The Congregation of Christian Brothers founded itself in 1802 as an organization that would bring the teachings of the Catholic Church to young people around the world. At some point, however, some of the Brothers started molesting those young people. Now the order--which runs Seattle's O'Dea High School, and used to run the Briscoe Memorial School near Kent and others around the country--is declaring bankruptcy, the scandals of decades past having finally caught up with it.
In recent years, dozens of men have said they were sexually and/or physically abused as students there. Teachers beat them severely, they said, sometimes with leather straps or fists, other times with wooden paddles while they were naked in the shower.
They also told of boys being taken from their beds at night by teachers, of being accosted in bathrooms, of being forced to engage in oral sex.
Their accounts spanned the 1940s through the 1960s.
"Most of the abuses occurred with the most vulnerable children who had nowhere to turn and no one to tell," said Seattle attorney Michael Pfau, who has represented more than 50 people abused by Christian Brothers and has an additional 10 cases pending.
Some 50 cases were settled to the tune of $25.6 million, which, considering the group has apparently been running seven-figure deficits for several years, makes it no wonder it's looking for bankruptcy protection.
The saga doesn't end here, however, as Pfau writes in a statement that he believes the Roman Catholic Church itself had a much larger role in the sex scandals than it's letting on. He says the church knew good and well what was going on at Briscoe, O'Dea, and other schools, and used its vast resources to keep it quiet.
"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."