5 more men file sex abuse claims against order from Chicago-area high schools
By Mike Nolan Sun-Times Media email@example.com July 30, 2012 7:38PM
Historical photo of Brother Robert Brouillette
Updated: July 31, 2012 1:54AM
Five more men have filed claims in bankruptcy court alleging they were sexually abused as boys while attending Catholic schools operated by the Irish Christian Brothers, according to a Chicago law firm that’s representing the men.
The firm — Hurley McKenna & Mertz — said it now represents 27 Chicago-area men alleging abuse by members of the order, which founded Brother Rice and Leo high schools on the Southwest Side as well as St. Laurence High School in Burbank.
The order filed for bankruptcy in April 2011, and Wednesday is the deadline for alleged victims of abuse to file claims in the case. Attorneys from firms around the country have claimed that the bankruptcy filing was an attempt by the Catholic order to shield assets and block the filing of new lawsuits.
The lawsuits filed against the Christian Brothers are on hold while the bankruptcy case proceeds. None of the 27 men represented by the Chicago law firm has a lawsuit against the order, said Mark McKenna, a partner in the firm.
Three brothers who at one time worked in Chicago have been identified as sexual predators in lawsuits filed in other states, primarily Washington, where the Christian Brothers also ran schools and an orphanage — Brother Edward Courtney, Brother Robert Brouillette and Brother D.P. Ryan.
Claims filed late last week by the five additional men primarily allege abuse at the hands of Courtney, who taught at all three Chicago-area schools during the 1960s and 1970s, the law firm said. It alleges Courtney was transferred from school to school due to complaints he was molesting children and was finally transferred to the order’s schools in Washington.
As part of the Christian Brothers’ bankruptcy reorganization, letters were sent this spring to alumni of the three Chicago-area schools who attended the schools during years when known or alleged abusers were assigned there. The letters informed the alumni of the deadline to file claims.
It’s unclear at this point how Hurley McKenna & Mertz, as well as other law firms representing alleged victims, will argue their claims. Unlike a civil trial, bankruptcy proceedings typically focus on doling out assets to creditors, either secured or unsecured. Unsecured creditors, such as the abuse victims, can wind up with little or nothing.
McKenna said it’s possible his firm’s clients may sues once the bankruptcy case is closed, unless Christian Brothers, as part of the bankruptcy case, establishes a fund to compensate victims.