Abuse Alleged at St. Mike's

By Wren Propp
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
May 19, 1995

While eating an annual family-reunion meal with their father more than a year ago, two Santa Fe brothers discovered that they both believe they were sexually abused decades ago by several teachers at St. Michael's High School, an attorney for the two men said.

"That was the first time each had learned that the other had been abused. Prior to that, neither had said anything to the other," said Stephen Tinkler, a Santa Fe attorney representing the two brothers, Michael and Paul Ortiz y Pino.

The Ortiz y Pinos each filed a lawsuit in 1st Judicial District Court earlier this week alleging that they had been repeatedly raped and subjected to other sexual abuse while attending elementary and junior high classes at the Roman Catholic school from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s.

Their experiences have affected their self-esteem and caused severe emotional distress, the lawsuits claim. They are both in counseling, Tinkler said.

Michael Ortiz y Pino claims he was sexually abused by a Brother Abdon, now deceased, a Brother Alex, and Joseph Durr, a former junior assistant Scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts in Santa Fe from 1955 to 1957. The lawsuit alleges that the Boy Scouts of America acted fraudulently in hiring Durr. Attempts to locate Durr weren't successful.

Phil Bevis, Scout executive of the Great Southwest Council of the Boy Scouts of America in Albuquerque, will be out of town until Monday, a spokeswoman at his office said.

Paul Ortiz y Pino claims that he was raped and sexually abused by Brother Abdon and a now-former brother, "Louis Brouseau (sic)", believed to be a resident in Albuquerque, and Tom McConnell, believed to be a Denver resident. His status in the order isn't immediately known.

Brother Abdon, Brother Alex, Brouseau and McConnell were reportedly teachers at the school.

An L. Brouseau has an unlisted telephone number in Albuquerque. A message left on the answering machine of a Thomas McConnell in Denver wasn't immediately returned.

A man answering the telephone at the Christian Brothers office at St. Michael's said there would be no comment about the case.

One lawsuit claims that Brother Alex is still in the Catholic order of the Christian Brothers and lives in New Mexico. The suit says Brother Alex directed a junior novitiate program at the College of Santa Fe, where Michael, at 13, began studying to become a member of the Christian Brothers Order.

Both lawsuits also name as plaintiffs the Christian Brothers Major Superiors, a New Mexico corporation, as well as NOSF Inc., a Louisiana corporation previously named Brothers of the Christian School of Lafayette, La. NOSF Inc. is empowered to assign brothers to various schools in its province, including St. Michael's High School, the lawsuits claim.

The lawsuits say the Christian Brothers Major Superiors, NOSF Inc., acted negligently and perpetuated a fraud by presenting the men as leaders despite knowledge that they exhibited "exploitative propensities" and had a history of pedophilia.

A telephone request for an interview with Brother James "Nic" Grahmann, president of the St. Michael's College Corp. board of trustees, was unsuccessful. A woman answering the phone at his Santa Fe office said he wasn't available.

The amount of damages the Ortiz y Pinos are claiming isn't specified in the two lawsuits.

Tinkler, who with his partner Merit Bennett have filed several lawsuits alleging sexual abuse on the part of priests in the Catholic Archdiocese in New Mexico, said he and Bennett on Thursday heard from at least three other former students of St. Michael's.

"We don't have any expectation about them (filing additional lawsuits). We do believe there are other victims," Tinkler said.


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