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Sexual abuse lawsuit against Vatican withdrawn

Lawyers for a man who claimed he was sexually abused decades ago by a priest at a Milwaukee-area school for the deaf have withdrawn their lawsuit against Pope Benedict XVI and other high-level Vatican officials. The withdrawal is a victory for the Holy See, which has long insisted the pope bears no liability for the actions of an abusive priest.

The priest at the center of the case was alleged to have molested as many as 200 boys at St. John's School for the Deaf between 1950 and 1974. The plaintiff's lawyer alleged that the pope, then a cardinal, and his deputies were aware of the abuse allegations but prevented any internal punishment of the accused priest. The Vatican dismissed the lawsuit as a publicity stunt and now says the withdrawal of the suit was without merit and shouldn't have been filed in the first place.

One of the attorneys said the case was dropped as a result of the progress of a separate court case against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. In that case, a federal judge has ruled that two claims claiming sexual abuse by clergy can move forward. "There really is no compelling reason to move forward with this battle on two fronts when we're making ground on one," the attorney said.

After the Vatican moved to dismiss the case in two separate filings, a judge rejected a bid by the plaintiffs' attorney to respond. Another lawsuit naming the Holy See as a defendant has already been dismissed in Kentucky but one in Oregon continues.

The Vatican has insisted for years that bishops, not the Vatican, are responsible for their dioceses and the actions of their priests. But the Wisconsin case was a problem for the Holy See because documents showed that one of the cardinals named as a defendant had once told the bishop to drop the church's case against the accused priest because of his age and health.

Source: WTOP, "US sex abuse lawsuit against Vatican dismissed," Dinesh Ramde, Feb. 11, 2012

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