Roster of Statements


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Thursday, April 28, 2011

Another Catholic institution wants bankruptcy protection; SNAP responds

Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, [email protected])

It’s a selfish cop-out when Catholic institutions misuse the Chapter 11 process to protect their secrets and deny child sex abuse victims a chance to expose predators in court.

This isn’t about protecting church assets. It’s about protecting the power and reputations of powerful church officials who desperately want to keep their complicity in child sex cases under wraps.

We hope every single man, woman and child who is being or has been molested by a Christian Brother steps forward, calls police and protects others. And we hope every single person who saw or suspected crimes by Christian Brothers will do the same.

(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 10,000 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

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])

Beset by sex-abuse lawsuits, Christian Brothers order files for bankruptcy

The Christian Brothers in North America, the Roman Catholic religious order that runs Seattle's O'Dea High School and other schools around the country, has filed for bankruptcy, becoming the second Catholic order in the U.S. to do so because of sexual abuse claims.

By Janet I. Tu - Seattle Times staff reporter

The Christian Brothers in North America, the religious order that runs Seattle's O'Dea High School and other schools around the country, filed for bankruptcy Thursday, becoming the second Catholic order in the U.S. to do so because of sexual abuse claims.

The order did not say how many claims are pending against the order, and that information was not immediately available. Victims' attorneys estimate there are more than 50 claims.

In the U.S., most of the cases come from the Seattle area, stemming from abuses at the now-defunct Briscoe Memorial School near Kent.

Several cases also involve Edward Courtney, a former brother who taught at O'Dea and was principal at St. Alphonsus School in Seattle.

The order, under the name of Christian Brothers Institute, based in New Rochelle, N.Y., filed for Chapter 11 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York.

"Deficit spending and litigation costs have forced CBI into this action," the Christian Brothers said in a statement. Trustees of CBI, which has been running an annual seven-figure deficit, voted unanimously to file for bankruptcy, the statement said.

The bankruptcy filing is not expected to affect O'Dea High financially, since the school is owned by the Seattle Archdiocese, which essentially hires the Christian Brothers to run it, said Seattle Archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni.

Accusations of sexual abuse, beatingsThe number of claims pending against the Christian Brothers is not large — especially compared to the Jesuits in the Northwest, which declared bankruptcy in 2009 with some 200 pending claims.

But the Christian Brothers is also a far smaller order, with about 250 brothers serving in the North American province, which covers the U.S. and Canada.

The order was founded in 1802 by Irishman Edmund Ignatius Rice and is known for its education work. In contrast to priests, who are ordained and can celebrate sacraments such as the Eucharist and Reconciliation (commonly called confession), brothers are not ordained and cannot administer such sacraments.

In the U.S., the order's only boarding school was Briscoe, which operated from 1909 to 1970. Originally an orphanage, Briscoe began receiving state funds and took in boys from troubled homes. At one point, it also took in day students.

In recent years, dozens of men have said they were sexually and/or physically abused as students there. Teachers beat them severely, they said, sometimes with leather straps or fists, other times with wooden paddles while they were naked in the shower. They also told of boys being taken from their beds at night by teachers, of being accosted in bathrooms, of being forced to engage in oral sex.

Their accounts spanned the 1940s through the 1960s.

"Most of the abuses occurred with the most vulnerable children who had nowhere to turn and no one to tell," said Seattle attorney Michael Pfau, who has represented more than 50 people abused by Christian Brothers and has an additional 10 cases pending.

Rome's rolePfau said one question he will explore as the bankruptcy proceeds is how much back-and-forth there was of documents and money between the province and the order's worldwide headquarters in Rome.

He's already received documents that show Rome knew at various points that brothers in the U.S. were being removed because of sexual abuse of minors, Pfau said.

And "we believe money may have been transferred between Rome and the United States," he said. "We intend to look to Rome to pay for the abuse of the children."

Of Pfau's 10 pending cases, five involve Briscoe and five involve Courtney, the former Christian Brother.

Courtney taught at O'Dea from 1974 to when he was removed in 1978 after several parents complained that he was abusing their sons. Courtney served as principal of St. Alphonsus from about 1979 to 1980.

Court documents show some church leaders knew for years that Courtney sexually abused students, yet allowed him to continue teaching at school after school.

The Christian Brothers and Seattle Archdiocese have already settled a number of cases involving Briscoe and Courtney.

Canadian, Irish, Australian casesIn Canada, most of the claims stem from Mount Cashel Orphanage, which was run by the Christian Brothers and closed in 1990. It was located in the city of St. John's in Newfoundland and Labrador province.

In the 1990s, the order in Canada dissolved to help pay a multimillion-dollar settlement with some 90 people abused at the orphanage. It subsequently merged with Christian Brothers provinces in the U.S. to form the North American province.

There are about 40 cases pending alleging abuse at Mount Cashel, according to Geoff Budden, an attorney in St. John's representing most of those victims.

Institutions run by Christian Brothers in other countries have also been the subject of widespread sexual abuse claims.

In Ireland two y ears ago, a government commission issued a report detailing decades of systematic physical and sexual abuse of children at some 200 Catholic schools in Ireland and cover-up by church authorities. The Christian Brothers ran a good number of those schools.

In Australia in the 1990s, more than 250 former residents of boys homes filed suit, saying they'd been beaten and sexually abused.

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or [email protected]. Information from The Seattle Times archives and The Associated Press was used in this report.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests