Marianists Respond to Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

By Patrick Malone
The Pueblo Chieftain
January 27, 2006

A religious order that is the subject of numerous lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of teenage boys by a former brother has responded to three suits by denying responsibility, according to court records made public on Thursday.

To date, 13 suits have been filed against the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo and the Marianists Province of the United States by former students at Roncalli High School, where Brother William Mueller taught religion and music from 1965 to 1971, when the school closed. The former students allege that Mueller subdued them with ether and sexually molested them.

None of the suits name Mueller as a defendant. He voluntarily left the Marianist order in 1986 after attending a treatment center in New Mexico for what Marianist leaders have called "bizarre behavior." Mueller now lives in San Antonio. Lawsuits containing similar allegations to those filed here have been filed in Missouri, where Mueller also taught.

Another suit names only the diocese as a defendant. It was brought by a former altar boy at St. Pius X Catholic Church who accused former priest Andrew Burke of molesting him in the early 1970s. Burke committed suicide in September.

The diocese has not answered any of the civil complaints, according to court records.

The suits that were answered by the Marianist order were filed by Puebloan Tom Monroe and two others, identified in court records only as J.M. and T.A.

According to court records, the Marianists deny responsibility for the alleged abuses because the order claimed it had no knowledge of the incidents and couldn't have foreseen they would happen. The Marianist response further alleges that the students who brought the suits were at least partially responsible for any abuse.

Lawyers for the Marianists have asked the court to adjust damages sought in the suit in accordance with the accusers' alleged responsibility for what they allege happened to them. The Marianists' lawyers from the Englewood law firm of Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine also characterized the suits as frivolous and groundless, and asked the court to award the Marianists attorneys' fees and costs associated with fighting the suits.

Each of the suits pending against the diocese has been filed by the Miami law firm of Herman & Mermelstein. The suits that the Marianists responded to were the first three filed. Deadlines have not passed yet for answering the suits that were filed later.


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