to the case of Fr. Andrew Ronan, a Servite priest who was laicized in 1966 and died in 1992 and who now figures in a sex abuse lawsuit in Oregon, it amounted to a historic turn: the first time the Vatican has opened up its files in response to a court order.
Any hope that the release might quickly resolve the case, however, seemed to disappear amid dramatically differing interpretations of the documents between lawyers for the alleged victim and the Vatican — not to mention wrangling over whether the Vatican has, in fact, fully come clean.
The case of John V. Doe v. Holy See was originally filed in federal court in 2002, on behalf of a Seattle man who claims that Ronan abused him in 1965. Ronan was in the United States at the time after being transferred from Ireland in 1959 by the Servites (formally, the Order of Servants of the Blessed Virgin Mary) in the wake of admitting to homosexual contact with seminarians at a Servite priory in Benburb, Ireland.
The case is one of a handful in American courts seeking to overcome the Vatican’s sovereign immunity, and to date the only one in which a judge has permitted lawyers to demand Vatican records. Its heart is the contention that Ronan was an “agent” or “employee” of the Vatican, something the Vatican and its American attorney vigorously dispute.
On Aug. 17, the Vatican released what it claimed were all documents in its possession specifically related to Ronan. They include a Vatican note of permission in 1953 for Ronan to serve as a novice master despite being below the age then established in church law, and several documents related to his 1966 laicization. Among them is a February 1966 letter from Ronan, acknowledging “my repeated, admitted, documented homosexual tendencies and acts against the vow of chastity and celibacy.” [more]