Top Marianist Discusses Sexual Assault Lawsuits
By Patrick Malone
The Pueblo Chieftain
February 18, 2006
COLORADO SPRINGS - He's torn.
The head of a religious order targeted by more than a dozen lawsuits over allegations of sexual abuse by a former brother who taught at Roncalli High School in Pueblo said he's divided by concern for the former students who claim they were molested and protecting the organization he heads.
Brother Stephen Glodek, provincial of the St. Louis-based Marianist Province of the United States, will be in Pueblo today to hold a retreat for "spiritual affiliates" of the order, mostly former Roncalli students and their parents. About 50 of the affiliates still live in Pueblo.
Lawsuits brought by former Roncalli students against the Marianist order and the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo numbered 13 as of Friday, and more filings are expected. At the heart of each suit are allegations that former Marianist Brother William Mueller, a religion and music teacher at the high school for boys between 1966 and its closure in 1971, rendered students helpless with ether and sexually molested them. The suits accuse the religious order and the diocese of failing to intervene when they had knowledge of Mueller's behavior.
Mueller's accusers said he lured them into vulnerable positions under the guise of conducting experiments studying trust for a graduate thesis. Today, Mueller, 67, lives in San Antonio. He voluntarily left the Marianist order in September 1986.
During an interview Friday in the lobby of Antlers Hilton in Colorado Springs, Glodek acknowledged that the Marianist administration became aware of the experiments while Mueller was teaching in St. Louis, but had not learned of any sexual allegations until the lawsuits were filed. Glodek said leaders of the Marianist order were concerned in the early 1980s to learn about Mueller's proclivity for conducting these "experiments" with students and telling the children to keep them secret. As a result, the order sent Mueller to a treatment center for priests in Jemez Springs, N.M., run by the Servants of Paraclete.
"I think (Marianist leaders) said to (Mueller), 'You may not teach anymore,' " Glodek said. "You may not be around young people because of these trust experiments because they are not professional or good. (Past leaders of the order) obviously thought this was a bizarre and wrong behavior for a teacher."
Mueller was sent to Jemez Springs in 1983 for treatment of "a serious psychological problem," namely the trust experiments, Glodek said. Because the Marianist order was not aware of any sexual allegations related to the experiments, no treatment in that regard was administered.
"Before the first people filed lawsuits, we had no information that there was any sexual activity associated with these trust experiments," Glodek said. "Did we know that there were these trust experiments, and was past leadership concerned it was wrong? Yes. That's why (Mueller) was sent to treatment in 1983. It's the sexual component that was new information."
Jemez Springs counseled priests for problems ranging from substance abuse to sexual abuse of children.
Glodek admits that the approach at Jemez Springs of treating pedophilia was flawed based on what is known today.
"In general, if a person went there for psychological counseling, I think they were very successful in helping with mental disorders," said Glodek. "If a person was sent there for sexual abuse, I think because of when they were founded, they did not realize the depth of the incurability of pedophilia."
And in the case of Mueller, Glodek said even psychological counseling failed.
"In Mr. Mueller's case, he went there for psychological counseling," Glodek said. "They said it worked. He was sent back (to a school in St. Louis), and several months later he was at it again with his experiments. So in his case, it did not work."
Marianist records show Mueller was treated at Jemez Springs twice - from December 1983 to August 1984 and again from December 1985 to April 1986.
Glodek said he has spoken once with Mueller during a five to seven-minute telephone conversation soon after the first allegations of sexual abuse were made public last fall.
"He called me when there was an article in a Texas newspaper about these allegations," said Glodek. "It's the first time he knew about them because he is not named in the Colorado lawsuits. I'd never met the man. He called and wanted to know what was going on. He apologized for the embarrassment and assured me he had never touched a student in his care inappropriately.
"To be perfectly honest, at this point I don't know what to believe. Our conversation was short. I couldn't imagine him saying anything different to me. I've talked to perhaps 75 or 100 former students, not all from Roncalli, who underwent these experiments. With those students there was no mention of what we would consider sexual activity. We certainly would like to find out what the truth of these matters are. We would like to see that these people who were harmed by him are helped. I have a responsibility to safeguard our organization, but I'm deeply sorry that people were harmed by him."
The lawsuits are rife with allegations of sexual depravity. They range from claims that students were forced to practice musical instruments in the nude or rendered unconscious and fondled, to accusations of forcible sodomy.
Some of Mueller's accusers have told The Pueblo Chieftain that their experiences robbed them of their faith, particularly because they were allegedly committed by a member of the clergy, who they were raised to give unconditional trust. Glodek said he understands this consequence of abused trust.
"We bear a heavy responsibility for healing because of the reverence people invested in us," Glodek said. "Even for those of us who don't wear robes, the title (of clergy) in the past invested almost instant trust. To violate that is very serious. It's not only the act itself that's a serious violation, it's the violation of religious trust.
"It has cost the Church dearly on a couple of different levels. Some people question, 'Who is this god who allowed this to happen to me?' For some other people it's years and years of remorse that somehow they were the cause of what happened. So they walk around with big bags of guilt because somehow they feel responsible for what happened, which is nonsense."
Mueller's accusers reacted venomously to the legal response to their suits from lawyers for the Marianist order. The response sought mitigation of financial damages on the basis that the plaintiffs share fault for what allegedly happened to them.
Glodek insists the legal wrangling is not an indictment of the students Mueller enlisted for his experiments. He said conversations are continuing with lawyers for the Marianist order about possibly eliminating the clause from future responses.
"If the allegations are true, the dynamic of sexual abuse does not involve in any way guilt on the part of the victim. I could not say that more emphatically," Glodek said. "I categorically say that if the allegations are true, the victims have no responsibility for what happened to them."
Glodek, 57, said the allegations have been an embarrassment to the Marianist order, which was founded in 1817 with the mission of caring for children, and still operates three universities and 18 secondary schools in the United States. If the lawsuits result in judgments for Mueller's accusers, it could impact the services the order provides for children and the elderly, but that concern is secondary to seeking the truth, Glodek said.
"If the allegations are true, we deeply apologize to the victims, their families and anyone else who was involved," he said. "We will try to help."
Already, the order has mailed letters to alumni of the schools where Mueller taught offering counseling to anyone who alleges abuse. So far no former students have accepted the offer, Glodek said.
While he stands as a guardian for the Marianists, Glodek said he has set another goal beyond preservation of the order.
"Healing," he said. "I hope that these people are healed of what's been tormenting them for almost 40 years and can get on with their lives."
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