SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Two sexual abuse survivors announced in San Francisco Wednesday they have sued the Vatican in federal court for allegedly failing to prevent and covering up the abuse of them and others as children by priests.
Kathleen Stonebraker of Pinole and James Keenan of Minnesota claim they were abused during their childhoods by Roman Catholic priests who were previously suspected or should have been suspected to be molesters but were allowed to remain in contact with young people.
Their lawsuit was filed in federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday. It accuses the Vatican, a sovereign nation officially known as the Holy See, of violating customary international human rights law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
It asks for an injunction requiring the Holy See to stop concealing reports of priestly misconduct, as well as a court order requiring the Vatican to release the names of perpetrators and documents in 3,400 credible cases of childhood sexual abuse worldwide that are, according to the lawsuit, currently known to the Holy See.
The lawsuit was assigned to U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of Oakland, who scheduled a case management conference on Jan. 25.
Stonebraker said she was abused at St. Joseph parish in Pinole by Rev. Stephen Kiesle between 1972 and 1974, when she was 11 to 13 years old, sometimes during Saturday catechisms.
“I was repeatedly raped and molested,” she said at a news conference in San Francisco.
Keenan alleges he was abused in 1985 by Rev. Thomas Adamson in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
“I came forward for the safety of kids. I am here to ask for the pope to show some honor and use his intelligence to keep us safe,” he said.
The lawsuit contends the Vatican is responsible for alleged abuse by priests and concealment of misconduct because it “directly and definitively controls the standards, morals, and obligations of the clergy of the Catholic Church” worldwide.
“Every evidentiary road of concealment leads to Rome,” said Jeff Anderson, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
In addition to claims of international human rights law violations, the lawsuit includes California law claims of creation of public and private nuisances and violation of the state’s business and professions code.
The Holy See’s press office could not immediately be reached for comment.
Anderson’s law firm, based in St. Paul, previously filed a conspiracy and public nuisance lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Oct. 2 against 11 of the 12 Roman Catholic dioceses in California on behalf of an abuse survivor from Ventura County.
That lawsuit seeks an order requiring the dioceses to disclose the names and alleged history of abuse of all priests in those dioceses who are accused of molesting children.
In connection with that case, Anderson on Tuesday released a list of 18 suspected abusive priests and officials connected to the Diocese of San Jose, adding to a list of 15 “credibly accused” men identified by the diocese the previous week.
In a response Tuesday, the Diocese of San Jose said it was “heartbreaking” to see the list of names and said it was committed to providing healing and reconciliation for the victims.
But it said most of the names were not on the original list because the priests were assigned to their posts by other orders or institutions, so that the Diocese of San Jose had no personnel files on them. Investigations should have been carried out by the other institutions, diocesan officials said.
The diocese said 11 of those newly named were Jesuit priests or brothers who were assigned by Jesuit institutions in Santa Clara County, including Santa Clara University and Bellarmine College Preparatory.
Three others were assigned by Ukrainian and Croatian orders and by the Archdiocese for the Military Services. Another was assigned to a parish that has a Los Gatos mailing address but is located in Santa Cruz County and is part of the Diocese of Monterey.
Three men on the new list were given parish assignments by the Diocese of San Jose, but the alleged incidents occurred in other jurisdictions and the diocese was not informed of them, the statement said. The Diocese of San Jose said it is now following up on those cases to determine next steps.
Anderson’s law firm also filed a fraud lawsuit against the Diocese of Oakland in Alameda County Superior Court in 2010 on behalf of Stonebraker, four other women and one man who claimed they were abused by Kiesle in Pinole in the 1970s. That lawsuit was dismissed in 2011 because it was filed after the statute of limitations deadline for a fraud claim.
Michael Reck, a lawyer for Stonebraker, said the alleged human rights law and nuisance violations cited in the new federal lawsuit are ongoing and therefore not subject to a statute of limitations.
Kiesle was convicted in 2004 of sexually abusing a child in his summer home in Truckee in 1995 and was sentenced to six years in prison. He now lives in Walnut Creek and is a registered sex offender, according to the lawsuit.
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