Lawsuit Claims Sexual Abuse Decades Ago by Former O'dea Teacher
By Sara Jean Green
March 14, 2013
Another local man has filed a lawsuit against the Christian Brothers religious order and the Seattle Archdiocese, claiming he was sexually abused decades ago by one of the brothers at O’Dea High School.
A lawsuit has been filed in King County Superior Court on behalf of a 52-year-old Seattle man who alleges he was sexually abused more than 40 years ago by Brother Edward Courtney, a member of the Christian Brothers religious order and one of the country’s most prolific abusers of boys in the Catholic Church sex scandal.
The lawsuit was filed this week, months after a federal judge in New York set a July cutoff date for victims to file claims in bankruptcy proceedings involving the Congregation of Christian Brothers in North America, which entered into bankruptcy two years ago under the weight of the many abuse claims being filed against it.
The Archdiocese of Seattle is a party in the federal bankruptcy case and is also named as a defendant in the man’s lawsuit.
“We’re befuddled why they’ve taken this step at this time,” Greg Magnoni, a spokesman for the Seattle Archdiocese, said of the man’s lawsuit. “Our goal is to reach a fair and just outcome for the victim, but because the litigation is with the bankruptcy court, it’s out of our hands at this point.”
Liz Donaldson, one of the Seattle man’s attorneys, declined to discuss the timing of the lawsuit or how the bankruptcy case might impact her client, who is identified in court documents as T.H.
The lawsuit says that in September 1975, Courtney sexually abused him in O’Dea High School’s old gymnasium, then abused him a second time, in April 1977, at Courtney’s mother’s house in Burien.
Records list Courtney, 77, as the owner of that house and show that he also lives in Honolulu. He could not be reached for comment.
Steven Mangione, a spokesman for the Christian Brothers, said the religious order is aware of the man’s lawsuit but hadn’t seen it and had no comment.
Courtney worked at schools in Chicago and Michigan before he arrived in Seattle, teaching at O’Dea between 1974 and 1978 and then becoming principal at St. Alphonsus School.
Courtney “was a habitual molester of male students” who was ordered to undergo sexual-deviancy treatment at least twice, says the complaint, which accuses the Christian Brothers of concealing the abuse and shuttling Courtney from school to school, where he continued to sexually abuse children.
In April 2011, the Congregation of Christian Brothers in North America — which runs O’Dea and other schools across the country — filed for bankruptcy in New York City.
Of the 422 claims filed by men against the Christian Brothers, 52 named Courtney as their abuser, said Michael Pfau, a Seattle attorney representing 37 local victims in the bankruptcy proceedings.
“Of all the abusers across the country, in terms of victims involved in the bankruptcy and in previous litigation, he’s the most prolific abuser of boys,” Pfau said of Courtney.
Of those 37 Seattle-area men involved in the bankruptcy, 15 were sexually abused by Courtney, said Pfau, whose firm is not representing T.H.
Pfau’s firm has represented another 50 men, who together have received $25 million in settlements over the past decade from the Seattle Archdiocese and the Christian Brothers.
Information from Times archives is included in this report.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org