Pope Benedict XVI is invoking the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA) to avoid responding to claims that he is ultimately responsible for crimes committed by Catholic priests. The Vatican and the United States have been diplomatic allies since 1984 when the Vatican was formally recognized. As the head of state of a recognized foreign government, there is a presumption of immunity and the burden of showing that the Pope meets one of the exceptions will fall on the plaintiffs.
Should they pierce the immunity shield, the Vatican also claims that bishops are not employees and that documents linking Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as he was known before his elevation to the Holy See, to priests alleged to have molested boys are not proof of a cover up. Before Ratzinger was elected Pope, he held a position in the Vatican for 25 years as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and was the one who dealt with such scandals that came to the attention of the Church.
William McMurray, attorney for three men in Kentucky who have filed suit against the Vatican, is working on attaining class-action status on behalf of all children who were victims of priestly abuse.
It’s an uphill battle for McMurray; the Vatican has been claiming the Pope is infallible for centuries.