The United States' highest court has cleared the way for a lawsuit against Pope Benedict by refusing to entertain Vatican immunity in a case involving an Irish priest.
The Irish government is studying the landmark decision by the US Supreme Court which could have major implications for Ireland's relations with the Vatican in the cover-up of paedophile clerics.
In Washington, the Supreme Court refused to consider whether the Vatican enjoyed legal immunity over the sexual abuse of minors by priests in the US, therefore allowing a lawsuit filed in 2002 to proceed.
This decision could set a precedent for Irish courts to give the go- ahead to hear claims against priests ordained in Ireland but who served in the US.
Until now, the government and Irish courts have dismissed clerical child abuse claims on the grounds that the Holy See is an independent State with diplomatic immunity recognised by Ireland.
Previous attempts to make the Papal Nuncio in Dublin appear in the High Court to answer charges of collusion with paedophile cleric Sean Fortune were declared inadmissible.
This special status caused uproar last year when the Murphy Report into the cover-ups in Dublin complained that neither the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, nor the Papal Nuncio in Dublin, answered its queries
The Washington decision could also give impetus to a case being taken by Patrick Wall, a senior |attorney with Manly & Stewart, Newport Beach, California, who is suing notorious Tipperary-ordained cleric Fr Oliver O'Grady.
Mr Wall is also suing the Archbishop of Thurles, Dr Dermot Clifford, claiming the archdioceses ordained O'Grady while knowing he was a paedophile.
The lawsuit in Washington was filed yesterday by a plaintiff identified only as ‘John Doe', claiming he was abused in the mid-1960s by an Irish Catholic priest named Father Andrew Ronan. According to court documents, Fr Ronan molested boys in the mid-1950s as a priest in Ireland and later in Chicago before his transfer to a church in Portland, Oregon, where he allegedly abused the victim. Fr Ronan died in 1992.
The suit claims there was an international conspiracy on the part of Church leaders to move Fr Ronan from Ireland after he allegedly abused a boy while he was working at a seminary in Benburb, which is in Cardinal Sean Brady's archdiocese.