Dismissing Catholic abuse victims’ lawsuit, ECHR rules Vatican cannot be sued in European courts

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The court said this was the first case of the ECHR to deal with the defense of the Holy See.

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The European Court of Human Rights said that a group of 24 Belgian, French and Dutch abuse survivors attempted to prosecute leaders of the Holy See and Catholic Church in Belgian courts since 2011, but that country’s courts ruled That their jurisdiction is not over the Vatican. explaining his decision on Tuesday.

The ECHR said the abuse survivors – who said they were abused by priests when they were children – made their way through Belgium’s court system before bringing their trial to a European court in 2017.


The survivors argued that they were denied the right of access to court under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone is entitled to a fair trial.

The applicants first filed a class action in the Ghent Court of First Instance in July 2011. They claimed that the defendants should be liable to pay 10,000 euros (about $11,600) in compensation to each survivor “due to the Catholic Church’s policy of silence on the issue of sexual abuse.” In October 2013, the Ghent Court denied jurisdiction with respect to the Holy See, the ruling stated.

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On Tuesday, the ECHR ruled 6-1 in the case of Jesse et al. v. Belgium, saying that the Vatican is a sovereign state that cannot be sued, and that anything “unfair or arbitrary” in the Belgian courts was not. taking that position.

The court’s decision, however, is not final and either party may request an appeal within three months of the decision, known as a “Grand Chamber Review”.

Tuesday’s decision comes at a time when the Catholic Church is facing a reckoning over sexual abuse, with the number of survivors fighting for justice.

A landmark report last week found that France’s Catholic clergy sexually abused an estimated 216,000 minors over the past seven decades, and the church prioritized the institution’s safety over victims, who were urged to keep quiet.

According to the report, the number of abused minors rises to 330,000 when victims of those who were not clergy but had other ties to the church, such as Catholic schools and youth programs. The report found that out of a total of 115,000 pastors and other clerics, between 2,900 and 3,200 abusers were estimated to have worked in the French Catholic Church between 1950 and 2020.

A day after its release, Pope Francis called the report a “moment of shame” and called on church leaders to ensure that “similar tragedies” never happen again.

Francis also reassured survivors of sexual abuse for his prayers, saying: “I want to express my sorrow and my pain to the victims that they have suffered as well as my shame for the very long incompetence of the Church, our Shame, my shame. For having them at the center of your attention.”

ongoing allegations of abuse

While the Church has taken “significant steps” to prevent sexual violence in recent years, the report described them as reactive and inadequate, warning that although “these acts of violence had declined by the early 1990s, They have stopped reducing. In France, the exploitation of minors within the church accounts for about 4% of all sexual violence in France, according to Jean-Marc Sauvé, president of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE).

The pope did not directly address allegations of ongoing abuse in his remarks last Wednesday, with some survivors and advocates saying further action is needed to reform an institution plagued by sexual abuse that has only to answer for itself. .

Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, which campaigns for survivors of abuse by Catholic clergy, said Tuesday’s ruling is “a horrifying reminder of the impunity of the Vatican, which has been recognized by its status as a sovereign state.” These views have been endorsed. The judgment, that the Pope is not the master of his bishops and that the Holy See does not authorize him to cover up the mistreatment of the bishops, is clearly untrue.”

Priest: The question I was asked after the French Catholic Church sexual abuse report

Doyle said in a statement: “The church’s dual identity as a religion and a state allows it to be shaped according to the threat it faces in the courts … No other religious institution enjoys the same buffet of legal protections.” The result is that the Church repeatedly evades justice and untold millions of its victims suffer.”

On Wednesday, a Vatican tribunal acquitted a former altar boy for sexually abusing a fellow student at a seminary located inside Vatican City.

NS. Gabrielle Martinelli, now 29, was a student at St. Pius X Seminary when the alleged abuse occurred from 2007-2012. Martinelli was accused of molesting a minor student while they were both minors. In addition to Martinelli, the former rector of the seminary, Fr. Enrico Redis was also cleared of the cover-up charges.

It was the first of its kind to deal with alleged abuses at the Vatican. St. Pius X Seminary houses boys aged 12-18 who are considering priesthood and who do congregational service at St. Peter’s.

In May, Francis ordered that the seminary find a new home outside the Vatican.

Granthshala’s Delia Gallagher and Saskia Vandoorne contributed reporting.


Credit : www.cnn.com

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