Diocese Sued over Alleged Assault

By Cary McMullen
The Ledger [Florida]
January 27, 2006


A $5 million lawsuit was filed against the Catholic Diocese of Orlando Thursday by a former Lakeland resident in connection with an alleged assault by a former Lakeland priest.

The lawsuit was filed in Circuit Court in Orlando on behalf of a woman identified only as Jane Doe. The suit claims that the diocese was negligent in failing to protect Doe from Wladyslaw Gorak, also known as Walter Fisher, who was a parochial vicar, or assistant pastor, at Church of the Resurrection from February to December 2004.


Gorak was arrested in May 2005 on charges of burglary with assault, false imprisonment, aggravated stalking and battery. According to a report from Lakeland police, he forced his way into a woman's home in October 2004, threw her to the floor and tore some of her clothes off. He remains in jail awaiting trial.

The suit named as defendants the Diocese of Orlando, which has jurisdiction over parishes in Polk County, and the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., where Gorak was a priest before coming to Lakeland. It claims the archdiocese failed to disclose that Gorak was implicated in a previous stalking incident in New Jersey and that the Orlando diocese ignored Doe's complaints that Gorak was harassing her.

According to a May 2005 article in The Ledger, Brinati said diocesan leaders decided in December 2004 that Gorak "was not adapting to parish life" and ordered him to return to New Jersey.

Gorak reappeared in Lakeland in March 2005 and continued harassing Doe, Lakeland police said in the arrest report.


The Diocese of Orlando issued a statement on Thursday denying responsibility for the alleged attack on Doe.

The statement says the diocese was "completely unaware" of any problems in Gorak's background and that upon learning about the allegations, the diocese removed Gorak and urged Doe to contact law enforcement.

"She declined," the statement says, but later agreed to let the Rev. Matthew Mello, pastor of Church of the Resurrection, contact police for her. The statement says that Mello and the diocese have "cooperated fully" with the police investigation.

"While the Diocese sincerely regrets whatever occurred between (Doe) and Father Gorak, and has offered to provide victim assistance and other pastoral care for (Doe), it is not responsible for Father Gorak's alleged conduct," the statement says.

According to the lawsuit, Doe has returned to New Jersey.

Gorak has a pretrial conference scheduled for next week in the criminal case against him.


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