Second Man Accuses Former Palma School Priest
By Virginia Hennessey
March 4, 2012
A second man has reportedly come forward alleging sexual abuse by a priest at Palma High School, but details of both of the claims could remain out of the public eye.
Southern California attorney Mike Reck confirmed Friday that the second man contacted him after The Herald reported an initial claim involving the Rev. Gerald Funcheon, who was a chaplain and teacher at Palma from 1984-85.
Reck said he is about to file the first man's claim, and will likely file another on behalf of the second man, in the bankruptcy case of the Irish Christian Brothers and the Christian Brothers Institute in New York. The two jointly filed Chapter 11 last year in the wake of mounting sex abuse allegations against its brothers.
The "debtors" have identified Palma as one of the schools where alleged perpetrators worked. The list of individual Christian Brothers named in the bankruptcy action, as well as the claim form, can be found at www.omnimgt.com/TheChristianBrothers.
Funcheon, who was a Crosier priest, is not on the list, though it does include Brother Jerome Heustis, principal of Palma from 1976 to 1982, and Brother Robert Brouillette, who taught at the school from 1964-68.
Brother Patrick Dunne, president of Palma, said the school is a separate corporate entity and not affiliated with the bankruptcy, though it was ordered by the court to submit its alumni list for notification.
Attorneys representing the
Christian Brothers and the Christian Brothers Institute have not responded to multiple requests for comment.
Reck said both men accusing Funcheon were students at Palma in the mid-1980s. It is possible neither of their claims, or any of the others filed in the case, will become a matter of public record.
Palma alumni this week will begin receiving court-ordered packets with the necessary forms to file claims in the bankruptcy case. Alleged victims have until Aug. 1 to file or lose their right to do so.
Part 1 of the form states that the claim and any attachments will be confidential unless the recipient checks a box requesting they be public.
Unless the claimant agrees to release it, or also files a lawsuit in state court, the claims will only be seen by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Drain and a limited group of attorneys representing the Christian Brothers and their alleged victims.
Jim Stang, the Los Angeles attorney representing the victims' committee, said it is possible his group, or a member of the public, could ask Drain to release the claims at the conclusion of the case. In the event that happens, Stang said, the records would be redacted to exclude the names of the claimants.
It is likely that anyone filing a claim involving a Palma High employee would also file a lawsuit in Monterey County Superior Court. In that case, the plaintiff could move to file as "John Doe" to protect his identity.
It is also likely that such a lawsuit would name not only the Irish Christian Brothers, but Palma High School, its corporate entity, the Christian Brothers Institute of California, and the Diocese of Monterey.
Dunne's assertions aside, the Christian Brothers Institute of California is listed as a defendant in a Seattle lawsuit that has been transferred into the bankruptcy case. That lawsuit claims the order's western headquarters was located in Salinas when the provincial transferred Brother Edward Courtney to O'Dea High School in Seattle, where he allegedly molested the plaintiff, "W.D."
Tom Riordan, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Monterey, has also said the diocese is unaffiliated with the bankruptcy and the Palma corporation. Unlike "sister school" Notre Dame High, which is a diocesan school, he said, the diocese's only role at Palma is to approve its religious educational program.
He confirmed, however, that Funcheon was hired at Palma after he was granted "faculties" to practice as a priest by the diocese. He said Funcheon's file indicated he came with the blessings of his Crosier provincial.
According to legal documents and press reports, he also came after sexual abuse allegations at Damien High School in Hawaii and elsewhere.
A number of Catholic dioceses and religious orders have declared bankruptcy in the United States in the wake of thousands of sexual abuse claims. Stang has represented the claimants' committee in eight of those cases.
He said dioceses and church-affiliated orders exist in two legal forms, under the church's canon law and individual states' corporate laws. It is as corporate entities that such groups can declare bankruptcy apart from the church and one another.
Stang said it will be up to Judge Drain to determine the assets of the Irish Christian Brothers and its North American sector, the Christian Brothers Institute of New Rochelle, N.Y.
He stressed his team has never asked for a high school to be closed or sold.
Virginia Hennessey can be reached at 753-6751 or email@example.com