Seattle Archdiocese announces $12.1 million sex abuse settlement

ARCHBISHOP SARTAIN OF SEATTLE CELEBRATES MASS WITH PILGRIMS FROM ARCHDIOCESE

Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain

SEATTLE — The Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle announced Tuesday that it reached a $12.1 million settlement involving 30 claims of sexual abuse by members of the Christian Brothers order, which operated The Briscoe School in the Kent Valley and Seattle’s Bishop O’Dea High School.

The most recent cases in the settlement are nearly 30 years old, with some dating back nearly 60 years, the archdiocese said.

The settlement was funded by archdiocese insurance programs.

A teaching order, the Christian Brothers operated The Briscoe School, a boarding and day school for boys in the Kent Valley, beginning in 1914.

The order also staffed and managed Bishop O’Dea, an archdiocese high school, from its opening in 1923.

“I deeply regret the pain suffered by these victims,” Archbishop J. Peter Sartain said in a news release. “Our hope is that this settlement will bring them closure and allow them to continue the process of healing.”

In lawsuits filed in King County Superior Court, the plaintiffs alleged both the Christian Brothers and the Seattle Archdiocese failed to protect them from known abusers.

Approximately 10 cases had been filed against the Archdiocese at the time of the Christian Brothers bankruptcy in April 2011, but that number tripled after the bankruptcy court ordered that notice be given to potential abuse survivors in Seattle.

According to Seattle sexual abuse attorney Michael T. Pfau, the settlement will put an end to an ugly chapter for the Archdiocese involving these two schools, and will help bring closure to both the Archdiocese and his clients:  “The Archdiocese, under the leadership of Archbishop Sartain, did the right thing and acknowledged the tremendous amount of pain and suffering that our clients, their families, and our community have endured.  This settlement is the first step in allowing all parties to focus on the future.”

Pfau said he and his law partner, Jason Amala, during the litigation uncovered dozens of records that illustrate the abuse problem.  For example, Pfau said, 11 of the men claimed they were sexually abused by former O’Dea teacher Edward Courtney, who court records show had been removed from four schools for abusing children before he was transferred to O’Dea.

Just a few months after arriving in Seattle in September 1974, one of the men complained to his older brother that Courtney had sexually abused him.  The complaint prompted the man’s older brother to meet with a vice principal of O’Dea who assured him the situation would be handled.  However, Courtney was not removed from O’Dea until 1978, even though records show O’Dea officials had continued to receive reports that he was sexually abusing children, Pfau said.

Another five of the men claimed they were sexually abused at O’Dea by former teacher G.A. Kealy, who students openly referred to as “Feely Kealy,”  Pfau said. In a 1963 letter, the O’Dea principal, Matt Popish, asked for Kealy to be transferred from O’Dea because of “the complaints parents had made to Bishop Gill about him.”  Popish noted “the Bishop suggested to me that it would be better for all concerned if he were not to be around.”  Two of the men alleged they had told Popish about the abuse, but claimed nothing was done to protect them or other students.

Pfau said that about half of the plaintiffs alleged they were abused at Briscoe, including a number who attended the school in the final years before it was sold in 1969.

The archdiocese said that anyone who has knowledge of sexual abuse or misconduct by a member of the clergy, an employee or volunteer of the Archdiocese of Seattle is urged to call the archdiocese hotline at 1-800-446-7762.

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