Three of the plaintiffs are brothers–and this is their third time suing the Holy See.
Five Minnesota men who claim to have been abused as children by Roman Catholic clergy are suing the Vatican, accusing it of concealing the identities of thousands of sex predator priests.
The lawsuit, filed by three brothers and two other men, was filed in the U.S. District Court in St. Paul. The complaint claims that the Vatican has files on at least 3,400 clergy accused of sexual abuse, including some high-ranking officials.
Reuters notes that the Roman Catholic Church has been embroiled in a global scandal regarding child sex abuse since 2002.
In the past several years alone, dioceses in New York and California—as well as other states and U.S. territories—have paid out billions to settle with victims of abuse.
According to Reuters’ recap, the three brothers claim to have been molested by former Minnesota priest Curtis Wehmeyer for over a half-decade, between 2006 and 2012.
Another plaintiff says they were molested by another priest, Thomas Adamson, in the early 1980s. The remaining man, states the suit, was assaulted by former California clergyman Fidencio Silva-Flores sometime between 1978 and 1984.
Only the three brothers have seen some measure of justice—Wehmeyer pleaded guilty in 2012 to 20 criminal counts against him, which included possession of child pornography as well as sexual abuse. Reuters says that he was sentenced to five years in prison.
But Adamson, who was ejected from the church following claims levied against him, died before any legal action could be taken.
Silva-Flores was also charged with 25 counts of child molestation, but his case never went to trial—today, he’s working at a church in Mexico.
The lawsuit’s central claim of cover-up stems from a 2014 statement made by the Vatican. As Reuters reports, the Holy See said it had been referred more than 3,400 cases and claims of sexual abuse since 2004.
The Vatican says the claims and cases led to 3,420 priests and other members of the clergy being removed from ministry. But the alleged predators’ names were never publicly released.
More troublingly, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops says that it’s received over six thousand accusations between 1950 and 2016. While individual dioceses have become more transparent in recent years, many of those priests have escaped with their anonymity intact, too.
One of the brothers, Stephen Hoffman, said he’s suing to make sure other young people don’t have to face what he and his siblings did.
“I have too many nieces and nephews to let something like this happen to somebody else,” Hoffman told the Associated Press.
But the lawsuit isn’t Hoffman’s first—Stephen, along with siblings Luke and Ben, have unsuccessfully tried suing the Vatican twice in the past.
“The body of evidence and the scope of the complaint is much broader and much more developed than the first time we litigated this,” attorney Jeff Anderson said.