MO--Unprecedented abuse/deceit suit filed vs. Catholic group
For immediate release: Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015
In a first-ever lawsuit, an abuse victim is suing a St. Louis-based Catholic religious order for deceiving and misleading him as he reported child sexual abuse and sought to warn others about crimes and cover ups at a prominent West County school.
Almost always, child sex abuse victims sue for the abuse and cover up. Rarely, if ever, do they sue for how they’re treated by church officials once they report the abuse. That’s what Chris Wimmer is doing and we commend him for his courage. He suit points out that Catholic officials were deceitful in the past and still are today.
Wimmer was molested by Brother Louis Meinhardt and Brother John Woulfe, both Marianists, at Chaminade. He’s suing Marianist officials, however, not for the abuse but for how they’ve “misled” him in recent years since he reported the abuse.
The suit also charges that Marianists officials have told several victims that they are the first person to ever report abuse against a specific perpetrator while knowing that’s not true, hoping “to prevent lawsuits like this one.”
(One example involves Bryan Bacon 314 566 8386 who was abused as a boy at Vianney.)
The order, the Marianists, run three St. Louis area Catholic high schools: Vianney, Chaminade and St. Mary’s. It’s national headquarters is at 4425 W. Pine (near corner of Newstead) in the city’s CWE.
We are grateful to Wimmer for exposing Brother Meinhardt and Brother Woulfe and Catholic officials, at Chaminade and elsewhere who continue to manipulate already-wounded and still-suffering victims.
How bad are the Marianists?
--A 2014 investigative report by a Pittsburgh newspaper shows 157 adults have accused 31 members of the Marianists of child sexual abuse. Eight of the alleged offenders worked in St. Louis.
--Just last month, another St. Louis area man sued the Marianists over abuse he suffered at the hands of Br. Woulfe.
--In October, a victim of a different Marianist/Chaminade predator was paid a $300,000 settlement. (It’s believed to be the largest such payment to a victim of a local parochial high school here ever.)
--In July, a Marianist who spent time in St. Louis (Br. Bernard Hartmann) was sentenced in Australia for child sex crimes. http://bergersbeat.com/dr-milton-schloss-remembered/
As we said last month, there have basically been three “waves” of Catholic child sex abuse victims.
First there were many who no longer had ties to the church. Their faith had been stolen from them. So they had fewer fears about seeking justice.
Then there were many who were abused in parish settings. They worried about their privacy, since parishes can be somewhat tightly knit. But they came forward anyway.
In recent years, many who were abused in Catholic high schools – even very expensive and prestigious ones – have begun coming forward. These schools are smaller than most parishes and even more tightly knit. They often have active and sometimes influential alumni groups. And the victims hurt at these schools often have conflicted feelings. On one hand, they were obviously and severely injured. On the other hand, however, many remain convinced they got a better education than they might have at another school.
For these reasons and more, it’s often harder for someone who was sexually abused at St. Louis University High or Vianney or St. Mary’s to step forward, protect kids, seek justice and expose clerics who commit
We’re glad this is happening more and more. These schools will be safer as a result.
--In 2005, Brother William C. Mueller’s first victim publicly stepped forward. Now more than 50 of Mueller’s victims have spoken up.
--In 2011, Brother Meinhardt’s first victim publicly stepped forward. Now more than 15 of Meinhardt’s victims have spoken up.
Months ago, during his US visit, Pope Francis made strong promises. He pledged that “abuse cannot be kept secret any longer,” “all responsible will be held accountable," and that church officials will provide "careful oversight to ensure that youth are protected.”
The Marianists are thumbing their noses at Francis. They’re doing none of this. It’s time that they start. Chaminade officials, Marianist officials, and archdiocesan officials should
--“come clean” about abuse in all Marianist schools,
--disclose ALL names of proven, admitted and credibly accused Marianists (whether living or deceased, lay or ordained, current or former),
--post predators’ names on Marianist schools’ websites, and
--send mailings to all alums about all of these predators.
Finally, we urge everyone who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes or cover ups by Marianists to call police, expose wrongdoing, protect others and start healing.
Photos of Woulfe and Meinhardt are available at BishopAccountability.org.
Besides the three named above, other accused Marianist clerics who have worked in St. Louis or abused St. Louis youngsters include Fr. William Christensen (accused of molesting at least 30 kids), Fr. Robert R. Osborne, Fr. Daniel A. Triulzi, Brother Tony Pistone and Fr. Charles H. Miller.
At least seven child molesting clerics have worked at Chaminade, more than any religious school in Missouri, we believe.
Both Meinhardt and Woulfe are deceased. After leaving Chaminade, Woulfe lived in Watseka, Illinois (in Iroquois County, near Bloomington), taught in a public school there and was arrested on child sex charges.
Fr. Martin Solma, the top Marianist official, is at email@example.com, 533-1207. Chaminade is at 425 S. Lindbergh Blvd. (in Creve Coeur). St. Louis lawyer Gerald Noce (480 4160) represents the Marianists. St. Louis attorneys Nicole Gorovsky (872 8420) and Ken Chackes (369 3902 cell, firstname.lastname@example.org) represent several victims of Marianists, including the victim in today's lawsuit.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.