Doe v. Holy See

557 F.3d 1066 (2009)

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Doe v. Holy See

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
557 F.3d 1066 (2009)

  • Written by Liz Nakamura, JD

Facts

The Holy See (defendant) is a sovereign state based out of Vatican City that governs the Roman Catholic Church. The Holy See has authority over every church entity and official. The Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon (archdiocese), and the Catholic Bishop of Chicago (Chicago Bishop) were established and governed under the authority of the Holy See. The Holy See assigned Andrew Ronan, a priest, to the archdiocese knowing Ronan had sexually abused minor boys during his tenure at the Chicago Bishop. The Holy See did not inform the archdiocese about Ronan’s history of sexual misconduct. Ronan used his position in the archdiocese to repeatedly sexually abuse John Doe (plaintiff), a 15-year-old parishioner. Doe sued the Holy See in federal court, arguing that the Holy See was (1) vicariously liable for Ronan’s actions; (2) vicariously liable for the negligent actions of the archdiocese and the Chicago Bishop; and (3) directly liable for negligently hiring, retaining, and supervising Ronan. The Holy See moved to dismiss, arguing that it was entitled to sovereign immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The district court denied the Holy See’s motion, holding that it had jurisdiction over the Holy See under FSIA’s tortious-act exception. The Holy See appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

Concurrence (Fernandez, J.)

Dissent (Berzon, J.)

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