PORTLAND, Ore. – The Vatican won a major victory Monday in an Oregon federal courtroom, where a judge ruled that the Holy See is not the employer of molester priests.

The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Mosman ends a six-year question in a decade-old case and could shield the Vatican from possible monetary damages.

The original lawsuit was filed in 2002 by a Seattle-area man who said that the Rev. Andrew Ronan repeatedly molested him in the late 1960s.

The plaintiff tried to show that Ronan and all priests are employees of the Vatican, which is therefore liable for their actions.

Mosman made a previous decision strictly on legal theory and determined that, if all the factual assertions made by the plaintiff’s attorneys in the case were true and applicable, then the Vatican would indeed employ Ronan.

But on Monday, Mosman said he looked at the facts in the case and didn’t find an employer-employee relationship.

“There are no facts to create a true employment relationship between Ronan and the Holy See,” Mosman said in his ruling from the bench.

Jeff Anderson, attorney for the plaintiff, said he will appeal the decision.

Vatican attorney Jeff Lena said the case should put to rest the notion that the Holy See is liable for the actions of priests.

The case is the last major U.S. sex abuse lawsuit against the Holy See. Cases in Kentucky and Wisconsin have been dropped in recent years.