3 Chicago area Catholic schools keep dangerous secrets, sex abuse victims say

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The ABC7 I-Team looked into claims by nearly 100 alleged victims of sexual abuse in metro Chicago that the archdiocese and some of its schools are keeping dangerous secrets.

ABC7 I-Team Investigation
The ABC7 I-Team looked into claims by nearly 100 alleged victims of sexual abuse in metro Chicago that the archdiocese and some of its schools are keeping dangerous secrets.

The case involves claims of sexual and physical abuse by priests and teachers at three local Catholic high schools. The three high schools have been a part of a Roman Catholic order called the Irish Christian Brothers. Hundreds of men and women accused members of the North American order of sexual abuse.

The order has agreed to pay settlements totaling $16.5 million, but the 100 claimants from the Chicago area are angry because they say the schools they attended as children are keeping important information from the public.

"I can see his face. I can see what happened to me, I can picture the events as clear was if it were yesterday," said John Ruzic, an alleged victim who attended Brother Rice High School.

At least a dozen brothers and priests who taught at Brother Rice and Leo High Schools in Chicago and St. Laurence High School in Burbank have multiple sexual abuse claims against them, according to this bankruptcy filing by the North American branch of the Irish Christian Brothers.

"When you are a kid, you run frightened, scared and confused. Everything in your world crushes because you don't know who you are," Ruzic said.

Ruzic said the pain of his experience at Brother Rice High School forced him to move from Chicago to Las Vegas, never to return.

Across North America, hundreds of students and orphans have accused the Irish Christian Brothers of allowing sexual abuse of children by order members. In 2012, lawsuits forced the Brothers into bankruptcy.

All schools and their dioceses were able to participate. As a result, 423 accusers will split $16.5 million, except for roughly 100 local victims. Most are opting out of those payments, saying they are outraged that the archdiocese and local schools chose not to be part of the bankruptcy and won't admit what happened on their watch. The local accusers now want a settlement apart from bankruptcy and the schools' teacher and priest files made public.

"St. Laurence has demonstrated their unwillingness, not an inability, an unwillingness to address their ongoing issues," said an alleged victim from St. Laurence High School who wished to remain anonymous.

The alleged victim said he is a survivor of physical and sexual abuse for two years at St. Laurence High School in the 1980s. Because he is a high ranking local law enforcement official, he asked not to be identified.

"I remember shaking my fists at God and saying, 'Why?'" the alleged victim said. "The truth of the matter is, these people knew about it. They allowed it to happen."

Attorney Mike Reck represents more than 20 claimants and says the Chicago Archdiocese "hid the nature of their problems and let children and their families be subject to trauma that they didn't need to."

Reck's firm filed a lawsuit in Cook County claiming the archdiocese created a "public nuisance" by protecting pedophile priests and not warning the public. He won a similar "public nuisance" case in Minneapolis allowing victims' attorneys to seek evidence of abuse throughout their archdiocese.

The bankruptcy has caused a small victory for alleged victims. The Irish Christian Brothers had to publish the names of 49 men who were accused of sexual abuse multiple times. Local claimants say at least a dozen worked in the Chicago area schools.

The archdiocese, which now owns Leo High School but not the other two schools, said in a statement that: "It was definitely not the proper party to respond to the St. Lawrence or Br. Rice claims," but "concluded that it should explore settlement of the St. Leo claims, and it entered a mediation..."

The local survivors say their fight isn't about money; it's about justice and transparency.

"The old saying is time heals all wounds but this one doesn't go way, it just doesn't go away," Ruzic said.

The I-Team left numerous messages at Brother Rice, Leo and St. Laurence High Schools, but never heard back.

As for the "public nuisance" lawsuit, the Archdiocese of Chicago says neither it, nor its activities, constitute a public nuisance "under any stretch of the imagination." Church officials say they intend to argue that in court.

The full statement from the Archdiocese of Chicago is below:

Attorneys for certain former students at St. Leo, St. Lawrence and Br. Rice High Schools notified the Archdiocese of Chicago of claims at a time when the Christian Brothers Bankruptcy was pending. After considering whether to enter into any settlement process regarding these claims and, if so, whether to do so within the bankruptcy action, it became apparent to the Archdiocese that it was definitely not the proper party to respond to the St. Lawrence or Br. Rice claims. Also, because of the vintage of the claims, it was apparent that the Archdiocese might not be the proper party to respond to the St. Leo claims. Accordingly, the Archdiocese did not enter the bankruptcy action, or immediately begin a mediation process. In the meantime, the claimants commenced a state court lawsuit against the present day owners and operators of Br. Rice and St. Lawrence, and sued the Christian Brothers with respect to the St. Leo's claimants.

Eventually, the Archdiocese concluded that it should explore settlement of the St. Leo claims, and it entered a mediation process with respect to those claims. That process is still ongoing. By the time this occurred, the bankruptcy was already concluded.

Neither the Archdiocese, nor any of its activities, constitutes a public nuisance under any stretch of the imagination, and certainly not under Illinois law. The Archdiocese intends to make that clear when we respond to this lawsuit in court.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Irish Christian Brothers current website
Irish Christian Brothers Bankruptcy and bankruptcy information
Names of 49 current, former and deceased ICB brothers who were identified in at least two sexual abuse claims
Public Nuisance lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Chicago
Public Nuisance lawsuit against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Related Topics:
I-Teamchicago archdiocesepriest sex abuselawsuitChicago - DowntownBurbank
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