The Vatican has insisted it is not responsible for clerical sex abuse cases in the United States because the bishops are not technically its employees. The claim was made in response to court cases in ... Kentucky, in which bishops allegedly conspired to conceal sex abuse charges against pedophile priests.
Jeffrey Lena, the Vatican's US-based attorney, argued on Tuesday that as bishops are not paid by the Roman Catholic Church, they are therefore not considered its responsibility. Lena also denied that the Church had permitted secrecy over abuse allegations.
However, lawyer William McMurry has insisted that a 1962 Vatican document known as the 'Crimen Sollicitationis' -- Latin for "crimes of solicitation" -- barred bishops from reporting abuse to police.
He said that the document was "evidence of a 'written' policy' that orders secrecy over priestly sex abuse.
The Vatican has denied the charges.
Abuse victims have, meanwhile, stressed that it is dishonest of the Roman Catholic Church to claim that it is not in charge of appointed bishops.
The Kentucky lawsuit filed in 2004 by three men seeks to depose top Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI.
In another case in the US state of Wisconsin, an alleged victim of a pedophile priest also filed a lawsuit against the Pope, Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who is dean of the College of Cardinals. The Vatican is anxious to block the charges, contending that as head of a sovereign state, the Pontiff enjoys immunity from prosecution.
During the past few months, widespread pedophilia scandals have rocked the Roman Catholic Church across the Americas and Europe. Many accuse the Vatican hierarchy and the Pope, himself, of helping protect child-molesting priests and creating a "wall of silence" around such issues.