Seattle Archdiocese settles abuse lawsuits for $12 million
The Archdiocese of Seattle has settled 30 claims of sexual abuse by members of the Christian Brothers order at Seattle’s O’Dea High School and Briscoe Memorial School in Kent.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Archdiocese of Seattle has agreed to pay $12.125 million to 30 men who say they were sexually abused as students decades ago at Seattle’s O’Dea High School and Briscoe Memorial School in Kent.
In lawsuits filed in King County Superior Court, the men alleged the archdiocese failed to protect them from known abusers, including two former O’Dea teachers who were members of the Roman Catholic Christian Brothers order, which filed for bankruptcy in April 2011.
The Christian Brothers operated O’Dea and Briscoe, a former orphanage and boarding school for boys, but both schools were owned by the Seattle Archdiocese.
“I deeply regret the pain suffered by these victims,” Archbishop J. Peter Sartain said Tuesday in a statement. “Our hope is that this settlement will bring them closure and allow them to continue the process of healing.”
Plaintiffs’ attorney Mike Pfau said the settlement puts an “end to the ugly chapter for the archdiocese.” He said his clients, who range in age from 42 to 68, feel relieved after a decade of litigation.
“This marks the end of 10 years of really horrible cases involving these two schools,” Pfau said.
The cases involved abuse at the two schools from the early 1950s to 1984, Pfau said. More than a third of the plaintiffs say they were sexually abused by former O’Dea teacher Edward Courtney, who had been removed from four schools across the country for molesting boys before coming to O’Dea in 1974, according to court documents. The lawsuit alleged that by 1973, the Christian Brothers knew Courtney was “a serial sexual predator who could not be ‘cured’ or ‘treated,’ ” but the order allowed him to teach at O’Dea from 1974 to 1978 anyway.
Courtney went on to work at other schools, including Seattle’s Our Lady of the Lake School in Wedgwood and St. Alphonsus Parish School in Ballard, and he continued to sexually abuse children. He pleaded guilty in 1988 to indecent liberties with a minor.
Other former O’Dea students said they were abused by teacher G.A. Kealy, who also had a long history of sexually abusing boys, the lawsuit said, including many at Briscoe and O’Dea. He was openly referred to by both students and faculty as “Feely Kealy,” according to court documents.
One student’s father went to archdiocese officials to complain about the abuse but was told there was nothing they could do because Kealy was a Christian Brother, according to court papers. Another O’Dea student said he was abused by a theater and dance instructor in the mid-1980s, but nothing was done to protect the boy from the teacher after he reported the abuse to a school counselor.
About half of the plaintiffs in the settlement were abused at Briscoe, which closed in 1970. A number of them attended the school in the final years before it was sold, though some abuses occurred almost 60 years ago. In court papers, Pfau and law partner Jason Amala cited a 1966 letter from one of the Christian Brothers at Briscoe to an official at the Catholic order that described a “damaging atmosphere” that had reached “immoral and unethical limits.”
The settlement will be funded by archdiocesan insurance programs, according to the archdiocese. The plaintiffs will also receive financial settlements from the Christian Brothers bankruptcy proceeding, which required the order to liquidate the vast majority of its assets and distribute the proceeds to abuse survivors, Pfau said.
The archdiocese statement said anyone who has knowledge of sexual abuse or misconduct by a member of the clergy, an employee or a volunteer at the Seattle Archdiocese is urged to call the archdiocesan hotline at 1-800-446-7762.
Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2530 or firstname.lastname@example.org