A lawsuit can continue against the Vatican alleging that top church officials should have warned the public or authorities of known or suspected sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Louisville, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the go-ahead for the lawsuit filed by three men who claim priests abused them as children. They allege the Vatican orchestrated a decades-long coverup of priests sexually abusing children throughout the U.S.
Louisville attorney William McMurry is seeking class-action status, saying there are thousands of victims nationally in the scandal that haunts the Roman Catholic Church. He is seeking unspecified damages from the Vatican.
"This is an enormously huge moment," McMurry said. "We're finally going to get to the root of the problem."
Jeffrey Lena, a Berkeley, Calif.-based attorney for the Vatican, said the appeals court's decision narrows the plaintiffs' case because the court upheld dismissing several issues.
"It's gratifying to see the hard work the judges put into the opinion," Lena said.
Lena declined to say if he would appeal the decision. McMurry said he expects the case to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Several lawsuits around the country have sought damages against the Vatican, but many have been bounced around in lower courts. Attorneys for both sides say the Louisville case is unique.