Published: Apr 22, 2010 6:00 PM EDT

VATICAN CITY  - The Vatican says it had no role whatsoever in the abuse of deaf students by a Wisconsin priest and says a new lawsuit naming the pope and other top officials as defendants is just a publicity stunt.

In a statement, the Vatican's U.S. attorney Jeffrey Lena says the whole lawsuit is without merit and rehashes theories already rejected by U.S. courts.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. federal court in Milwaukee, accusing Vatican officials of failing to protect children from a man the Vatican knew was a possible child molester. Lena says sympathy is due to the victims of the Rev. Lawrence Murphy. But he says the Vatican knew nothing of his crimes until decades after the abuse occurred and that it isn't responsible as a result.