LAWYERS for the Catholic Church have been accused of moving to block court action by an alleged victim of a priest dismissed by the Vatican over sexual abuse allegations.
The Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh's legal team has applied for a court hearing in an attempt to have the compensation case against Thomas Mullen time-barred from proceeding.
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Although an out-of-court settlement remains likely, it is expected the lawyers will essentially use the preliminary hearing to try to argue that because the abuse took place some years ago they are unable to investigate the allegations against Mr Mullen.
However, representatives of his alleged victim have claimed that since the Vatican investigated and disciplined Mr Mullen, it was "odd" that similar inquiries could not take place in a civil action in Scotland.
They also claim that as the abuse is alleged to have continued until the early 1990s, it is still relatively recent.
The alleged victim, who is suing the Church for a six-figure sum, said it had "only gone half way" in dealing with the issue, accusing the Archdiocese of double standards in its handling of him and the case and saying he feared it could rumble on through the civil courts for several years.
In an unprecedented move last month, the Church removed Mr Mullen despite Crown prosecutors deciding not to proceed with the case against him involving two alleged victims, now in their 30s and 40s, because too much time had passed between the alleged offences.
But after suspending Mr Mullen, who once shared a parish with shamed Cardinal Keith O'Brien in the 1970s, the Archdiocese ordered a full review into the claims, which was then sent to the Vatican.
In recent weeks the Vatican ruled to dismiss Mr Mullen, a move described as a clear indication of a new resolve to get to grips with historic abuse cases.
But although he is no longer a priest, the Church has a duty to "look after his practical needs".
Cameron Fyfe, lawyer for the alleged victim, said: "The defenders are currently insisting on their argument that they cannot properly investigate the abuse because it took place too long ago.
"It is odd that Rome was able to fully investigate the matter and take disciplinary action against the priest but the defenders cannot do likewise."
Mr Fyfe added that in civil cases around historic abuses legal action has to happen within three years or three years after the victim's 16th birthday, but that courts had discretion to be flexible around the rules.
The alleged victim, who has asked to be referred to only as Chris, said: "After all the positive moves the Church has made around this, I'm very surprised. Thomas Mullen has a lifestyle, a roof over his head and a pension yet the Church won't deal with me. You think you're nearing the end of your journey and its turns out you may not even be half way there.
"The Church should be meeting with me and wanting to know how this has affected me, emotionally, psychologically and financially. I've been homeless as a result of this and it's fair to say I'm not where I expected to be on the career ladder right now."
A spokesman for the Archdiocese said: "Due to the ongoing nature of this litigation it is unfortunately not possible to comment at this time."