First clergy sex abuse trial under Child Victims Act starts Monday

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One of the dozens of lawsuits filed in connection with sexual abuse in the Catholic church starts Monday, in what should be the first case going to trial under special law change.

According to the lawsuit, filed on behalf of Doe 30 by Jeff Anderson and Associates, the plaintiff says he was abused by Fr. J. Vincent Fitzgerald in 1978. Fitzgerald brought Doe 30, then a teenage altar boy, to St. Catherine's in Squaw Lake for a two-week period, and molested him "on a daily basis," according to the suit.

Fitzgerald, who died in 2009, was working as a priest at St. Catherine’s Church at the time, in the Diocese of Duluth.

Doe 30 is suing the Diocese of Duluth over the claims. The jury trial process starts at 9 a.m. Monday, according to online court records, in front of Judge John Gunthmann.

 (Photo: Minnesota Trial Court Public Access records)

(Photo: Minnesota Trial Court Public Access records)

The Duluth News Tribune says, unless a settlement or some other legal action happens, it will be the first case to go to trial as part of the Minnesota Child Victims Act.

Passed in 2013, it lifts the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims until May of 2016, meaning anyone at any age can file a civil lawsuit seeking damages for being sexually abused as a child (until the deadline next spring). Previously, a victim had to file a lawsuit by the time they were 24 years old.

Fitzgerald was named back in August of 2014, when the Diocese of New Ulm released a list of priests suspected of sexual abuse; then again in July of this year, when seven priests of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (which Fitzgerald was a member of) that had been “credibly accused” were publicly named as part of a settlement.

The Diocese of New Ulm was also initially part of the lawsuit, but a judge dismissed it, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

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