31 Sexual Abuse Claims Filed Against Congregation of Christian Brothers

On April 26, 2013, our attorneys filed three separate lawsuits on behalf of 31 plaintiffs against the Congregation of Christian Brothers and its North American Province.  Below is a summary of the claims.  You can also read coverage of the filings by the Chicago Tribune.

In three separate complaints filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, our clients allege they were abused at either Leo High School or Brother Rice High School, in Chicago, or St. Laurence High School, in Burbank.  One client alleges he was abused at both St. Laurence and Leo.

More than half of our clients claim they were sexually abused by Edward Courtney.  According to the complaint, the Christian Brothers transferred Courtney between the three schools because of allegations that he was sexually abusing children, despite the order repeatedly sending him to “sexual deviancy treatment.”    In March 1974, the complaint alleges the Christian Brothers removed Courtney from St. Laurence after his peers physically ejected him from the school.  Despite an order that Courtney was “to have no contact with Rice, Leo or Laurence in any way, shape or form,” the complaint alleges the Christian Brothers transferred him to O’Dea High School in Seattle, Washington.

Upon his arrival in Washington, the complaint alleges the same principal who removed him from St. Laurence, Christian Brother John Manning, wrote him a glowing letter of recommendation so Courtney could obtain his teaching certificate in that state.  The complaint claims the religious order knew that Courtney molested students at O’Dea for the next four years, and after he was finally removed from that school, the complaint alleges the Christian Brothers wrote him additional letters of recommendation so he could continue teaching in the public school system.

Of the fifteen men who allege abuse at Leo High School, twelve claim they were sexually abused between 1969 and 1973 by Courtney.   The remaining three allege they were abused by Christian Brother C.B. Irwin, Christian Brother Dennis Bonebreak, and an unidentified Christian Brother who taught summer school at Leo in 1974.

Nine men allege they were sexually abused at St. Laurence High School between 1961 and 1996.  Three of the men claim abuse by Courtney, two allege abuse by Brother Brouillette, and two say they were abused by Brother Lasik.  The other two men allege they were abused by Brothers Trujillo and Vorlick.

The eight men who filed claims against Brother Rice High School claim they were abused between 1962 and 1984.  Two men allege abuse by Joe Johnston, a former football coach at Brother Rice, and another man claims he was abused by Courtney.  The remaining men claim they were abused by Christian Brothers Reycraft, McDonough, Corrigan, Duffin, Brouillette, as well as a lay man named Robert Cachor.

Based in Rome, the Congregation of Christian Brothers  have owned, staffed, and operated schools in the United States since the early 1900s.  In April 2011, two of its asset-holding corporations filed for bankruptcy in New York due to sexual abuse allegations, including the Chicago-based Christian Brothers of Ireland, Inc.

Seattle sexual abuse attorney Michael Pfau, who has teamed-up with Illinois sexual abuse attorneys Christopher Hurley and Mark McKenna to help abuse survivors in Illinois, has settled cases on behalf of more than 50 men who allege they were sexually abused by Christian Brothers, including more than 20 who allege abuse by Courtney.  “I have helped hundreds of sexual abuse survivors across the country, but how they handled Brother Courtney is unconscionable.  We know he molested at least ten boys at O’Dea before he was finally cut loose and sent into the public school system.  I can’t imagine how many children were abused at his prior schools in Illinois.  These men are likely representative of a much larger group.”