The Congregation of Christian Brothers was founded by Blessed Edmund Rice in 1802 as a religious order of the Catholic Church. The congregation, also commonly referred to as the Irish Christian Brothers, Christian Brothers Institute, Congregation of Christian Brothers of Ireland among other names, began in Waterford, Ireland, however, has since expanded throughout the world. The main leadership team currently is based in Rome, although it has a large presence in the United States with many established schools.
Reports of sexual abuse involving the Christian Brothers date all the way back to 1980. This includes well-documented cases, such as the one involving Brother Robert Brouillette who was arrested in 1998 for the alleged indecent solicitation of a child and was later tried in 2002 in civil court for alleged sexual assault against a 21-year-old man. He was also convicted for possession of child pornography in 1999.
The reputation of the congregation has seriously suffered from these allegations as reports of the abuse of children placed into their care became more well-known. In the home country of Ireland, the congregation has been blasted by the government for the abuse of thousands of children not only in the congregation's schools, but residential facilities as well. It has been reported that these sexual abuse allegations have been made difficult in the United States due to the geographic locations of the congregation; while concentrated in the northeast corner near New York, the congregation has locations throughout the country and can easily move members around to these locations should allegations of sexual abuse arise – therefore complicating the case.
On April 28, 2011, the Christian Brothers officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition following the upswing in sexual abuse allegations. The bankruptcy protection was filed for in New York under the name Christian Brothers Institute where the North American chapter is headquartered, however, most clergy abuse lawsuits have been in Washington state, as well as Canada. While this filing was promoted as a way for the congregation to meet all current financial obligations, it is important for victims who have suffered from sexual abuse tied to the Christian Brothers to recognize how this bankruptcy will affect their sexual abuse claims.
Many suspect that the bankruptcy stemmed from a need to protect the congregation's assets in Rome, as well as their desire to reduce liability and to shield themselves from full disclosure. Still, it is expected that a large amount of victims will step forward in an attempt to seek restitution for the abuse that they have suffered. Many are concerned that victims will forever have their rights extinguished by the bar date set by the bankruptcy. Many victims will be seen as "creditors" in the eyes of the bankruptcy court – and if they miss the deadline set by the bar date, they could be legally barred forever from pursuing a case.
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At Manley & Stewart, we recognize that while this bankruptcy filing could be beneficial to some victims looking to quickly receive the compensation that they deserve, it is also a serious obstacle to many others. By dramatically reducing transparency and therefore limiting the ability of victims to obtain the information that they require, it could hobble their efforts to seek justice. It is for this reason that we encourage all victims to consult with a sexual abuse lawyer from our firm immediately. As some of the most prominent lawyers on the topic, we have proven that we can be trustworthy advocates for the rights of clergy abuse victims. If you would like to file a claim regarding sexual abuse or if you would like to learn more about how the bankruptcy will affect your claim, please give us a call today.
Do not hesitate to contact Manly, Stewart & Finaldi to discuss your Irish Christian Brothers sexual abuse claim today.