Bergen Catholic settlement gives 'hope' to one alleged victim

By Sara Jerde
August 22, 2016

Bergen Catholic High School settled with alleged sexual abuse victims last November.

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ORADELL—Peter Alrutz, 67, cannot recall exactly how old he was when he was first sexually abused, but he can still remember when a teacher asked to see him outside of class at Bergen Catholic High School and took him to a closet where the school stored books.

Alrutz said Brother Charles Borromeo Irwin asked him to move some books and when the student bent over, Irwin put his hand down his pants.

He said there was a physical struggle, but beyond that, "my recollection after that point is not real clear."

Victims of alleged sexual abuse at the all-boys high school in Oradell stepped forward Monday to announce a $1.9 million settlement that will be shared among 21 men who accused staff of the school of abusing them years earlier.

The settlement was reached in November, according to Mitchell Garabedian, who represented seven of those who settled, and said some of the alleged victims were just now wanting to speak to the public. Road to Recovery, an advocacy group, set up a press event outside of the school.

The school, which did not admit liability by settling with the alleged victims, is staffed by the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers and overseen by the Archdiocese of Newark. Neither entity immediately returned requests for comment.

Alrutz, who now lives in Austin, Texas, said that he felt the settlement gave him "hope" that there was remorse from the school, but felt the settlement figures were "low ball."

"I feel like they're very interested in still protecting their image and income. And I don't even know if they really comprehend the damage that they've done," Alrutz said. "I just feel like they're protecting their way of life."

Those who settled will receive sums that range from $65,000 to $115,000. The victims were assaulted between 1963 and 1978 when they were between the ages of 13 and 17 years old, Garabedian said.

No school officials were named in the legal documents, but the school was made aware of the names of the brothers accused, Garabedian said.

The firm that represented other alleged victims in the case, Jeff Anderson & Associates, didn't immediately return a request for comment.

Robert M. Hoatson, a founder of Road to Recovery, said that his advocacy group had protested outside of the high school a year ago after they felt the school was taking too long to respond to settlement talks. He felt the group's protests put pressure on the school and led to the settlement.

The settlement prevents the parties from suing the high school.

Rev. Kobutsu Malone, now 67, has written extensively about his experience on his website, Malone, who was Kevin Malone when he attended Bergen Catholic, has not settled with the school.

Garabedian, who also represents Malone, said Bergen Catholic decided not to settle with Malone because of his "activism and transparency" on his website. Malone claimed he was also sexually abused by Irwin.

Iriwn died in the late 1990s at age 69.

Malone, who now lives in Maine, dropped out of Bergen Catholic after finishing his second year to attend Paramus High School. "I couldn't stand the torture and the mistreatment of that school. It was appalling," he said.

Both Malone and Alrutz said there wasn't a safe way to describe the abuse back then.

"There wasn't a language for even speaking about this. You never heard anybody talk about sexual abuse and brothers who taught at the school were really seen as living representative of Jesus on Earth," Alrutz said.

Alrutz said his family moved to Tennessee, so he didn't spend his senior year at the school. He described the experience as traumatic and has affected his ability to feel safe.



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