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Servite removes name of priest from aquatic center amid sex abuse claims – Press Telegram

Servite High School is removing Father Kevin Fitzpatrick’s name from the school’s aquatic center after allegations were made that Fitzpatrick harassed a Servite student in the 1970s, according to a letter obtained by the Orange County Registry.

The decision follows a recent filing of a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court against Servite, the Diocese of Orange, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and the Order of the Servants of Mary by the survivor who alleges that Fitzpatrick harassed and sexually assaulted him more than a dozen times a year.

The man decided to file a lawsuit after meeting with Father Kevin Fitzpatrick Aquatic Center, a $ 5.7 million state-of-the-art facility that was completed in 2017, during a visit to the Servite campus in the summer of 2021.

The lawsuit is possible due to Assembly Bill 218, which was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019 and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, which created a three-year window to file previous claims that had expired under the limitation period. .

Alleged survivors must file civil lawsuits within eight years of becoming adults or three years from the date an adult survivor “discovers” or should have discovered that they were sexually abused, under current California law.

The law requires applicants to meet with a mental health physician and receive a certificate of merit to file under AB218. The man received a certificate of merit to present, according to his attorney Michael Reck.

The Servites’ decision to remove Fitzpatrick’s name from the facility “shows the power of the new law and how powerful this survivor is,” Reck said.

“This decision is because this survivor took a step forward and told the truth,” Reck continued. “Servite did not wake up one day and decided to do the right thing. This decision was binding on them. “

Reck said other survivors have filed charges of sexual abuse against Fitzpatrick.

“Father Fitzpatrick’s survivors don’t need to live in silence and shame,” Reck said. “They can show up and have rights and I’m very proud of the brave ones who have already shown up and forced this change to Servite.”

Servant President Chris Weir did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Servite, in a letter to the school community, said that after “careful reflection and prayerful consideration” he was removing Fitzpatrick’s name from the center pending the outcome of a review by the school of the allegations. The measure, the letter said, was to “demonstrate our commitment to healing and reconciliation.”

“These allegations are deeply troubling and were previously unknown,” the letter continues. “Together with the Order of the Servant Friars of Mary, the Servite High School is conducting a thorough review of the allegations. As Catholics, we must do all we can to reduce the suffering and pain of others. We offer our prayers for continued strength and healing for all survivors of abuse. ”

Fitzpatrick worked at Servite from 1970 to 1992. He was transferred to Our Savior Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1993 and then to a church in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon in 1994. Fitzpatrick died in 1997.

Fitzpatrick, known as Father Fitz, was a beloved coach and teacher at Servite. In addition to training, teaching, maintaining the school pool, opening it to neighborhood children, Father Fitz was known for offering Servite students free haircuts on the pool deck and in the barber chair he kept in a school annex office. .

“Father Fitz was a model friar, providing spiritual advice and guidance, and it’s important to take time to thank,” then-Servite President Pete Bowen said during an inauguration ceremony at the aquatic center in April 2016.

The survivor, now 60, in an interview with the Registry and court records, portrays Fitzpatrick as a predatory priest who habitually preyed on a small, shy, insecure child.

“The first two years (at Servite) I assumed he got me in,” said the man, who estimated he measured 5 feet 5 and 125 pounds when he was young. “The first two years petrified me that at any moment I would be out.

“I was a very young child and she looked feminine.”

The man estimates that “at least 20 times a year” while he was at Servite, Fitzpatrick told him he needed a haircut and brought him to his office and told him to sit in the barber chair.

“She would put hairpins on me and say ‘what a pretty girl you are’ and masturbate. And she would tell me ‘don’t you dare move.’

“It was a ritual. It was gross to me. I was terrified.”

“I feel for that kid,” the man said. “I changed my name (as an adult) because I want that man to leave. I no longer wanted to be that child. Because that child was so fragile. I cried every day. I cried every day until my 18th birthday.”

Sexual assaults ceased during the child’s last year when he grew to 5-8, 190 pounds.

“I remember he once literally said,‘ Come cut your hair ’and I said no,” the man recounted. “And he realized he could break her jaw.”

The lawsuit also alleges that Sevite employees ignored obvious signs that should alert them to Fitzpatrick’s misconduct. The man also suspects she was not the only alleged victim of Fitzpatrick.

“Father Fitz had a room, it’s his own space. With a barber chair, ”said the man. “That’s a red flag. And then how suddenly disappeared.

“He was the most popular person in the school, and all of a sudden he left. They moved Father Fitz. Why?

“I can’t just be an isolated case. I just can’t.”

RELATED:

Suit denounces sexual abuse by a popular former priest and swimming coach

Servite removes name of priest from aquatic center amid sex abuse claims – Press Telegram Source link Servite removes name of priest from aquatic center amid sex abuse claims – Press Telegram

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