Will Sex Abuse Claims Bankrupt the Vatican?

Pope Francis’ heavy-handed rebuke of US sex abuse reforms could end up with some Saudi prince owning St. Peter’s Basilica.

By Christopher Manion Published on November 29, 2018

The Holy See has enjoyed diplomatic status for centuries. The Vatican is recognized under international law as a sovereign territory by almost 200 countries. That includes the United States, which sent its first Ambassador to the Vatican in 1984.

At the time, President Reagan’s decision to establish formal diplomatic relations was unpopular with many prominent evangelicals. Rev. Jerry Falwell went to Senator Jesse Helms, R-N.C. He urged him to block the nomination of William Wilson as America’s first Ambassador to the Holy See. So Helms asked a simple question:

“Jerry, what would happen if Pope John Paul II walked into the door at your Thomas Road Baptist Church service next Sunday at ten a.m.?”

Rev. Falwell bit his lip. “They’d stand on their chairs and cheer,” he replied.

End of opposition.

A Fragile Diplomatic Immunity

Since 1984, the Vatican’s new status with the U.S. has allowed the Holy See to enjoy “sovereign immunity” under international law. That’s the main reason why sex abuse lawsuits have never been able to touch Vatican property. (Think of St. Peter’s Basilica and the vast Vatican museums.) You can’t sue a foreign government for actions taken over which it doesn’t exercise direct control. However, recent events threaten to weaken that protection. Maybe even dissolve it.

The Vatican isn’t considered legally responsible for the actions of local bishops. So far.

In recent years, thousands of abuse victims have sued Catholic dioceses throughout the U.S. Over a dozen of those dioceses have declared bankruptcy in the face of those claims. In the past, one international lawyer tells The Stream, each bishop has been considered “supreme within his diocese.” In effect, he is the CEO of a corporation — namely, the local church. True, bishops belong to a national body called the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). But its conference’s role is at most consultative and advisory. It’s not like a national corporation which controls its local subsidiaries — and is responsible for their debts. Likewise, the Vatican isn’t considered legally responsible for the actions of local bishops. So far.

A Vatican Power Grab Could Backfire

However, since 2002 the USCCB has started changing the rules. It has issued a series of intrusive and complex rules and procedures that most dioceses consider binding. These include severe restrictions and a cost of untold millions of dollars and man‑hours.

Of course, the USCCB as a body does not officially “control” the Catholic Church in the United States. Nonetheless, that misconception has been propounded and perpetuated by many individual prelates quite successfully in practice. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago strengthened that view. So did then-Cardinal McCarrick and, today, Cardinal Blaise Cupich.

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This power-grab maneuvering has opened wide a door of opportunity to plaintiff lawyers. Especially those who represent victims of abuse and cover-ups by Catholic clerics and prelates.

Up till now, bankruptcy courts have limited the amounts collected by plaintiffs. If the Archdiocese of Chicago runs out of money to pay off victims, courts couldn’t force the New York Archdiocese or the USCCB to cough up the difference. And certainly not the Vatican.

Changing Times?

But that might change now. At the USCCB meeting in November, U.S. bishops tried to hammer out a policy for punishing bishops who cover up sex abuse. They also sought documents on what Pope Francis knew about child-molesting ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. And the Vatican stepped in and shut them down. Plaintiff lawyers will say that this proves that the bishops aren’t really independent. That the Vatican controls them, and so ought to be liable for their actions — including the shuffling of child-abusing priests.

The pope overruled that bishops’ national body on a question of vital importance: the moral integrity of Holy Mother Church herself.

Enter the lawyers. In recent months, many American bishops have asked civil and criminal authorities to inspect their records regarding abuse cases. Clever plaintiff lawyers are undoubtedly wondering, why not join in? New lawsuits could demand that civil courts recognize that U.S. dioceses are nothing more than Vatican subsidiaries. That claim would “pierce the veil” of the Holy See’s diplomatic status. Its immunity from lawsuits would then evaporate.

Every jewel-encrusted candlestick and Renaissance painting at the Vatican could end up on the auction block.

Of course, lawyers for the bishops and the Holy See will be quick to differ. They’ll point out that within the framework of Catholic canon law, such claims lack merit. Sure, the Vatican gives orders to American bishops, both individually and as a group. He hires them and can fire them. But each bishop still governs his own diocesan domain.

Inviting a Nightmare

Let’s assume that the prelates are serious. You know, in caring more for their victims than for themselves. Then how could prelates publicly spurn those same victims? Especially when they demand justice, including just compensation? Say a local diocese goes bankrupt. How could the “People’s Pope” who so loves the victims turn his back on their pleas? Which is more important — the treasures of the Vatican or the victims of decades of clerical abuse?

Pope Francis and his allies have been implacable in defending themselves from the laity. But they will be blindsided by the potential legal consequences of their actions. A seasoned Federal Court attorney tells The Stream:

Anything that the Pope does to diminish the authority, or to interfere with the duty, of local ordinaries to address the problem of tortious misconduct by predatory personnel, including prelates themselves, increases the likelihood of attaching liability to the Papacy and increasing the probabilities of its assets eventually being sought to cover levied damages.

The attorney continues, posing a critical question:

Does the pope’s directive to the USCCB have the effect of diminishing the ordinaries’ authority or to interfere with their duties? … That would certainly be an interesting issue for the Church’s enemies to plead and on which to take discovery. The Pope seems to invite such an adventure / nightmare, doesn’t he?

Every jewel-encrusted candlestick and Renaissance painting at the Vatican? It could end up on the auction block. Someday, your grandchild might ask you, “Why does a Saudi prince own what used to be St. Peter’s Basilica?” You can tell him to thank Cardinal McCarrick and Pope Francis.

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  • apollo

    You reap what you sow.

  • The Vatican has done itself in, not only by not caring about the criminal abuse of boys and young men, but by covering it up. It’s almost like the priesthood doesn’t really believe that what is done in secret will be shouted from the rooftops. As for me, I say let justice roll down like a river.

    • Yet the Church is the most clean out of any institution of any sodomite abuse.

      The Church also did what they could.

      Really you are just attacking the Church for being the Church, and eternity awaits.

  • ImaginaryDomain

    The Vatican can’t shield themselves forever. The way this will likely play out is that countries will sue the church in that country and get judgements against the church to the extent there are any assets in that jurisdiction. The church in that country will then go bankrupt. Any future money coming from the Vatican into that country will be seized immediately, so in effect, the Vatican will lose it’s worldwide base – and it will fall country by country. Once enough countries do this, there will be international pressure to strip the Vatican of sovereignty, and then the lawyers will have a feast.

    This is happening already in Ireland, many countries in Central and South America, etc. Break out the popcorn, this one’s gonna be fun to watch!

    • So you are planning a systematic persecution of Catholics for being Catholics using some random sodomites as an excuse to do what you satanists always wanted?

      God will destroy the world before harm would ever come to the Church. The only think you will achieve is total destruction of your countries which the Church will rebuild after another dark age.

      If you act like the ancient romans, you will end yourselves like the ancient romans. Not to mention the fully deserved damnation your court with your hatred here.

      • swordfish

        “God will destroy the world before harm would ever come to the Church.”

        In that case, he’s got his priorities wrong.

        • No, the only reason we are allowed to live here instead of being born in damnation is to give us the opportunity to repent and come home. The Church is the only way to get to Heaven, so there is no more point for this world of the Church becomes damaged. This is why you are filled with demonic obsession to attack the Church, even though it clearly bothers you to be here.

          Has happened a few times in the past. During the prot heresy, St Francis de Sales was wondering if the Church would survive. St Francis de Sales then got a prophecy that God would have destroyed the world has the satanic cathars won the albegenesian crusade, but St Dominic was born and destroyed the cathars alongside the crusaders led by Simon de Montfort III. The crusaders lost about every battle with the cathars until the last 1000 surviving knights wiped out the entire cathar army without any losses of their own.

          St Francis de Sales then went on to reconvert 60% of the prot heretics back into the fold of the Church, averting the destruction himself.

          That is something your dark master does not understand. Every time the devil earnestly tries to destroy the Church, God raises one priest and one soldier who together wipe out the entire devil’s army by themselves. Happened at Lepanto, the Gates of Vienna, Czestochwa, going back throughout history.

  • RT Neary

    Why is the word “homosexual” treated like a third rail? The author uses “child-molesting” and “child-abusing” but never the correct label for the act involved. These acts were perpetrated on post-pubescent males. There has been a successful movement for decades to protect what the late Bishop Molino this year correctly labeled as “a homosexual subculture”. We traditional Catholics want the correct malady addressed and the malignancy excised.

    • swordfish

      By definition, homosexuals are attracted to other adults of the same sex, not to children. An adult who is sexually attracted to a child is called a paedophile. Not all the abuse which was (and probably still is) carried out within the Catholic Church was perpetrated against boys, some of the victimes were girls. There were even cases of girls getting pregnant. Finally, not all the abuse was sexual in nature at all – there were many children physically and mentally abused in Catholic schools, for example.

      • Dear reprobate, who has a strange fixation on excusing sodomy: sodomites do not occur in nature so they recruit by corrupting children to bolster their numbers which rapidly decline due to disease and death.

        Another reason is that sodomites are the result of childhood abuse and neglect. It instills in them a narcissistic attraction to themselves, so they often are attracted to boys who look like they did when they were first molested (or how they wished they looked) by an older sodomite.

        you can read the works of Joeseph Sciambra who is very open about his former life of sodomy.

        As for the girls you mention, I imagine you will try to self-justify anything as long as you think it takes the heat off your political weapon you think sodomites are. This will be paid in eternity.

        As for the “abuse” in Catholic schools, I assume you still think being told sin exists is what caused your shame over sin? No, your shame is because you do the unnatural.

        • ArthurMcGowan

          For every boy who becomes a homosexual because of “recruitment” by a homosexual, there are ten boys who were made homosexual by a narcissistic, negligent, distant heterosexual father.

          • No, you have that backwards. sexual abuse is stupidly common. public schools and law enforcement are the biggest culprit, and it is covered up because it is done by government employees. The Church is scapegoated for this when the Church is the most innocent out of any group.

            As for your attack on fathers, the boy wants male attention but has no father around and cannot make friends. That second part is the important part.

            Nothing to do with a narcissistic father, just an absent one usually because of divorce. The boy only has a female influence, and almost always this female influence sleeps around, and the boy decides to attract men the way the women in his life do.

            This same hunger for male bonding is also shown in gang members. The fatherless sensitive kids who can’t make friends become sodomites, but the fatherless aggressive ones become gang members.

            The fatherless kids who can make friends or who are fine alone do not have these problems.

  • tz1

    That the Vatican will become as monetarily bankrupt as they are already morally bankrupt? Pray it happens faster!

    The Feds should cut off Catholic Charities and the $100k to USCCB programs like for (muslim) refugees, and remove their 501c3 status – Hey tax exempt lavender mafia pedophiles!

  • tz1

    That the Vatican will become as monetarily bankrupt as they are already morally bankrupt? Pray it happens faster!

    The Feds should cut off Catholic Charities and the $100k to USCCB programs like for (muslim) refugees, and remove their 501c3 status – Hey tax exempt lavender mafia pedophiles!

    • Then what, you fill finally achieve divinity as locke promised you?

      • tz1

        What has Satan promised you? A spot above in hell?
        Heat rises.

        • you have abandoned your supposed Faith at the first sign of hardship, and are now flitting between promoting freemasonry / libertarianism and actively asking for the Church to be persecuted by the us government.

          I ask why you want the Church to be persecuted; is it because locke (an actual devil worshipper) promised you that removing the Church would give you divinity through “liberty?”

          The fact that you panicked at what I said and said that diabolic nonsense tells me that you know what you are doing but fell or the kool-aid too hard to realize that locke was a liar.

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