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 case. In the actual case, I was forced to find several witnesses that the church failed to identify. I has to locate previous victims (whose identities were concealed and who had relocated to other states) and persuade them to testify. I had to travel 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, throughout.
In the novel, church officials, seeking to delay and/or deny justice to the victims, dispatch “The Coalition”, a clandestine internal organization with in the church. “The Coalition” and its mysterious leader orchestrate a conspiracy to cover-up the priest’s prior misconduct and thwart, by any means necessary, all attempts at holding the church accountable in a court of law. In the book, The Coalition will stop at nothing, even criminal activity, to thwart justice. 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 today, a typical day in Minnesota in the 21st century. Does fact mimic fiction in our 21st Century courtrooms?
In 21st Century Minnesota, a man, sexually abused by a priest at the age of 16, was on the verge of being ordained as a deacon in the Church. Prior to his ordination, he filed a lawsuit against a Minnesota bishop and diocese. That civil lawsuit is currently being litigated in a Minnesota court. The man’s complaint includes allegations of 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 facts, as alleged in the complaint, state, 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 at the age of 16. 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. And, 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 all information on all clergy accused of child sexual abuse. However, the perpetrator’s name was not included in the required, court-ordered disclosure. Between the issuance of the order and the time of the disclosure, the bishop tired 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 said it would be difficult to ordain him as a deacon, and, in addition, said that his son would have a ‘difficult time as a priest’. The survivor felt he had no choice but to sign the letter. The abuse survivor tried to complete the requirements for ordination in the deacon program, but ultimately decided that he could not and would 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. After watching the video and reading the book, consider whether fact is stranger than fiction. What are the differences between the fictional tale and this despicable true story?
Betrayal of Faith creates The Coalition which is tasked with the responsibility of taking care of these types of incidents quickly and quietly and by any means necessary. After watching the video and hearing the survivor’s story, is “The Coalition” that farfetched? When will the Church finally learn its lesson? When will Church officials stop covering for criminals and criminality? I wonder — Can one have faith in justice when faith itself is corrupt?