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The Christian Brothers Order: A History of Sexual Abuse

Plagued by a torrent of recent physical and sexual abuse lawsuits, the Congregation of Christian Brothers in North America has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Plagued by a torrent of recent physical and sexual abuse lawsuits, the Congregation of Christian Brothers in North America has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The controversial religious order has not stated publicly how many claims are pending against it, but attorneys for victims estimate that there will be more than 50 lawsuits filed in the near future. What follows is a brief history of the sexual abuse allegations that have beset the Christian Brothers order.

Free Christian Brothers Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Evaluation: If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual abuse by an employee of the Christian Brothers order, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a suit against the Christian Brothers and we can help.

What’s the problem?

The Congregation of Christian Brothers was founded in 1802 by Irishman Edmund Ignatius, a Roman Catholic missionary and educationalist. In contrast to Catholic priests, who are officially ordained and have the power to administer such sacraments as the Eucharist and confession, members of the Christian Brothers are not ordained and are not able to celebrate these sacraments.

In the United States, the order’s only boarding school to be established was Briscoe in Washington, which operated between 1909 and about 1970. Originally designated as an orphanage, Briscoe went on to receive state funding and began taking in day students and boys from so-called ‘troubled homes.’

Over the past decade, dozens of former students have claimed they were physically and/or sexually abused while attending Briscoe. According to the allegations, teachers beat them severely and accosted the children at night, forcing them to engage in unwanted sexual acts. The abuse allegedly occurred from the 1940s all the way through the 1960s.

One of the main issues being explored by investigators is the question of how much communication there was between the province and the Christian Brothers’ headquarters in Rome. Recent documents have surfaced showing that Rome was well aware that members of the order in the U.S. were being removed because of allegations of sexual abuse on minors. There is also evidence that a substantial amount of money was transferred from Rome to the United States around the time of the alleged abuse, further implicating the order’s worldwide headquarters.

Of all the allegations pending against the Christian Brothers, the most serious accusations involve Brother Edward Courtney, who taught at O’Dea in Seattle from 1974 until he was removed for sexual abuse in 1978. Courtney went on to serve as principal of St. Alphonsus from 1979 to 1980.

According to court documents, it was common knowledge among church leaders that Courtney sexually abused students, yet they continued to allow him to teach. The Christian Brothers and Seattle Archdiocese have already settled a number of cases involving Courtney out of court for undisclosed sums of money.

In Canada, the majority of the complaints involve Mount Cashel Orphanage, a Christian Brothers facility that was closed in 1990. The order was forced to pay a multimillion-dollar settlement involving approximately 90 people who were abused at the orphanage, leading to a complete dissolution of the Christian Brothers in Canada. It later merged with the U.S. order to form the North American province.

Christian Brothers facilities in other countries have also been the subject of rampant sexual abuse lawsuits.

In 2010, a government commission in Ireland released a report citing decades of widespread physical and sexual abuse of children at approximately 200 Irish Catholic schools which had been systematically covered up by church authorities. According to the report, the Christian Brothers operated a large percentage of those schools.

Throughout the 1990s in Australia, more than 250 former Christian Brothers boys’ homes residents filed legal claims against the order, claiming they’d been badly beaten and sexually abused by employees of the facility.

Do You Have a Christian Brothers Sexual Abuse Lawsuit?

The Sexual Abuse Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in Christian Brothers lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new Christian Brothers sexual abuse cases in all 50 states.

Free Christian Brothers Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Evaluation: If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual abuse by a member of the Christian Brothers order, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a Christian Brothers sexual abuse suit and we can help.

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