The Catholic Diocese recently paid an undisclosed amount of money to a woman who used to live in Lakeland to settle a lawsuit she brought involving a priest she said was stalking her. The Orlando Diocese fought the case for almost 4 years, even though the priest pleaded guilty to criminal charges for the underlying acts 3 years ago.
Walter Fisher (formerly known as Wladyshlaw Gorak) was a priest originally from Poland. His first job in the United States was as a priest in Newark, N.J. He transferred to Orlando in 2003. Discovery in the woman’s lawsuit against the Diocese revealed that other priests and church employees had concerns about Father Fisher’s interactions with women. Somehow the Orlando Diocese claimed that it didn’t know about this history.
The victim from Lakeland allegedly began complaining about advances made by Father Fisher to the senior paster at her church, Father Matthew Mello of the Catholic Church of the Resurrection. However, Father Mello never did anything about Father Fisher. Finally, Father Fisher broke into the victim’s home, overpowered her, and ripped off her clothes before she escaped in October 2004.
The Orlando Diocese finally removed Father Fisher from the ministry in December 2004, but not until after he had assaulted and battered the victim.
Organizations such as the Catholic Church can be held liable when their employees sexually assault people who are connected to the organization. These claims almost always involve negligent background checking or negligent supervision.