John Doe 30’s life is not how he expected it to be.
The 52-year-old hair stylist said he has spent much of his adulthood struggling with anxiety, moving from place to place and not trusting people after an alleged sexual assault by a Minnesota priest when he was a boy. He has tried twice to kill himself and has always lived alone.
“I feel like the church has turned its back on me. I feel betrayed by the church,” the man testified Thursday in his court case against the Diocese of Duluth.
Attorneys for Doe 30 said he was 15 in 1978 when he was molested daily during a two-week stay with the Rev. James Vincent Fitzgerald, who had a church in Squaw Lake. Doe 30 is suing the diocese in Ramsey County District Court, alleging that it failed to protect him.
The case is the first under the Minnesota Child Victims Act to go to trial. The 2013 law has allowed older claims of child sex abuse previously barred by statutes of limitations to be aired in court.
“I finally feel like I have a voice to speak the truth where I didn’t before,” the man said.
His attorney, Jeff Anderson, has pushed for jurors to award Doe 30 $9 million for past and future lost wages and opportunities, and for the harm he has suffered.
The diocese is not challenging the sexual abuse claims. Diocese attorney Susan Gaertner has said that Fitzgerald was an employee of a religious order, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, so the diocese is not responsible for his actions. While the Oblates had an extensive personnel file on Fitzgerald and his issues with young boys, the Diocese of Duluth was not given that information.
Also taking the stand on Thursday was the plaintiff’s mother, who described how her son became withdrawn after the trip with Fitzgerald.
“We were just ignorant at the cost of my son’s innocence lost,” she said.