St Paul, US: Pope Benedict XVI and other senior Vatican officials are facing legal action from an alleged victim of a Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing hundreds of children in the US over several decades.
A lawyer for the victim said he was taking legal action against the pope, his second-in-command Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, for failing to defrock the priest.
At a news conference in St Paul in the mid-west state of Minnesota Thursday, lawyer Jeff Anderson said the plaintiff was filing a federal lawsuit against the three men for failing to defrock Father Lawrence Murphy.
Murphy, a Wisconsin priest, is alleged to have molested as many as 200 deaf children at a renowned Wisconsin school from 1950 to 1974, when he was sacked after begin accused of sex offences against minors. He has since died.
Anderson said the alleged victim sent certified letters to the Vatican in 1995 asking for Murphy to be defrocked but that he received no response.
News of the lawsuit came as the Catholic Church in Ireland was shaken by the resignation of James Moriarty, the third Irish bishop to stand down over the clerical child abuse there.
Moriarty, bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, follows former bishop of Cloyne John Magee and former bishop of Limerick Donal Murray.
The Vatican is seeking to contain the damage caused by the alleged sexual abuse of thousands of children by paedophile clerics and lay brothers over the past 60 years in Europe and North America.
Elsewhere Thursday, the head of Britain's Catholics, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols apologised for the abuse saying it was a "profound scandal" that "brings deep shame to the whole church".
Benedict at a general audience at St Peter's Basilica Wednesday said he told abuse victims on his two-day visit to Malta last weekend that he "shared their suffering".
During the visit, the pope met eight Maltese victims who claim they were abused by priests as children.
Last month, the New York Times alleged that Benedict, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed the Vatican's disciplinary body from 1981-2005, prevented Murphy being tried within a Catholic Church court.
Bertone, who was Ratzinger's deputy at the Vatican's disciplinary body, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith halted the planned canonical trial after Murphy wrote a letter Ratzinger asking for his "assistance in this matter".
German newspaper Die Zeit reported earlier this month it was in possession of documents showing that correspondence over Murphy's case had been handled by Bertone, who raised numerous obstacles to the planned trial.
The Vatican claims it was only informed of Murphy's abuse 20 years after it happened.
US bishops only began moves to have Murphy tried in 1996, by which time the elderly Murphy was ailing.