Supreme Court Upholds Gun Rights, Shoots Down Vatican Case

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

The Supreme Court issued a ruling yesterday to uphold the Second Amendment “right to keep and bear arms.” On the same day, it also refused to hear an appeal from the Holy See to stop a lawsuit that accuses the Vatican of failing to prevent the transfer of an abusive priest from city to city.

The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that the Supreme Court has decided not to stop a lawsuit from going forward that accuses the Vatican of transferring a priest from Ireland, to Chicago, to Portland, in spite of sex abuse accusations.

Sovereign immunity laws hold that sovereign states, such as the Vatican, are immune from lawsuits. However, lower courts have ruled that there could be an exception in this case because there was enough of a connection between the Vatican and convicted priest Fr. Andrew Ronan for him to have been considered an employee of the Vatican.

According to court documents, Ronan began abusing boys in the mid-1950s while serving in the Archdiocese of Armagh in Ireland. He was transferred to Chicago where he admitted to abusing three boys at St. Philips High School. Ronan was later moved to St. Albert’s parish in Portland, Oregon where he was accused of abusing the person who filed the pending lawsuit. Ronan died in 1992.

Also on Monday, the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision upholding the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

According to the AP, the ruling involved a case regarding laws restricting hand guns in Chicago.

The case came about after the 2008 decision by the high court that reaffirmed the right to bear arms, but applied the ruling only to federal law and struck down a handgun restriction in the District of Columbia, a federal city with a unique legal standing.

Almost immeidately, gun rights proponents filed a lawsuit challenging state gun control laws that have been in effect in Chicago and the suburb of Oak Park, Illinois for the last 30 years. Lower courts have upheld the laws, saying they were bound by Supreme Court precedent and that it would be up to the high court justices to rule on the true reach of the Second Amendment.

Justice Samuel Alito confirmed that the Second Amendment also applies to state law. Writing for the five justice majority, he said that “the right to keep and bear arms must be regarded as a substantive guarantee, not a prohibition that could be ignored so long as the States legislated in an evenhanded manner.”

While Monday’s decision does not explicitly strike down the Chicago area laws, it orders a federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling.

“But it left little doubt that they would eventually fall,” the AP reports.

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