WASHINGTON — A US man who sued the Vatican after years of alleged sexual abuse at the hands of a Roman Catholic priest plans to appeal a court ruling dismissing the case, his attorney said Tuesday.

The lawsuit in the western US city of Portland, Oregon was the first in a priest abuse case to directly name the Vatican as a defendant.

The plaintiff alleged that while he was a teenager, the priest raped him repeatedly -- abuse he said went on for a decade -- and that the Catholic church bears ultimate responsibility for those crimes.

But the alleged victim's attorney Jeff Anderson told AFP in a telephone interview that the judge dismissed the case Monday, ruling that the Vatican did not employ the cleric.

Portland judge Michael Mosman ruled that "there was insufficient evidence to decide that the Vatican has both directional and operational control over priests in the United States," Anderson said.

The priest, Andrew Ronan, now deceased, is accused of raping the victim, who has remained anonymous, during the 1960s.

Anderson told AFP that he was optimistic about his odds of winning future litigation in the case.

"I'm very encouraged and hopeful," he said. "We still have a little chance to get that judgment overturned."

A group that defends the victims of priest abuse condemned the court ruling.

"Catholic officials want to have their cake and eat it too -- sometimes admitting the church is a rigid, top-down monarchy and sometimes claiming it's radically decentralized," the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said in a statement.

"The truth is that the Vatican oversees the church worldwide, insisting on secrecy in child sex cases and stopping or delaying the defrocking of pedophile priests," the statement continued.