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Priest Named in Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

Updated: 02/12/2014 10:54 PM
Created: 02/12/2014 4:51 PM WDIO.com

Father James Vincent Fitzgerald worked in the Duluth Diocese for more than 20 years. His parishes were in the northern part of the diocese, in Northome, Bigfork, Effie, Orr, Nett Lake, and Squaw Lake, according to the diocese.

It was when he served the Squaw Lake area that he allegedly abused an altar boy. 

The boy was from the New Ulm area, and had met Fitzgerald at an educational church program, according to attorney Mike Finnegan.

"He was a devout Catholic, from a devout Catholic family, and was happy to volunteer to go north to Squaw Lake. Then he was trapped with the priest for two weeks," said Finnegan, who is the attorney for the alleged victim, known as Doe 30. 

Doe 30 has filed a lawsuit in Ramsey County, against the Diocese of Duluth, the Diocese of New Ulm, and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

He alleges the church knew about the abuse, covered it up, and moved Fitzgerald to other parishes. He's demanding the release of any files on Fitzgerald, that may show the church knew about the alleged abuse.

Finnegan's report said that Fitzgerald is named in a lawsuit over alleged abuse involving two victims from South Dakota, and a lawsuit involving one victim from White Earth.

His name is on the list of credibly accused priests that was released in December by the Diocese of Duluth.

Fitzgerald died in 2009.

Verne Wagner, northern director of SNAP (Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests), said that they have formed a support group for people affected by priest abuse. "We can help you, and keep you anonymous."

For more information: http://www.snapnetwork.org

The Diocese of Duluth released a statement about the lawsuit. In it, it says that Fitzgerald did work for them from 1957-1983. It also says, "The diocese has no record of any allegations of abuse during that time, and had no knowledge of abuse allegations against Father Fitzgerald anywhere else until late 2013."

"It is our most profound hope and the daily subject of our prayers that all those who suffered abuse by a member of our clergy find peace and healing through the love of Christ and that they come forward to civil authorities and to the church's diocesan assistance coordinators."

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