The European court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the Vatican has sovereign immunity as it dismissed lawsuits from survivors of sexual abuse committed by the Catholic clergy. In its chamber ruling Tuesday, the ECHR said the immunity protects the Vatican from being sued as it agreed with the Ghent Court of First Instance in its earlier ruling that it does not have jurisdiction over the Holy See.

The class-action suit was filed by 24 Belgian, French, and Dutch abuse survivors with the Belgian court in 2011 but had been declined by Ghent Court in 2013. This is the ECHR’s first case dealing with Vatican diplomatic immunity as it explained how the Holy See enjoys “state privileges under international law.”

According to CNN, the lawsuit has sought compensation for the survivors amounting to €10,000 ($11,500) for each victim. 

The abuse survivors who claim to have been abused by priests when they were children brought their case to the European Court in 2017 arguing that they had been denied right of access to court under articles of the ECHR.

As the case was dismissed, the ECHR  explained the Court did not find anything “unreasonable or arbitrary” in the detailed reasoning that led the Belgian Court of Appeals in adopting that position. In a press statement, the European court pointed out that their decision is not final and any party to the case can request an appeal with the Grand Chamber within three months of the ruling. 

The ruling comes as the Catholic Church is once again rocked with allegations of sexual abuse with a growing number of survivors coming together in their fight for justice. 

An estimated 330,000 abused minors have been linked to the Catholic Church in places such as Catholic schools and Catholic funded youth programs. In a recent report, about 3,200 abusers are said to have worked in the French Catholic Church victimizing children and the vulnerable between 1950 and 2020.

The report revealed that France’s Catholic clergy was involved in abuse cases of an estimated 216,000 minors over the past 70 years while urging victims to keep silent.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis has called the report a “moment of shame” urging Church leaders to ensure similar tragedies are never repeated. The pontiff assured victims of his prayers as he expressed his sorrow and pain for the trauma they have suffered.

rome-236885_960_720 Representation Image Vatican at Night Websi/ Pixabay