Suit Filed against Marianists, Claiming Sexual Abuse by Chaminade Teacher and Coach
By Jennifer Mann
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
February 24, 2012
A former Marianist cleric at the Chaminade College Preparatory School was so well-known for his inappropriate behavior toward showering students that they had a name for it: the "Meinhardt treatment," according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.
Brother Louis Meinhardt, a teacher and coach at the Creve Coeur prep school from 1958 to 1982, would allegedly watch juvenile boys shower and grab their genitals, earning several nicknames including "the kissing coach." He also, according to the suit, used common catch phrases including "come here and give me loving" and "let me pat you on the bo-bo."
Earlier this month, the leader of the Marianists, Rev. Martin Solma, revealed that more than a dozen former students had come forward with decades-old allegations of verbal and sexual abuse by Meinhardt and another former cleric, Brother John Woulfe, who was at the school for nine years ending in 1977. Both are now deceased.
One of those students, identified only as "John Doe," is plaintiff in the civil suit filed Thursday in St. Louis County Circuit Court, which names the U.S. Marianists, Solma and the school as defendants.
The suit seeks unspecified damages for emotional distress and medical and psychological treatment caused by the alleged abuse that started in 1966 when the plaintiff was in seventh grade and a student of Meinhardt. The suit points to one instance in which Meinhardt asked the boy after school for a "private tutoring session" and then molested him.
It says that the school and Marianists knew about Meinhardt's reputation and other instances of abuse and did nothing to stop it. A lawyer and a spokesman for the Marianists have not yet provided comment. School administrators could not be reached for comment.
Ken Chackes, attorney for the plaintiff, said in an interview that Meinhardt "was just the most open and notorious child molester I've ever heard of." Chackes has represented victims of three of six other local Marianists who have been accused of abuse.
Chackes said his current client, now around 60 and still living in Missouri, repressed memories of the abuse by Meinhardt, but that they surfaced during a visit to the school in the last year. The statute of limitations for sexual abuse in Missouri allows for claims within five years of an alleged victim either turning 21, or recalling the abuse.
Chackes' client, in a statement Thursday, said the behavior in the showers, and later sexual abuse, led him to "avoid (Meinhardt) at all costs" during his five years at the school.
"I coped by repression of this embarrassment, humiliation and guilt and now see the evidence of chronic, underlying psychological damage as these sick memories have surfaced," he said. "I became disillusioned as a Catholic and for the life of me cannot understand how others in this faith do not see the fact that these so-called shepherds refuse to remove the pedophiles acting as oppressive wolves towards the flock."
In a statement emailed late Thursday, Solma pointed out that after a male graduate came forward several months ago saying he had been sexually abused by Meinhardt and Woulfe in the 1970s, he sent out letters to 1,600 former students to see whether there were any other victims.
Solma said he personally responded to each of the complaints that came in — 20 of which relayed abuse by Meinhardt.
"The Marianists believe sexual abuse is a serious evil and we are doing everything in our power to work with possible victims and to prevent sexual abuse in the future. I am saddened by what is set out in the suit. I would have preferred to keep our outreach in the pastoral realm and to work towards healing in whatever way that could have been done. Unfortunately, once a lawsuit has been initiated, we are more limited in what can be done pastorally. I am saddened by that as well."
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