Top Catholic Educator Concealed Abuse Knowledge
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kevin Price was struggling with memories of the sexual abuse he says he suffered at the hands of a high school teacher, so he reached out to the religious order that runs the Catholic school he attended.
De La Salle Christian Brothers, which educates more than 1 million students around the world, apologized for Price’s pain and sought to reassure him. The order’s Midwest leader said the brother in question had been forbidden from contact with anyone under 18 and was working in a prison.
But in a 1995 letter obtained by The Associated Press, the leader neglected to mention something: The prison was for males from age 10 to 21. The writer of that letter, Brother Thomas Johnson, is now the second-ranking official in the worldwide order.
Brother Raimond Rose was counseling young inmates at a juvenile detention center in Minnesota. One of the inmates later filed a lawsuit accusing him of molestation. In fact, 21 men have filed lawsuits against Rose in cases dating back to the 1960s. Four of the suits were filed last month.
Price, of Richmond, Va., and the other accusers feel betrayed by the order, which operates more than 1,000 schools and educational institutions in 82 countries, including about 75 high schools in the U.S.
It’s unclear whether Christian Brothers knew the full scope of the accusations against Rose. But this much is certain: The order was well aware that Rose was not supposed to be working with children — which is more than Minnesota prison officials said they knew when they hired him a year before the letter was written.
Johnson “told me what I believed to be honest and truthful — that Brother Raimond had been addressed by the Christian Brothers,” Price said. “It’s really been a shock to me and has kind of shattered my faith.”
Rose, who is now 77, has never been criminally charged, though law enforcement agencies in California, Minnesota and North Dakota have investigated various allegations against him.
Rose had worked at the prison about four years before officials there heard about sex-abuse allegations stemming from his years at Christian Brothers schools. When a prison official contacted Johnson, he pleaded ignorance.
“Until this accusation, I was unaware of any problem with Brother Raimond,” Johnson wrote the state’s deputy commissioner of corrections in a 1998 letter obtained by the AP — three years after his letter to Price. “Our files did not contain any reference to the fact that he was not to work with minors.”
Johnson is now the order’s vicar general and is based at its headquarters in Rome. He did not respond to an e-mail from the AP. The man who succeeded him as the order’s Midwest leader, Brother Francis Carr, said Johnson and other Christian Brothers could not be interviewed.
Several of Rose’s accusers provided the AP with documents. Most were plaintiffs in a series of recently settled lawsuits against the Christian Brothers filed by Patrick Noaker, an attorney in the St. Paul law firm run by Jeff Anderson, one of the country’s most active plaintiff’s attorneys in clergy abuse cases.
Many of Rose’s accusers say the order responded to sex-abuse allegations simply by shuffling him from job to job — at Catholic high schools in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and California.
In a written statement, Carr detailed what he called a “vigorous background check and screening process” now in place for anyone the order hires to work with children — including a requirement that “any brother MUST report known or suspected child abuse” to both superiors in the order and to civil authorities.
Another of Rose’s accusers, John Purdy of St. Paul, said the order has declined to give him proof that the new policy is actually in place.
Carr declined to provide contact information for Rose himself, who now lives at what Carr called an “adult health facility” in Pennsylvania.
Rose “will not have any contact with minors,” Carr wrote.
The Christian Brothers in 2004 paid $1.1 million to a former student at De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., where Rose taught in the early 1980s.
The student was among several at the school who alleged molestation by Rose. The $1.1 million was part of a $6.3 million settlement that also involved allegations against two other former teachers.
Most of the plaintiffs interviewed by the AP declined to discuss their settlements, though Paul Mehl of Fargo, N.D., said he got $50,000 from the Christian Brothers. Several said they were disappointed the settlement didn’t include a strong statement of responsibility from leaders of the order.
Tim Caroline, who claims Rose molested him at a Christian Brothers retreat center north of St. Paul in the early 1970s, now directs his anger less at Rose — “He’s just a sick old man now” — than at the order.
“They were negligent, completely negligent,” says Caroline, now superintendent of public schools in Moose Lake, Minn.
The AP generally does not identify victims of alleged sexual abuse, but Caroline and other men interviewed allowed their names to be used.
A Louisiana native, Rose became a brother in 1963. Brothers make vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience and live in religious communities, but they are not ordained as priests and do not preside over Mass or administer other sacraments.
Rose went on to teach religion and history classes at De La Salle High School in Minneapolis; Pacelli High School in Stevens Point, Wis.; Cretin High School in St. Paul, Minn.; Shanley High School in Fargo, N.D.; and the De La Salle High in California. He also worked at Dunrovin Retreat Center in Marine on St. Croix, Minn. Each of those postings later prompted at least one lawsuit claiming sexual abuse.
Many of the accusations followed a similar pattern: Rose allegedly took a boy or groups of boys on school trips, gave them alcohol and then molested one or two after everyone had fallen asleep or passed out.
“You know, you get to that age, you haven’t even kissed your first girl yet. And here you’ve got this guy kissing you,” said Purdy, whose lawsuit contends Rose molested him in 1966. “He did some harm.”
In the 1970s, Rose worked for four years at Fargo’s Shanley High School, where lawsuits allege he molested Price, Mehl and four other students. Mehl, the 48-year-old owner of a natural foods business in Fargo, said that not long after Rose molested him on a class trip, he was summoned to the office of a school official who asked him if anything happened.
“I told him every last detail — the molestation, everything,” Mehl said. “I never, ever heard anything about it again.” He said the official he talked to has since died.
A year after Rose left Shanley, he was teaching at the California high school. In 1983, two detectives interviewed Rose, students and school administrators after a counselor reported his suspicions that Rose gave a student alcohol and molested him.
Investigator Paul Arno wrote that Rose “had pedophilic traits that required attention, but there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction for a felony molest charge.” Rose “should not be allowed to come in contact with minors, especially in his employment, if the sexual allegations were true,” he wrote.
Rose was never charged. He left Concord, Calif., in 1983, and his various placements in the ensuing decade did not result in any new allegations.
Johnson, in his 1995 letter to Price, wrote that Rose had been treated for alcohol abuse and received “intensive counseling in the area of sexuality.”
Price had initiated the correspondence with Johnson as part of an attempt to address unresolved childhood issues that he believed contributed to a failed marriage and departure from a promising job.
A few weeks before writing Johnson, Price located Rose and met him at a restaurant in Minneapolis, where he said Rose confessed and apologized. Rose also promised Price that he no longer worked with children — a claim that Johnson echoed weeks later in his letter.
In fact, Rose at that time was chaplain for the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing, a prison for male inmates ages 10 to 21. The prison fired Rose days after learning of previous abuse allegations against him.
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