Over the past eight years, our sexual abuse attorneys have settled more cases against the Congregation of Christian Brothers than anyone else in the United States. During that time we have gathered an extensive amount of evidence regarding their sexual abuse of children in both the United States and around the world, going back to the 1940s.
Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Force Christian Brothers to Declare Bankruptcy
(New York) – The Congregation of Christian Brothers, a Catholic religious order, has filed for bankruptcy protection over allegations that its members sexually abused scores of children in the United States and Canada. Last year, the Congregation of Christian Brothers came under fire over a report by the government of Ireland that its members sexually abused thousands of children in that country.
Although the Christian Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection in New York, under the name of the Christian Brothers Institute, the majority of the active lawsuits were filed over allegations of sexual abuse at schools and orphanages the Brothers owned and operated in Washington state and Canada.
Seattle sexual abuse attorney Michael Pfau, who filed ten of the active claims in Washington state and has settled more than 50 others against the Christian Brothers in the past eight years, claims the Brothers filed for bankruptcy in an effort to shield their assets in Rome. “Ever since they came to the United States the Christian Brothers have accumulated money and assets for their headquarters in Ireland and then Rome. It is a worldwide organization that doesn’t want to be held responsible, either legally or financially, for what it knew its members were doing to children in the United States and Canada.”
At one point, the North American Province owned or operated more than a dozen orphanages and schools around the United States and in Canada. Currently, its Brothers staff schools across the United States, including Brother Rice High School in Chicago, O’Dea High School in Seattle, and Damien Memorial School in Hawaii.
According to Pfau, it is unclear how many victims may come forward as a result of the bankruptcy filing. “The Christian Brothers came to New York at the turn of the last century and they slowly moved West. They operated schools in many states, including New York, Chicago, Montana, Washington, California, and Hawaii. Given the severity of sexual abuse we have seen in their internal documents, and their cover-up of that abuse, it is difficult to imagine how many children were likely abused at their schools.”
The Christian Brothers are the second Catholic religious order to declare bankruptcy in the last two years over claims that its members sexually abused children. Just last month, the Oregon Province of the Jesuits announced it had settled the claims of more than 450 victims who came forward after it filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
According to Pfau, who represents nearly 150 victims in the Jesuit bankruptcy, the two bankruptcies are similar because both orders are alleged to have frequently sent abusers to places where they could molest orphans or children from broken homes. “This Christian Brothers organization has caused irreparable damage to a staggering number of children who were entrusted in their care. They made money taking over the care of children, but put many of their members who were known abusers in charge of them. Nobody else was there to protect them. The results were predictable and horrific, and then they tried to cover it up. This bankruptcy is just another effort for them to avoid responsibility for this tragedy.”
Pfau acknowledges the bankruptcy will lead to closure for abuse victims, but fears the Christian Brothers may try to use it to hide the full story of their alleged abuses. “The bankruptcy should be beneficial to victims in terms of providing some amount of closure, but it is frustrating to the extent it will allow the Christian Brothers to further conceal a century-worth of wrongdoing.”
More than Fifty Claims in Washington State Alone
In the past eight years, the Christian Brothers have faced more than fifty cases in Washington state over allegations of sexual abuse at schools they jointly operated with the Seattle Archdiocese.