European court rules Vatican cannot be sued in local courts

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France (Wikimedia/CherryX)

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the Vatican cannot be sued in local courts for the actions of clerical abusers because it has sovereign immunity. Source: CNA.

The international court that interprets the European Convention on Human Rights issued the ruling yesterday. It is the first time that the court has considered a case touching on the Holy See’s immunity.

A Chamber of seven judges decided by six votes to one that courts in Belgium did not violate Article 6§1 of the convention, on the right of access to a court, when they declined jurisdiction in respect of the Vatican.

The case, known as J.C. and Others v. Belgium, was brought by 24 Belgian, French and Dutch nationals against the Vatican, as well as Catholic leaders and associations in Belgium.

The applicants, who said they were sexually abused by Catholic priests as children, sought to bring a civil action against the Vatican, arguing that it had addressed clerical abuse in a “structurally deficient manner.”

The ECHR judges noted that the Holy See was “recognised internationally as having the common attributes of a foreign sovereign,” noting that it has diplomatic relations with some 185 states worldwide.

The Chamber’s ruling is not final and can be appealed within three months to the court’s Grand Chamber, where a panel of five judges would decide whether to hear the case and offer a final judgment.

If the Grand Chamber rejects the referral request then the Chamber’s ruling becomes final.


European court rules Vatican cannot be sued in local courts over clerical abuse (CNA)


Europe court rejects case seeking to blame Vatican for abuse (Crux)

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