May 15, 2019

Sexual abuse survivors sue the Vatican over predatory U.S. priests

  Luke Hoffman, left, Ben Hoffman and Stephen Hoffman with their attorney Jeff Anderson.

From left: brothers Luke, Ben and Stephen Hoffman with attorney Jeff Anderson. Photo: Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Three brothers and 2 other men who say they were sexually abused as children by Catholic priests filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota, against the Vatican Tuesday.

Details: They claim the church kept the identities and records of more than 3,400 clergy accused of sexual abuse secret — including senior church officials, Reuters reports. The suit wants the Vatican make the details public and report all alleged crimes to police in the U.S. and overseas. The brothers allege the Holy See is responsible because an ex-archbishop and a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S. mishandled their case, per AP.

Why it matters: The legal action comes 3 months after Pope Francis pledged the Catholic Church would take "concrete and effective measures" against clerical sexual abuse at a Vatican summit on the issue. The Pope issued a sweeping new Vatican law this month, which requires all priests and nuns worldwide to report sexual abuse and subsequent cover-ups to Catholic Church authorities.

The big picture: Previous lawsuits against the Vatican have failed because the Vatican is covered by immunity as a sovereign state, per the Catholic newspaper Crux. However, the attorney for Minnesota brothers Luke, Ben and Stephen Hoffman said he believes their suit could succeed because it has "made a more complete effort to document Vatican authority over Catholic clerics," according to KFGO.

Go deeper: The stunning scale of the global Catholic sex abuse crisis

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