Puebloan Files Third Sex-Abuse Lawsuit against Diocese

By Patrick Malone
The Pueblo Chieftain [Pueblo CO]
September 22, 2005

A third lawsuit over allegations of sexual abuse by a former Catholic brother at Roncalli High School was filed in Pueblo district court on Wednesday.

The suit alleges the abuse was reported to the local diocese years before subsequent allegations surfaced, and nothing was done to keep the brother away from boys.

In a press conference outside the Pueblo Judicial Building, plaintiff Tom Monroe and his lawyer announced the suit. Monroe, of Pueblo, is the first of three former Roncalli students who've filed suit against the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo and the Society of Mary to go public with his identity.

The suits stem from allegations that Brother William Mueller used ether to subdue students at the school, then raped or fondled them while they were unconscious.

"What we're finding out about Roncalli is unfortunately what we're finding about dioceses around the country," said Jeffrey Herman, Monroe's lawyer from the Miami firm of Herman & Mermelstein. "The diocese was notified. They did nothing to protect the children after that. (Mueller) is a monster. He is one of the worst serial pedophiles I have ever seen."

Monroe's suit alleges that during private music lessons when he was a 14-year-old sophomore at Roncalli, Mueller told Monroe he would be better at playing the trombone if he did it in the nude. Mueller allegedly fondled Monroe's genitals and masturbated during five sessions.

The significance of Monroe's suit is that it alleges he told the school counselor, Father Jose Montoya, about the abuse in 1967. Two suits filed last week by former Roncalli students who are identified only by their initials allege that Mueller abused them in 1968 and 1969. The school was operated by the diocese and staffed by Marianists.

Montoya died in March 2002. Monroe also said the school's principal was aware of his accusations.

Monroe said Montoya excused him from band classes taught by Mueller after the allegations were reported.

Last week, Monsignor Mark Plewka, chancellor of the diocese, said the diocese had no record of reported abuse by Mueller when he was a teacher at Roncalli. Plewka was out of town Wednesday. A phone call to bishop Arthur Tafoya was directed to another diocesan administrator, who did not return a message.

Herman said he has spoken to at least 10 former Roncalli students who accuse Mueller of molesting them.

"This kind of abuse is murder of the soul," Herman said.

Monroe said he decided to come forward after learning last week in The Pueblo Chieftain about the other allegations of abuse by Mueller.

"I pretty much kept it inside until I saw the article in the newspaper about the other suits," Monroe said.

He said one reason he's going public with his identity is to send a message to other childhood abuse victims that they must be heard.

"Tell! Tell! Tell! Pray!" Monroe said. "Tell an adult, and be ready to withstand the retaliation. (The diocese) never investigates kids' allegations."

Monroe said his earlier reluctance to report the allegations came from devotion to the Catholic faith and a sense of trust in the institution the brother represented.

"This was the Catholic church," Monroe said. "I had a sense of vocation at the time."

Herman said that attitude was reinforced by the culture of the church.

"The church teaches you to keep it in the family," Herman said. "Keep it to yourself."

Monroe, 52, said he works in youth ministry now after years as a licensed counselor. He admitted his license as a counselor was suspended in 2000. The Colorado Attorney General's office filed a lawsuit in Pueblo district court two years ago and won an injunction ordering Monroe to stop claiming to be a licensed counselor after the suspension.

Herman said allegations of abuse against Mueller pre-date his time at Roncalli. Mueller taught at a high school in St. Louis before coming to Roncalli, and moved on to San Antonio, where he spent a decade teaching at a Catholic high school after he left Pueblo.

In 1981, Mueller returned to St. Louis and taught at parochial schools there. The Marianists acknowledged that he entered a treatment program for "bizarre behavior" in 1985. Herman contends the treatment was for pedophilia.

Mueller voluntarily left the Marianist order in 1986. He lives in San Antonio.

A Missouri law firm filed a lawsuit on Tuesday on behalf of a former student in St. Louis who alleges Mueller raped him at knife point. Mueller is the subject of criminal investigations in St. Louis and Pueblo.


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