Vatican expresses satisfaction after plaintiffs give up sex abuse case in Kentucky

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican said Tuesday it was satisfied that three men who had sought to hold the Vatican liable in an American court for sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests have decided to abandon the case.

The Kentucky case was being closely watched as the clerical abuse scandal swirls around the Holy See. Lawsuits naming top Vatican officials were also filed recently in U.S. courts in Wisconsin and Oregon.

"It is good news that a case that has lasted six years on the alleged involvement of the Holy See in concealing abuse and which has also had strong negative effects on public opinion, has ultimately been proven unfounded," said a Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

Lombardi stressed, however, that he sought not to "minimize the horror and condemnation" of child sex abuse or the compassion due to victims. Vatican Radio also carried Lombardi's comments in its report of the lawsuit development.

The Vatican spokesman said justice for the victims and the protection of children remain a priority.

The three plaintiffs filed a motion on Monday asking a federal judge in Louisville, Kentucky, to dismiss their claims.

Their attorney, William McMurry, said he was seeking to end the case because of an earlier court ruling that recognized the Vatican's immunity and the failure to turn up new plaintiffs to add to the lawsuit who haven't yet been involved in a Catholic clergy abuse case.

The judge must still rule on whether the case can be dismissed, but attorneys on both sides say it has virtually ended.

The lawsuit had been filed in 2004 by the three men abused by priests in the Louisville diocese. It was considered the first in the U.S. to make it to the stage of determining whether victims had a negligence claim against the Vatican.

The lawsuit argued in part that U.S. bishops should be considered employees or officials of the Holy See. The Vatican has argued that its U.S. bishops act independently, control their own budgets and are not employees of the Holy See.