The Pope has criticised US bishops for their handling of sex abuse scandals
A US federal appeals court has ruled that a lawsuit against the Vatican over claims it covered up decades of child sex abuse by priests can go ahead.
The case was filed by three men from Kentucky who say they were abused by clergy in their childhood.
It centres on a 1962 directive from the Vatican - made public in 2003 - which told church officials not to disclose sex abuse complaints against priests.
The US Roman Catholic Church has been plagued by a string of abuse scandals.
On a visit to the US earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI criticised US bishops for their handling of the child sex abuse crisis, saying their response had sometimes been very poor.
In ruling the Kentucky lawsuit could go ahead, the Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier decision by a district judge.
Although the Vatican is largely protected from lawsuits, the court ruled that clergymen could be taken to court as part of their role as Roman Catholic Church employees.