Forced to Testify

News: Video Reports
by Kristine Christlieb  •  •  September 1, 2022   

Church officials to be subpoenaed

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The favored legal strategy of the corrupt cabal in the Catholic hierarchy is to first ignore then stonewall victims. The strategy has served certain Church leaders well.  In tonight's In-Depth Report, Church Militant's Kristine Christlieb updates us on a California case that could break through the Vatican wall of protection.

Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director, Bishop Accountability: "What these events have in common is accountability coming from outside the Church."

Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of Bishop Accountability, is talking about justice for sex abuse victims. But the Church has other kinds of victims as well.

One of them is a Jordanian-American businessman in California who is suing the Vatican — and numerous other Church officials — for $31 million in state court.

In a Special Assignment last month, Church Militant detailed Benjamin Seryani's David-and-Goliath battle with the Vatican. 

The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem flew to California in 2012 and recruited him, with false information, to handle the operations of a newly established Catholic university in Madaba, Jordan. The prelate said the Vatican was involved in the project, implying money was not a concern. 

When Seryani discovered the school was $7 million in debt and refused to sign off on what appeared to be money-laundering bail-out schemes, Church officials canceled his contracts, confiscated thousands of dollars of equipment and threw him out of the country.

Three years ago, almost to the day — on Aug. 22, 2019 — Seryani filed suit. The first and most difficult battle in the case: Does the state of California's justice system have jurisdiction in this dispute?

Robert Spitz, Seryani's attorney:

We have found — my client has found — that there's a lot of influence by the Catholic Church and the Latin patriarch over what happens in that nation of Jordan, so there's no way that we could obtain a fair trial if we were to take the case over there. So we need to establish some basis for jurisdiction in California, which is where the operations that my client undertook were based in.

For two years, Seryani has been deposing witnesses — including the former Latin patriarch of Jerusalem Faoud Twal — and collecting evidence. 

On Oct. 7, Judge Donald Alvarez has ordered an evidentiary hearing. His order explains why: "The parties' arguments and exhibits have revealed factual disputes that are best addressed in an evidentiary hearing with live testimony before the court."

The court is giving each side the opportunity to subpoena witnesses — though none have yet been named.

In response to the judge's order, Vatican attorney David Colella has requested a conference on Friday where he may try to limit who can be called as a witness. 

Questions of jurisdiction are notoriously difficult to litigate, but providing the opportunity to force Vatican officials to testify in California would be no small victory.

Church Militant will be bringing you details of Friday's conference, so stay tuned in the coming days to learn more.

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