Father Kevin Fitzpatrick’s first 25 years in the service of the Order of Servants of Mary were commemorated by a page dedicated to the popular priest in Servite High School’s 1980 yearbook.
The page features a photo of Fitzpatrick, the school’s swimming and water polo coach, poolside. There’s a picture of Fitzpatrick, known to the Servite community as simply Father Fitz, sticking out his tongue at the photographer and another of him grabbing a Servite student by the front of the boy’s shirt in mock anger.
“Fr. Fitz donates a great deal of time to the various sports teams and to uplifting spirit with his easy going sense of humor,” reads the page’s caption.
Five lawsuits filed in Orange County Superior Court allege there was a darker side to Father Fitz at the Catholic all-boys Anaheim high school.
Four lawsuits filed this week and obtained by the Orange County Register allege Fitzpatrick was also a serial sexual predator, sexually assaulting and molesting four Servite students ranging in ages from 14 to 17 over a nine-year period in the 1980s.
This week’s filings follow a lawsuit filed in June in which a former Servite student alleges he was sexually abused by Fitzpatrick dozens of time beginning in 1976 when he was a 13-year-old eighth grader seeking admission to the school and continuing to his senior year at Servite.
Another lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court this week by a former Servite student alleges that starting in 1980 when he was 16 he was sexually assaulted by Robert C. Cotton, an English teacher and administrator at Servite, on a weekly to bi-weekly basis through the remainder of teenager’s time at the school
Cotton, who worked at Servite for 38 years, died in 2007 at age 71.
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 a church in suburban Portland, Oregon in 1994. He died in 1997.
Cotton and Fitzpatrick overlapped at Servite for at least 22 years, according to court documents.
“It would be insincere to think that those in power at Servite didn’t know and should not have known” about the alleged abuse by Fitzpatrick and Cotton, said Michael Reck, an attorney for the survivors. “You have six survivors over a multi-year period and that shows a pattern and practice to protect and enable abuse by predators.
“We now know that Mr. Cotton, a teacher and administrator at the school, and Fitzpatrick were abusing kids and that their careers overlapped for decades. What that indicates is a systemic deficiency in child safety.”
Servite in July removed Fitzpatrick’s name from the Father Kevin Fitzpatrick Aquatic Center, a $5.7 million state-of-the-art facility completed in 2017, pending the outcome of a review by the school of the allegations in the June lawsuit.
Servite, in a letter to the school’s community, said that after “careful thought and prayerful consideration” it was removing Fitzpatrick’s name from the center pending the outcome of a review by the school on the allegations. The move, the letter said, was to “demonstrate our commitment to healing and reconciliation.
“These allegations are deeply troubling and were previously unknown.”
But the four lawsuits filed Thursday allege Servite, the Diocese of Orange, and the Order of Servants of Mary were negligent in their supervision and retention of Fitzpatrick and their supervision of the four students.
The 1980 yearbook page also shows Fitzpatrick standing next to a student with his left hand in the boy’s hair. The five lawsuits involving Fitzpatrick allege that he had a barber’s chair in his office in an annex between the school’s main building and athletic facilities and used giving students haircuts as a way of grooming boys for sexual abuse. The survivor who filed the June suit alleged Fitzpatrick frequently sexually abused him while he was in the barber’s chair and the priest played with his hair.
The four lawsuits filed this week allege that Fitzpatrick’s abuse took place on Servite premises.
One of the lawsuits alleges Fitzpatrick sexually assaulted a then-14-year-old student in 1980.
“While performing his duties as a priest, and for the purpose of furthering the duties required in that role, (Fitzpatrick) befriended Plaintiff and gained Plaintiff’s trust and confidence as a spiritual guide, authority figure, and trustworthy mentor,” the suit states.
Fitzpatrick, according to the lawsuits, also sexually assaulted a 15-year-old student in 1982, a 16- or 17-year-old student in 1986 or 1987, and another 15-year-old in 1989.
Former student at California all-boys Catholic school alleges in suit he was sexually abused by teacher
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