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Many of my readers know that I recently wrote the book, “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 book, “Betrayal of Faith” is a fictional account of two teenage clergy abuse victims and their mother who hire a lawyer, file a lawsuit and begin a “David vs. Goliath” legal battle, seeking justice against a corrupt church. The book is based loosely on an actual case I handled toward the end of the 20th Century. In this legal thriller, the Church defends the case vigorously and dispatches “The Coalition”, a clandestine internal organization within 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.

Fast forward to today, a typical day in Minnesota in the 21st century. Such cases of clerical abuse still occur, but now there is an additional problem on the rise – a real-life “Coalition” is trying to cover up transgressions of the past. As I read the following case I wondered, does fact mimic fiction in our 21st century courtrooms?

A man on the verge of being ordained a Church deacon has filed a lawsuit against a Minnesota bishop and diocese on the grounds of blackmail and coercion. The case represents the first time that a U.S. bishop has been individually sued for coercion by a victim.

In 2010, the victim visited with the bishop in question to explore how he would go about becoming a deacon. At that time, he told the Bishop about having been molested by a priest at the age of 16.  According to the current lawsuit, the Bishop advised him to tell no one, suggesting that the truth would damage that priest’s reputation.  This intimidation led to silence, while the mane continued with his deaconate program. Consequently during this time, his son was ordained a priest.

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 tried to persuade the victim to sign a letter stating that the abuse never happened. When the victim refused, the Bishop engaged in blackmail, advising the man that it would be difficult to ordain him as a deacon and that his son would have a ‘difficult time as a priest’. The survivor felt he had no choice but to sign the letter. The abused survivor tried to finish his deaconate 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?

Mark Bello has practiced law for 40 years. He is currently the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company, and the author of the legal thriller “Betrayal of Faith” available on major online book store sites.

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