The last month has seen a blizzard of new sex abuse accusations against the Catholic Church from across the United States. Almost all of them — and the intense media attention they’ve garnered — can be trace d to one man: a Minnesota lawyer named Jeff Anderson.
Last week, an alleged victim of priest abuse in Wisconsin announced a lawsuit against the Vatican itself. Anderson is representing the alleged victim.
A couple of days earlier, a Mexican man who alleged abuse by a priest years ago filed suit against Mexico’s top Catholic cleric in a U.S. court. The plaintiff is another Anderson client.
And throughout April, new documents have come to light suggesting that the current pope may have played down warnings about abusive priests in the United States. Those documents came from Anderson’s St. Paul, Minnesota, office.
For decades, Anderson has won settlements from Catholic archdioceses across the country for abuse victims and, more than any other attorney in the country, has driven American media coverage of the church abuse scandal.
Now, with the church abuse crisis embroiling Europe for the first time and raising questions about whether the pope himself did enough to respond to church abuse, Anderson is employing novel legal tactics in an attempt to take his campaign all the way to the Vatican.
“I’m getting far more aggressive because all roads are leading to Rome,” Anderson, 62, said last Thursday, after filing suit against the Vatican on behalf of the alleged Wisconsin abuse victim.
“I’m pessimistic that the Vatican is capable of changing itself but I’m optimistic that external pressure will,” Anderson said. “We’re at a tipping point.”
Anderson’s last sex abuse suit against the Vatican, filed in 2002, has wound its way through the courts, with the U.S. Supreme Court now considering whether to hear the case.
But Anderson’s critics say that last week’s suit against the Vatican, along with much of his other work, is aimed more at attracting publicity than getting justice.
“Anderson has sued the Vatican many times, and has never won,” said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. “He knows he will lose again this time, but that means nothing to him. What this is all about is grandstanding: getting more PR for himself and throwing more mud at the Catholic Church.”
Anderson’s firm — Jeff Anderson & Associates, which employs four other lawyers — has filed hundreds of sex abuse suits against the church. Though he won’t disclose how much he has won in settlements, Anderson is thought to be responsible for a good chunk of the roughly $2.5 billion that, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the U.S. Catholic Church has paid to sex abuse victims to date.
He was among the lawyers representing abuse victims in the $600 million settlement with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2007, the church’s largest payout ever. . . . (continue reading)