Many readers are familiar with the fact that I have written a legal thriller, Betrayal of Faith. Some of you may have already read it; thank you and I hope you enjoyed it. For those that are not familiar with the novel, Betrayal of Faith is a fictional account of two teenage clergy abuse victims and their mother who hire a trial lawyer, file a lawsuit and begin a “David vs. Goliath” legal battle, seeking justice against a corrupt church. The book culminates in “the trial of the century” and features some intense courtroom drama. This fact based legal novel is based loosely on an actual priest molestation lawsuit I handled toward the end of the 20th century.
In my fictional version of the case, the church defends the lawsuit vigorously as it did in the actual lawsuit. In the actual case, I was forced to find several witnesses that the church failed to identify. I had to locate previous victims (whose identities were concealed and who had relocated to other states) and persuade them to testify. I traveled to seven states taking depositions. Any discovery that I sought voluntarily was denied by the defense, and I was forced to motion my request to the judge and appear in court. In the actual case, the church hid things, made things as difficult as possible, and engaged in obstructionist behavior.
In the novel, church officials seek to delay and/or deny justice to the victims and dispatch a clandestine internal organization ("The Coalition") with in the church. Its mysterious leaders orchestrate a conspiracy to cover-up the priest’s prior misconduct and thwart, and stop all attempts at holding the church accountable. In the book, The "Coalition" is a fictional entity, but it portrays how it feels to deal with the obstructionism of the real-life church. Fast forward to a typical day in Minnesota in the 21st century. Does fact mimic fiction?
A man was sexually abused by a priest at the age of 16. Now he is being ordained as a deacon, but the past continues to haunt him. He filed a lawsuit against a Minnesota bishop and diocese alleging blackmail and coercion. The case represents the first time in the U.S. that a Bishop has been individually sued for coercion by a victim.
The complaint states that, in 2010, this devout Catholic victim began exploring how he would go about becoming a deacon. As that time, he told his Bishop about being molested by a priest as a teen. According to the lawsuit, the Bishop advised him to tell no one. He suggested that exposing the molestation would damage the reputation of the priest. The Bishop advised the man that silence would not affect his chances of becoming a deacon. Intimidation led to silence, while the man continued with his diaconate program. In the midst of all of this, the man’s son sought ordination as a priest and was, in fact, ordained.
Five years later, a district judge ordered the diocese to produce information on all clergy accused of child sexual abuse. However, the perpetrator’s name was not included in the court-ordered disclosure. Between the issuance of the order and the time of disclosure, the bishop tried to persuade the survivor to sign a letter stating that the abuse never happened. When he refused to sign, the Bishop engaged in blackmail. He advised the man that it would be difficult to ordain him as a deacon, and, in addition, the man was told that his son would have a ‘difficult time as a priest.' The survivor felt he had no choice but to sign the letter. Even then, the abused survivor tried to complete the requirements for ordination in the deacon program. However, he ultimately decided he could not pledge a vow of obedience to the bishop, as required in the deacon oath.
Here is a media report with the survivor and his attorney:
I encourage you to watch the video. If you haven’t read my book, I invite you to pick up a copy and read it. Then, consider whether fact is stranger than fiction. What are the differences between the fictional tale and this despicable true story?