Catholic Christian Brothers order files for bankruptcy

SEATTLE Fri Apr 29, 2011 1:59am EDT

A protestor recites the rosary in Los Angeles July 15, 2007. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

A protestor recites the rosary in Los Angeles July 15, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

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SEATTLE (Reuters) - The North American branch of the Christian Brothers, a Roman Catholic order that runs schools around the world, has filed for bankruptcy protection amid mounting sexual abuse claims against U.S. and Canadian members.

Although the bankruptcy filing was made in New York, where the brothers' North American chapter is headquartered, the bulk of the abuse claims come from the Seattle area, said Michael Patterson, a lawyer for the Catholic Archdiocese in Seattle.

"It's a sad day. We're very disappointed that it reached this level," Patterson told Reuters on Thursday night.

"We had hoped that we could have partnered with the Christian Brothers to settle claims. What this means is that victims now have to deal with this out of bankruptcy court."

He said he did not know the extent of the claims.

But lawyers for the plaintiffs in lawsuits against the Christian Brothers said its members, who are not ordained as priests, sexually abused scores of children in the United States and Canada.

Seattle attorney Michael Pfau said on Thursday he has settled more than 50 abuse cases for a total of $25.6 million, paid out to victims in the last five years by the order and the Seattle Archdiocese.

About 35 of those cases originated with the now-defunct Briscoe Memorial School, an orphanage and boarding school jointly run by the archdiocese and Christian Brothers in Kent, Washington.

"There were rapes, molestations and beatings. The brothers carried long leather straps. It was a very abusive place," Pfau told Reuters.

Most lawsuits still pending involve allegations of sexual abuse at schools and orphanages the Brothers owned and operated in Washington state and Canada, he said, adding that the order filed for bankruptcy in a bid to shield its assets in Rome.

"They made money taking over the care of children but put many of their members who were known abusers in charge of them," Pfau said. "Then they tried to cover it up. This bankruptcy is just another effort for them to avoid responsibility."

A spokesman for the order reached by telephone on Thursday declined to comment.

The bankruptcy filing comes weeks after the Pacific Northwest branch of another Catholic order, the Jesuits, agreed to pay $166 million to settle more than 500 child sexual abuse claims against priests, nuns and other non-clergy. Those claims led the Jesuits to file for Chapter 11 two years ago.

Last year, the Congregation of Christian Brothers came under fire over a report by the government of Ireland finding widespread sexual abuse of children in schools and other institutions run by the order in that country.

(Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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Comments (8)
daniwitz13 wrote:
This is something hard to say. Moat of these things “allegedly” happened years ago with no physical proof, only on the word of someone that is tempted by millions. Most crimes are hard to prove on the bases of he said she said and behind closed doors many years ago, from young minds. A lot of crimes cannot be proven even with a smoking gun. Just how does one PROVE, on the word of a child, that he touched me years ago. Something only GOD would know for sure. Just saying.

Apr 29, 2011 2:57am EDT  --  Report as abuse
RandomName2nd wrote:
The Catholic church is easily one of the most wealthy organisations on the planet.
If the Vatican has any credibility whatsoever it will step in and cough up for any outstanding damages.
Let’s see if they do.

Apr 29, 2011 3:30am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Norsen wrote:
The problem with sex abuse in the church was solved decades ago; it is still rampant and out of control in the government schools though:

Apr 29, 2011 7:57am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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