Suit Alleges Sex Abuse by Priest at Subiaco

By Julieanne Miller
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock, AR)
February 25, 1994

FORT SMITH -- The abbot at New Subiaco Abbey offered help Thursday to a Lafayette, La., man who claims a monastery member sexually abused him.

Garren LeBleu sued the New Subiaco Abbey and the Rev. Nicholas Fuhrmann in federal court Wednesday, seeking $ 750,000 in damages.

"If he is hurting or in need, we want to help him whether he has a valid claim or not," Abbot Jerome Kodell, who heads the order of monks in Subiaco, said. "If we can help with the hurt, we would be glad to help. We want to help everybody."

Kodell said LeBleu never sought help from the monastery or indicated he had a problem.

LeBleu mentioned three incidents of alleged sexual abuse by the priest to a clinical psychologist he consulted in 1993 for "severe emotional problems," LeBleu's attorney, Robert S. Blatt of Fort Smith, said.

LeBleu claims in the lawsuit that Fuhrmann abused him in 1978 and 1979 when he was a 14-year-old pupil at Subiaco Academy.

Fuhrmann once taught English and coached football and boxing at the academy, Kodell said, declining to reveal Fuhrmann's whereabouts now. Kodell did say that Fuhrmann belongs to the monastery.

Blatt said LeBleu had not repressed the memory, but did not "realize the harmful effects of this until later in life."

Blatt said he did not know the specific allegations. He declined comment on other factors, saying he would "rather not discuss it until confirmed in discovery."

The lawsuit states that the monastery showed negligence in selecting and supervising Fuhrmann. It also alleged that the monastery failed to investigate whether Fuhrmann had sexually abused minors before and during his employment.

Blatt said the lawsuit does not claim that Fuhrmann was a known sexual abuser of children, but that the monastery had the responsibility to report such incidents. Blatt said he thinks the monastery had "knowledge" of the abuse, but he would not say how the monastery knew.

"This is a particular situation in which my client and a priest are involved," Blatt said. "This does not have anything to do with other allegations made against priests. It's strictly his claim against Father Nicholas and the academy."

In another case last November, federal jurors awarded a Birmingham, Ala., woman $ 1.5 million against a priest, the Rev. Timothy Sugrue. She accused him of sexually abusing her as a child.

New Subiaco Abbey, Subiaco Academy, a college prep school for high school boys, and a guest and retreat house are on 1,500 acres near Subiaco, a small Logan County town east of Fort Smith. The abbey also has a mission in Belize, Central America.

The abbey, built in 1878, has 75 priests and brothers associated with the Benedictine Order.


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