Holy See seeks to limit scope of Levada deposition in bankruptcy of Oregon archdiocese | VailDaily.com
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Holy See seeks to limit scope of Levada deposition in bankruptcy of Oregon archdiocese

VATICAN CITY – The Holy See is seeking to limit the scope of a deposition that the senior American at the Vatican, Archbishop William Levada, is to give concerning the bankruptcy of his former Portland, Oregon archdiocese which was prompted by clergy sex abuse lawsuits.Lawyers for the victims in the case had sought to have Levada testify about Vatican policies in addition to the practices of Portland archdiocese concerning the abuse of minors by priests, saying he was “uniquely qualified” to shed light on the issue.On Monday, lawyers for the Holy See and Levada filed a motion in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Oregon arguing, among other things, that Levada shouldn’t have to testify about the Vatican’s policies because he enjoys immunity as an official of a foreign state – the Holy See – and because the Vatican’s own laws and confidentiality oaths prevent it.If Levada were to violate such oaths, he could face “excommunication, confinement to a residence or a house of penance for up to five years, and a prohibition from holding any office or faculty,” according to the court documents obtained by The Associated Press.”The issue is not one of trying to avoid relevant testimony about Portland, but to request that the court establish an appropriate scope for the deposition in regard to Archbishop Levada’s service at the Holy See,” Jeffrey Lena, an attorney for Levada and the Vatican, said in a phone interview.Levada was named by Pope Benedict XVI to take over the pontiff’s old job as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on May 13. He had served as Portland archbishop from 1986-95, after which he served as archbishop of San Francisco.Last year, Portland became the first Catholic diocese in the United States to declare bankruptcy, citing sex abuse lawsuits seeking more than $155 million in damages.Levada was served with a subpoena on Aug. 10, right before he left for Rome, to give a deposition as a witness in the Portland archdiocese’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.Lawyers for the victims have said in court papers they wanted Levada as a witness, not only because he was Portland archbishop, but because he was “uniquely qualified” to testify about whether the archdioces’ practices concerning the abuse of minors by priests were consistent with those of the Roman Catholic Church. They cited his past work at the congregation and on other clergy sex abuses cases in the United States.In an Aug. 9 filing, lawyers for the abuse claimants had asked that Levada’s testimony cover such topics as discussions with officials at the congregation concerning the destruction of records of alleged sexual misconduct by priests, the nature of the secrecy oath he took, canon law, and communications with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other dioceses.But in their filing Monday, Levada’s lawyers urged U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Harris to modify the subpoena and limit the scope of his deposition, excluding any information beyond that concerning the actions of the archdiocese.The victims’ case “depends upon evidence relating to the actions of the Archdiocese of Portland – evidence that Archbishop Levada is willing to provide,” the filing says. “Because Archbishop Levada’s testimony as to the Holy See is not essential … this factor weighs heavily against compelling disclosure.”The lawyers said that trying to obtain information from Levada about the Holy See violates “established principles” of foreign sovereign immunity. In addition, Levada should be allowed to assert privileges as a high-ranking official of a foreign state, including judicial privilege because the congregation he heads has a “judicial function” – that of examining offenses to the faith and imposing sanctions.”Accordingly, just as a federal judge in the United States should not be forced to testify in foreign courts as to his or her decisions in a particular case, Archbishop Levada should not be compelled to testify in the United States regarding cases considered by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith,” the motion says.Lawyers for the victims had said that an agreement Levada signed in accepting the subpoena amounted to a waiver of diplomatic immunity.However, in Monday’s filing, Levada’s attorneys say he was doing no such thing. The agreement, which is reproduced in the filing, says that while he accepted the court’s jurisdiction in enforcing the subpoena, “nothing in this acceptance of service shall be construed as constituting a waiver of my right to challenge the scope of the deposition.”Vail, Colorado


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