The Vatican released internal files Wednesday about a priest accused of molesting children in Oregon.  It's the first time the Holy See has been forced to turn over documents in a sex abuse case.

Up to now, the Vatican has avoided getting entangled in the settlement of abuse claims by asserting its sovereign authority.  Sovereign nations -- usually foreign countries -- cannot be sued under U.S. law except under extraordinary circumstances.

After nine years of legal wrangling, plaintiff’s lawyer Marci Hamilton says those circumstances have now been met.

"We have been litigating this rather arcane statute which gives foreign sovereigns a lot of latitude for a lot of years. But ultimately the courts have said, there's enough here that they have to at least release these documents to see if we get to go further," Hamilton said.

Vatican attorney Jeffrey Lena says the documents should help "calm down those people who are too quick to make sensational and unfair comments."

A man known only as John Doe has filed suit in federal court in Portland, claiming the Vatican knew Reverend Andrew Ronan had abused children in Ireland and Chicago before it sent him to Oregon. The plaintiff says he was one of Ronan’s Oregon victims. Ronan died in 1992.