|Sacred Heart Brother Faces Sex Abuse Suit
By Joseph B. Nadeau
July 20, 2007
Burrillville - A brother living with the local Brothers of the Sacred Heart order since Hurricane Katrina destroyed his Gulf Coast home is now the focus of a sexual abuse claim from a former student of the Mississippi Catholic high school where he was a dorm supervisor in the 1980s.
Brother William Leimbach was reported to have sexually assaulted the then 15-year-old male student, Michael D. Stevenson, on a number of occasions during the 1983-84 school year, according to a report published by The Sea Coast Echo of Bay St. Louis, Miss., Friday.
The alleged victim of the sexual assaults, now a resident of Wyoming, filed a federal civil suit against the school, St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, and the Brothers of Sacred Heart organization operating it, according to the report.
Stevenson's attorney, James Reeves of Gulfport, Miss., could not be reached for comment about the allegations against the former St. Stanislaus staff member.
Leimbach was reported to have worked at St. Stanislaus throughout the 1980s and had been a dormitory supervisor for students boarding at the private school.
Reeves is reported to be investigating additional allegations of sexual abuse against other students Leimbach may have had contact with during his time at the school, a
according to the report.
Leimbach arrived at the local Brothers of Sacred Heart Residence at 685 Steere Farm Road in the fall of 2005 after Hurricane Katrina battered the St. Stanislaus campus and wrecked other buildings the brothers working and residing in the area had occupied.
The local brothers, members of the organization's New England Province, took in Leimbach and three other members displaced by the storm's massive devastation of the Gulf Coast, Brother Robert Croteau, the president of Mount St. Charles Academy and a vice president of the New England Province, said Friday.
Croteau said he learned of the allegations against Leimbach through a media report Friday and as of Friday evening had not heard all of the details of the matter. Members of the New Orleans Province were said to be away on retreat Friday, according to the Bay St. Louis report.
"I don't know what the charges are, I just know there are charges," Croteau said when contacted at the brothers'
residence on Earle Street in Woonsocket.
Leimbach, in his late 50s, has not worked at Mount St. Charles Academy, Croteau said.
"He basically lives and works at the retirement home in Burrillville and he does not have contact with minors," Croteau said.
Leimbach was not at the residence Friday, Croteau said, and was believed to be in the New Orleans area, where he had driven with one of the relocated elderly brothers he had traveled north with back in 2005. The brother was in need of nursing home care and wished to be taken back to the New Orleans area to receive it, Croteau said. After settling the elderly brother there, Croteau said Leimbach is expected to return to Burrillville.
The local Brothers of the Sacred Heart have been upset and distressed by the allegations against Leimbach but will wait for the legal process in Mississippi to run its course, Croteau said.
While the New England Province and New Orleans Province are separate incorporations of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, Croteau said there is a sense of community for the group overall.
"It's the same as if someone in your family - your child, your wife, or some other relative - is accused of something. You are affected," Croteau said. "You may not be legally involved it is upsetting and it is dispiriting," he said.
Although the allegations against Leimbach are just surfacing in Mississippi, allegations of sexual misconduct against the clergy have already been brought forward in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and other New England states in recent years. A number of local cases involving sexual abuse and criminal sexual assaults against clergy serving in area parishes were in included in the large Archdiocese of Boston and Diocese of Providence civil settlements with the victims. Criminal cases have also been prosecuted and concluded against the clergy involved several of the cases of alleged assaults and abuse.
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