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Religious Order Knew of Molestation Charges at Brother Rice: Court Records

Former students seeking claims against Irish Christian Brothers must show religious order knew certain members were a danger to children. Deadline to file is Aug. 1.

Documents amassed by a Seattle-based law firm show that although the Irish Christian Brothers knew one of its members may have molested students at , they still sent him to other schools.

The allegations came to light after a bankruptcy filing by the Irish Christian Brothers in an attempt to cap any damages from former students filing claims alleging sexual or physical abuse by members of the religious order who taught at the high schools.

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Brother Edward Courtney, who ran extracurricular activities and served various teaching and administrative roles at Brother Rice's South Side Chicago campus from 1960 to 1968, has been named in lawsuits and court settlements claiming he sexually abused children at a boys high school in Washington state also operated by the Brothers.

According to attorneys from the Seattle-based firm of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC, who represented those victims, Courtney was knowingly sent west by the Brothers in Chicago in order to get rid of him after numerous allegations of abuse at the Chicago high schools.

Since 2004, the Seattle law firm has settled a total of 50 cases—20 against Courtney alone—and the Irish Christian Brothers for a total of $25 million.

“We want to know what was going on in Chicago and the extent of the abuse,” attorney Michael Pfau said. “If he was too dangerous for the children of Chicago, why did the Irish Christian Brothers foist him on the children of Seattle?”

Brother Rice draws students from the South Side and south suburbs, and the school's alumni reside throughout the Chicago Southland.

A Trail of Abuse

Complaints of sexual abuse by parents and students badgered Courtney throughout his career at Brother Rice, Leo and St. Laurence high schools from 1960 to 1974 until his transfer to an Irish Christian Brothers’ boys high school in Seattle.

During this same period, Courtney spent a "cooling off" year at another high school operated by the religious order in Michigan.

While representing the Washington victims, the Seattle attorneys uncovered documents showing Courtney was moved to the Seattle high school after accusations he molested a freshman boy at St. Laurence High School in Burbank.

“One of the things we looked at was what [the Brothers] were doing with this guy before they shipped him to [Seattle] when we uncovered all the evidence of what he did in Chicago,” said attorney Jason Amala, also of PCVA PLLC. “They knew he posed a danger to children.”

Minutes from a March 27-28, 1974, meeting of the Irish Christian Brothers Western Province, which had jurisdiction over the Chicago high schools, reveal that Courtney was “to have no contact with Rice, Leo or Laurence in any way, shape or form.”

[The minutes can be found in this article's documents section.]

“There was no ambiguity,” Pfau said. “Oftentimes, bishops used coded, veiled words like ‘immaturity’ to describe abusers. This is blatant—‘he will have no contact with any kids at our high schools.’”

'Satisfying Tensions in Unacceptable Manner'

A letter by an Irish Christian Brothers provincial in 1978 excusing Courtney from living in “community” with other Brothers discusses Courtney’s “problem with homosexuality” and notes his efforts to seek psychiatric help, including a stint at a Canadian treatment center for sexual deviancy.

The provincial noted in his character assessment Courtney’s inclination “to take on more work than he could handle” leading to his “frustration and the satisfying of his tensions in an unacceptable manner.”

[The provincial's assessment and letter is attached to this article's document section.]

Courtney's old colleague, former Brother Rice principal Gerald M. Rohan, also wrote him a glowing letter of recommendation to Seattle University’s School of Education, where Courtney earned a master’s degree in teaching administration. Rohan — despite having been designated as Courtney's spiritual advisor and handler as Courtney sought treatment for his “homosexuality” — makes no mention of Courtney molesting children.

[The letter of recommendation can be found in the document section.]

After earning his master’s degree, Courtney was placed in a Seattle diocese elementary school as principal, according to court records, and the abuse continued there.

Eventually, he left the Irish Christian Brothers in 1983 and taught in Seattle’s public school system. He pleaded guilty in 1998 to a felony indecent liberties charge. Receiving probation, he never did a day of jail time, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

“[The Brothers] knew in spades how bad this guy was,” Amala said. “It wasn’t a case of 'Oh, it was the '70s, we didn’t know any better.' These guys knew for sure — sending him for treatment — and kept sending him back to kids.”

'Closure'

Pfau said it is possible even for Chicago-area abuse survivors of 50 years ago to file a claim against the Irish Christian Brothers, provided they can show fraud and knowledge the Brothers knew of the abuse and misrepresented abusing members to parents and families as not being a danger to children.

The deadline for filing a claim is Aug. 1.

In addition to Courtney, two other Irish Christian Brothers with ties to Seattle and Chicago have been identified as sexual predators in other lawsuits. D.P. Ryan, an alleged physical abuser who passed away in 2009, and Robert Brouillette both taught or worked at Brother Rice.

While commuting from Joliet to the Brother Rice campus, where he worked as an administrator, Brouillette was found to have child pornography on his computer. He was also caught in a police sting arranging a meeting with a 12-year-old. He spent four years of probation at a treatment center for clergy until he was tossed out of the Irish Christian Brothers, according to the Sun-Times.

The attorneys have taken issue with the Irish Christian Brothers’ minimal attempts to notify former students of the Aug. 1 deadline in accordance with bankruptcy filing requirements. Most of the letters are being sent to students’ parents who may have moved away or died decades ago.

Calls to Brother Rice High School regarding its role in notifying former students of the deadline were not returned.

“I can’t even imagine what is simmering under the surface of Chicago,” Pfau said. “It’s important for survivors to know their rights.”

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OakLawnGuy April 27, 2012 at 12:08 PM
I attended St. Laurence when this guy was a teacher, and had him as a sub. I understand that the Catholic Church is all about forgiveness, but they as an organization crossed the line to cover-up long ago. If only leaders would publicly acknowledge the issue, present real and documented guidelines and procedures regarding behavior and correction regarding their own orders, and just apologize in a meaningful way, it would at least be a tiny baby step toward reconnection with the public. For whatever reason, they simply cannot do so. They have these rules for any lay person choosing to work or volunteer for the Church and its activities, the same system needs to apply to their own ordained members. And they wonder why attendance and contributions are down.
zula 5 April 27, 2012 at 01:38 PM
I attended Leo H.S. in the sixties and the christian brothers were quite found of Christian brothers brandy. They would be buzzing by lunch period but i never seen any trying to booger a student.
Dave W. April 27, 2012 at 03:35 PM
I have friends or friends with older siblings who went to Laurence at the time he was there. I cannot imagine their reaction to this. "Leaders" do act like this, in any walk of life. There is no excuse for this, ever. Child abuse, sexual abuse of a child, is as bad as murder in my mind. You take away the innocence of childhood, especiually with an authority figure, who may claim it is 'Love', what chance do you give that child of ever growing up 'normally' (whatever that definition might be, it isn't THAT).
Gina April 27, 2012 at 03:49 PM
At my grade school a priest that was molesting the altar boys was transferred to another grade school about 5 miles away where he continued to molest boys. About 15 years later he was brought up on charges. The Catholic Church did nothing to protect children. They protect pedophiles.
The Truth April 27, 2012 at 04:36 PM
This is the tip of the iceberg. I know for a FACT that a rather LARGE 300 lb Latin teacher at St Laurence in the mid 1980s was sexually assaulting young boys. This was after he was transferred from Bro Rice for doing the same thing.
Borninol April 27, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Zula 5 is right, I graduated Laurence in the early 90's and the bro who was in charge of the bookstore had a stash of it in there. Still can't understand why someone would want to be a brother???
The Truth April 28, 2012 at 12:18 PM
I went to Saint Laurence (1981 grad) I heard rumors of some brothers that liked to touch students. At the time, I thought it was just a mean spirited rumor.
NANCY GRACE April 28, 2012 at 01:01 PM
@Gina,that's why we feel the need to leave the Catholic Church.
Deb Melchert April 28, 2012 at 03:46 PM
How sad is it when you read an article like this and you first thought is "this isn't even news anymore, it's been going on for years"? Makes me sad sometimes to admit to being a Catholic
Gina April 28, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Nancy - I already have. I not only left the church, I left religion.
Dave W. April 28, 2012 at 10:10 PM
While kids here are being abused, are hungry, are homeless, the Pope walks around with a big gold cross in his hand...they just don't get it. For an organization that teaches that homosexuality is so wrong (it isn't, but that is another post), they sure do what they can to protect those engaging in it...with children. SO...if you are an adult, living an 'otherwise' moral life, but are gay, YOU will burn...BUT if you are a Catholic priest, sworn not only to celibacy, but to disavow homosexuality as a sin and you forcefully molest a child, RAPE A LITTLE BOY...THAT we will protect you until the end of time, against the laws of every country in which you have followers. Cannot imagine why people don't want to be Catholic or religious. STUNNING.
j April 29, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Summed up quite well, Dave W. I left the Catholic Church and won't go back because of the Church's skewed morality.
Wendy LoCascio April 30, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Kudos Dave!
Ginger April 30, 2012 at 11:41 AM
As a result of the Catholic church egregious mishandling of all this, I left the Catholic church. I still have faith in God and am a practicing Christian, but the Catholic church is run by men who have gone so astray (emphasis) and they can lead themselves down that path. I'm not following their baloney ways. They are the modern version of the Pharisees.
Gina April 30, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Dave - There is a difference between someone who is homosexual and a pedophile. It's not just young boys that get molested, young girls do as well. The church doesn't think the girls is a real issue. If you want to watch a frightening documentary on the damage the Church does, look up "Deliver Us From Evil"
Becky May 02, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Personally I am totally turned off to the Catholic schools, all of them. I just pulled my son out of Marist for bullying. The catholic schools don't address ANY PROBLEMS and sweep everything under the carpet. If you don't like it, GET OUT. The Brothers are terrible and permit sexual abuse.
pc10 May 16, 2012 at 05:39 AM
Although the sexual abuse done by priests was an intrinsic evil and the cover-up was even worse, we lose sight of the fact that people in the Church who did these horrible things are not following the Catholic way of life; they are acting out of pride and distorted sinful ways. Yes, this is a horrible fact that some priests and religious, who are our leaders in spiritual life, have done these despicable things. However, leaving the Catholic Church, which still cares for the poor, educates more men and women than any other organization in the world, and gives us the Holy Sacraments, is not a way to show your disgust at these sins. This does damage to your soul because your consciousness of the presence of God around you and your worship suffer. Pray for those who sin, just as Jesus said, but do not let hatred of our Mother Church overcome you.
viking1982 July 13, 2012 at 07:21 AM
I attended St. Laurence from 78-82. When I received that letter about the bankruptcy and deadline to file, the flood of memories just cascaded over me. I thought I repressed this issue but now it's back and I'm scared to come forward. This truly is the tip of the iceberg as someone said in a previous blog.
Concerned August 08, 2012 at 10:11 PM
This is still going on at St. Laurence. In 2011, they had a teacher have an "incident" with a senior student. The teacher suddenly went on "leave" until the student graduated. The student was told not to talk to anyone about it. That teacher is still there.
Anne March 16, 2013 at 01:48 AM
I don't think sexual abuse is tolerated anymore after their past mistakes.
Anne March 16, 2013 at 01:50 AM
Seriously?

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