This article originally appeared in
Vatican asked Rice for help in sex case

arch 4, 2005
    Vatican City -- Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano asked U.S.
    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to intervene on the behalf of the Holy
    See during Rice's recent visit to Rome, a request that Rice declined.

    Speculation that such requests are commonly made behind closed doors is
    common, but confirmation is unusual. The story of Sodano's request was
    first brought to light by the National Catholic Reporter on Friday and
    confirmed to United Press International by Vatican sources.

    The request came on Feb. 8, a time that 84-year-old Pope John Paul II,
    who is already slowed by severe arthritis and Parkinson's disease was
    forced to cancel his meeting with Rice while in the hospital for breathing-
    related problems. The aged pontiff left the hospital two days after that,
    but re-entered on Feb. 24 and has been in intensive care since then after
undergoing an emergency tracheotomy to relieve serious breathing problems.

Though the pope is reported to be steadily recovering from the procedure, the story involving Rice has sparked another round of
speculation about who may be directing Vatican policy while John Paul recovers, and it gives a glimpse into how seriously the
Holy See is taking charges that could require it to pay millions in damages.

The Kentucky case that prompted Sodano's request for help is different than most lawsuits working their way through the
American court system in that it is the only one in which the Vatican is the lone defendant and the only one directly related to the
recent series of sex abuse scandals that have stained the reputation of the Catholic Church in the United States.

The class action was filed in June 2004 in a Louisville district court alleging sexual abuse centered on three men in northern
Kentucky dating back to 1928. It named the Holy See as the only defendant in the case, with attorney William McMurry issuing a
statement reading that "the financial responsibility should be shared, if not borne entirely, by the Vatican" because the Vatican
created the climate that allowed the alleged abuse to take place.

Legal experts say that the case is likely to be dismissed, in part because the Vatican is a sovereign state -- the 1976 Foreign
Sovereign Immunities Act does allow for suits against other countries though it makes them difficult -- and because U.S. courts
have historically erred on the side of the church in borderline cases because of first amendment grounds. Despite dozens of cases
filed against the Holy See in recent decades, no U.S. court has ever found the Vatican guilty of anything.

Additionally, there is little proof that the Holy See is involved with the day-to-day activities of the American church.

But the fact that Sodano raised the question with Rice shows that at some point, the Vatican's strong hand in these cases could
weaken, exposing the Vatican to potentially crippling settlements.

A Vatican official brushed aside those concerns, telling UPI that it is "perfectly normal and acceptable" for the Vatican to ask for
counsel from the U.S. government.

The U.S. Embassy in Rome declined to comment on the subject when contacted by UPI, but legal observers have said that the U.
S. State Department generally avoids any issue that could endanger court autonomy and that it rarely acts as an advocate of a
foreign government against a domestic party absent a strong foreign policy interest.

According to the story in National Catholic Reporter, U.S. dioceses have already paid out some $750 million in damages related to
sex abuse lawsuits, a figure that approaches the Vatican total patrimony of $770 million, a figure that includes 30 buildings in
Rome, around 1,700 apartments in the city, and cash investments.

Other U.S. court cases related to the sexual abuse scandals include Doe v. Holy See in Oregon and Gomez v. Holy See in Florida,
though in those cases the Vatican is implicated along with local dioceses and specific individuals.
Source page
Copyright 2005 News World Communications, Inc.

Condoleeza Rice and Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano