Religious Orders Absent from Bishop's Sex-Abuse Report
Draft of Bishops' Report Shows Depth of Abuse

By Mary Ann Ahern
Posted February 17, 2004 at 11:52 am CST
Updated August 3, 2004 at 7:40 pm CDT

CHICAGO -- A draft of the bishops' report of the Roman Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal reveals that 4,450 priests have been accused of abuse involving 11,000 children over the past 50 years, NBC5's Mary Ann Ahern reported.

But now, there are new fears that those figures are just the tip of the iceberg. In the survey, which tracked priest sex abuse, bishops provided the numbers from their dioceses, but the Washington office conducting the review said only half of the religious orders responded, and such orders account for half of the priests in Cook and Lake counties.

In the case of a Christian Brother at a suburban high school, there is no way to know if his case has been counted. Two young men who attended St. Laurence High School said Brother Robert Brouillete (pictured, left) sexually abused them in the mid- and late-1990s. They have filed civil suits against Brouillete and the archdiocese, but the archdiocese says Brouillete is a Christian Brother, a member of a religious order completely separate from the archdiocese.

Attorney Jeanine Stevens says the Christian Brothers moved Brouillete at least nine times and believes his trail of abuse extends 30 years.

According to Stevens, "The archdiocese says, 'We have no responsibility for St. Laurence High School. The congregation of Christian Brothers is not our responsibility."

Brouillete was arrested at a restaurant at 81st and Harlem four years ago, after allegedly setting up a meeting on the Internet.

"He thought he was meeting a 12-year-old boy," Stevens said.

While no charges came from that Internet sting, Brouillete had also reportedly bragged about the child pornography he owned, and that charge stuck, though in Stevens' opinion, the punishment did not fit the crime.

"He was arrested on 10 charges of child pornography, convicted on all 10, and for some bizarre reason, was given probation," Stevens said.

Brouillete now lives at a Christian Brother residence. He continues to write letters to former victims, detailing his sexual preferences and explaining he has changed his name to Robert Sullivan, Ahern reported. His probation ends in a month.

Meanwhile, the two young men who attended St. Laurence, now in their early 20s, are trying to cope with what they say happened.

When the priest report is released next week, no names will be issued, and there are no plans to identify the religious orders that complied, Ahern said.

NBC5 also has learned that Anne Burke, the head of the national review board releasing the report, has made two trips to the Vatican to ask questions of church leaders as the review board tries to come up with how this crisis got so out of hand for so long.

The figures in the report were first reported by CNN but were confirmed through NBC5's own sources. Ahern said that the report shows that 4,450 priests from 1950 to 2002 have been accused of abuse, 11,000 allegations in all. The majority (78 percent) of the victims were between 11 and 17 years old. Sixteen percent of the victims were between 8 and 10 years old, while 6 percent were 7 years old or younger.

"You have to tell the truth," said Rev. Don Senior, president of Catholic Theological Union. "You have to lay it all out, if you really want to have forgiveness, if you really want to amend your ways."

The official release of the report coincides with the first Friday of Lent, which for Christians is a time of reflection and atonement for one's sins.

Barbara Blaine, of Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests said there is no way for Catholics to see exactly who has been removed.

"If the names were released, we'd have a better sense of the true numbers," she said.

The review board is expected to say the crisis happened because of a failure to grasp the gravity of the problem, an overemphasis on the avoidance of the scandal, use of unqualified treatment centers, misguided willingness to forgive and insufficient accountability, Ahern reported.

Catholics left Holy Name cathedral on Monday with Francis Cardinal George's letter on the upcoming report, which said: "Each day I pray for those who have been sexually abused by priests of the archdiocese and I pray also for priests who have to face the Lord and his people, as well as themselves."

Ahern further reported that NBC5 has, over the years, reported that 62 archdiocesan priests have been removed since 1950 -- and just in the last 12 years more than $30 million has been spent on treatment, legal fees and other costs.

Next week, Ahern further reported, the archdiocese will provide an even more detailed update on those numbers.


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