updated 1/11/2007 12:04:22 PM ET 2007-01-11T17:04:22

Sex abuse victims can pursue damages from the Vatican in a lawsuit alleging top church officials failed to report known or suspected cases of child abuse, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II allows three men to pursue claims against the Vatican over allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Louisville.

The men alleged that the Vatican knew or suspected some of its priests or bishops were child molesters, but failed to warn the public or local authorities about them because of a policy prohibiting it.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damaged.

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