|Victim Bitter toward Order
By Patrick Malone
The Pueblo Chieftain
November 1, 2008
Years of anguish and burning curiosity over Brother William Mueller's activities before and since his time in Pueblo motivated a former Roncalli High School student to pursue answers.
That pursuit ultimately led him to file a lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo and the Society of Mary religious order. Almost two dozen of his contemporaries gradually joined him in the litigation. But for most of his life, he thought he was alone.
“They all thought that they were the only ones who were abused and struggled for years with that shame and embarrassment,” said Adam Horowitz, one of the lawyers who represented the plaintiffs.
But the first accuser, who is identified in court documents just by initials and asked not to be identified, said he found strength in knowing that he wasn't alone. Horowitz, whose firm specializes in clergy sexual-abuse suits, said Roncalli alumni began contacting his firm in piecemeal fashion, all making eerily similar claims that Brother William Mueller had molested them after subduing them with ether.
The first accuser, now in his 50s and living in New Mexico, expressed relief Thursday at the resolution to his suit.
“It was scary on a lot of levels,” he said. “Publicity was one. Having to relive it over and over and over again by telling our stories several times was hard. We were deposed with a mediator and attorneys, constantly repeating it. That was the hardest part.” He said even though the diocese defended itself in the suit, its lawyers treated the accusers humanely. His remarks about the Marianists were not as favorable.
“In my opinion, the diocese did a very good job of dealing with this. I have to hand it to Bishop (Arthur) Tafoya,” he said. “On the other hand, the Marianists were (difficult). They tried to thwart us at every turn. I truly think the diocese had our best interest at heart. I don't believe the Marianists did.”
After the plaintiffs' lawyers collected literally thousands of pages of documents and depositions relating to Mueller's history with the order, he said it became apparent that the Marianists were warned on many occasions that Mueller was at least behaving strangely with children, and at worst sexually abusing them.
“It was absolutely shocking when we started learning through depositions about his time in Missouri and Texas. The Marianists were totally irresponsible,” he said. “I don't know why, after the first time this was brought to their attention seven years before he got to Roncalli, they let him stay out there in all-boys schools with access to kids. But they kept moving him around.”
Horowitz acknowledged during a press conference Thursday that the diocese didn't have nearly the knowledge of Mueller's past that the Marianists did. Accordingly, the order reportedly kicked in a higher figure toward the $4 million settlement than the diocese, but specifics of the payout were not available. Both Horowitz and his client declined to answer that question, citing a confidentiality agreement that was part of the settlement.
Horowitz's client said he weighed his options and wasn't committed to pursuing a lawsuit, but ultimately, he believed only a financial toll would hold the Marianists accountable.
The first accuser said the legal process was frustrating at times, but helped him to come to terms with what had happened. He said reconnecting with classmates and learning they shared a common, dark experience helped them to bond. He said they relied on each other for strength during the litigation.
“Settling this matter is a big step in putting it behind us,” he said. “We've pretty much put it behind us now in many respects. Personally, I've got grandkids, a good job, good health and now it's time to move on.”
He hadn't always felt that way. He said the emotional toll of the abuse he endured led him down a path of addiction and other self-destructive behaviors. He said he's got little faith in religion and blames Mueller for that.
“Who knows what he's done since he left the order?” he said. “We saw what he did with supervision. I'd hate to imagine what he's done with nobody watching. If there truly is a hell, I'm confident he'll rot there.”
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