Who is Brother Bob Flaherty? Former St. X teacher accused of sex crime
Photo of the 1998 St. Xavier yearbook of Bro. Robert Flaherty.(Photo: Courier Journal)
Robert Flaherty, who is accused of sexually abusing a minor while teaching at a Catholic school in Baltimore in the 1980s, had significant involvement with students at Saint Xavier High School in Louisville in the 1990s.
The 71-year-old brother in the Catholic Xaverian order taught computer science and coached baseball at St. X from 1994 to 1999, school spokesman Mike Littell told the Courier Journal.
He also taught physics and was the drama moderator, according to St. X yearbooks. Courier Journal archives show he was also the school's director of technology in 1998.
Flaherty has been suspended from active ministry and from his current teaching post at a Catholic school in Massachusetts pending the outcome of a Baltimore police investigation.
Authorities have said little about that investigation, but St. X President Perry E. Sangalli in a Wednesday letter to parents said the abuse allegation dates to the mid-1980s — years before Flaherty joined the St. X faculty — and "does not involve a current or former student at Saint Xavier or from any of the schools to which Brother Bob was assigned."
Littell said there had been no complaints or legal action taken against Flaherty during his time in Louisville.
It's unclear when the allegation was first made. Police learned of it in April, Baltimore police spokesman Jeremy Silbert told the Courier Journal. The Office of the State's Attorney for Baltimore City is also investigating, according to the Xaverian Brothers.
Louisville Metro Police said the agency is not coordinating with Baltimore's investigation.
At St. X, Flaherty was actively involved in the school's theater productions, according to 1998 graduate Chris Hartman.
Hartman, now director of the Louisville-based Fairness Campaign, said Flaherty directed the school's production of "The Secret Garden." He recalls that Flaherty was cast as the friar in a production of "Romeo and Juliet" but dropped out last minute. Hartman took his place.
"He was a jovial guy who had a sharp sense of humor," Hartman told the Courier Journal. "I don't remember anything unusual, but I also remember him yelling a lot, which was common in the theater."
Hartman expressed concern about an investigation of a St. X faculty member.
"It's surprising," Hartman said. "St. X ran a pretty tight ship in general, so this is something I would never have expected."
Littell and Sangalli were both faculty members when Flaherty was at the school.
"We both knew him personally," Littell said. "He was like any of the other brothers. He was highly respected and he was an engaging educator in our school community."
He said there was nothing suspect about Flaherty's time on campus or his move to Louisville from Baltimore.
"The brothers moved around a lot back then," Littell said. "There had been no indication of any misconduct before he came here."
Flaherty joined the Xavarian lay ministry in 1979 and taught at Mount St Joseph in Baltimore from 1980 until he moved to Louisville in 1993, according to the Xavarian Brothers.
After leaving St. X in 1999, he joined the faculty of St. John's Preparatory School, an all-boys Catholic school in Danvers, Massachusetts. He returned to Mount St. Joseph in Baltimore, teaching from 2008 to 2010, before going back to St. Johns in 2010.
All three schools are run by the Xavarian Brothers.
St. John's Preparatory spokeswoman Beth Forbes told the Courier Journal the school had heard nothing about abuse allegations before Flaherty began teaching there.
“The Xaverian Brothers continue to cooperate fully with the civil authorities in their investigation of this allegation,” the order's Brother Edward Driscoll wrote in a statement.
The Baltimore-based Xaverian Brothers operates schools around the country and is separate from the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Louisville said late Wednesday that the archdiocese was sorry to learn of the allegation.
"We have confidence in the Xaverian Brothers and their efforts to cooperate with the civil authorities in this matter," spokeswoman Cecelia Price said.
In his letter to St. X parents, Sangalli urged anyone having knowledge of misconduct of any kind to report it, and he asked for prayers for all victims of abuse.
"Student safety and well-being are paramount at Saint Xavier," he wrote. "Policies and procedures, in addition to Safe Environment Training and other professional development requirements for faculty and staff, are in place to ensure a healthy, formative environment and culture for our young people. If anyone has knowledge of misconduct of any kind, I urge you to report such behavior to civil authorities."
The allegation against Flaherty is the latest in a wave of scrutiny of the Catholic Church. Last week, a Pennsylvania grand jury reported that hundreds of priests had sexually abused more than 1,000 victims and that church officials covered up the allegations.
Kate Talerico contributed reporting. Thomas Novelly: firstname.lastname@example.org, 502-582-4465. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/tomn.
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