The US-based chapter of the Irish Christian Brothers has agreed to pay more than $16.5 million to more than 400 survivors of sexual abuse in the United States and Canada.
According to the Irish Times, the alleged abusers operated schools run by the congregation in 17 US states as well as Canada.
In a statement issued by law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates, who represented 92 of the sexual abuse survivors who filed claims in the bankruptcy proceedings, ‘the official committee of unsecured creditors for the Christian Brothers Institute and the Christian Brothers of Ireland Inc. have approved the terms and conditions of a consensual reorganisation plan in... cases of the Christian Brothers Institute and the Christian Brothers of Ireland, Inc.'
More than 400 survivors of sexual abuse were included in the multimillion dollar financial settlement, to be paid by the international Catholic religious order and one of its insurance carriers.
Jeff Anderson of the St Paul, Minnesota-based law firm said the settlement would still allow abuse survivors to continue legal actions 'involving other parties, including schools and dioceses who share responsibility for decades of abuse staffed by members of the order including schools in California, Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Washington.'
Anderson added that 'what this settlement demonstrates is how courageous survivors are able to effectively seek justice and accountability from even the largest international religious institutions who endanger children. The clear message being that no institution should ever be allowed to be a safe haven for adults who hurt children.'
According to the Chicago Tribune, rising legal costs prompted the Christian Brothers to file for bankruptcy in April 2011. At that time the religious order notified alumni that they could file claims through U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
The $16.5 million payout will come out of a Chapter 11 reorganization settlement between creditors and the Irish Christian Brothers. In addition, the order agreed to enforce a zero-tolerance policy for brothers accused of abuse.
'Intense negotiations during the past three months have led to painful concessions in bringing about this mutually agreed upon settlement,' Brother Kevin Griffith, deputy province leader said in a statement.
'This settlement will allow an opportunity to recommit ourselves to bringing the Gospel of Jesus and the charism of our Founder, Blessed Edmund Rice, to those we serve. The protection of children must remain the highest of priorities in creating safe environments at our ministry sites and in our communities. Let us continue to pray for all those affected by child sexual abuse and ask the Lord for healing and reconciliation.'
Contacted by the press, the Christian Brothers leadership team in Ireland declined to comment. During the course of investigation into the Christian Brothers it emerged they had withheld crucial evidence about an notoriously offending brother in the 1970’s to prevent his case from becoming ‘a cause celebre thereby doing damage to (his) name and reputation and that of the school.’