Mspi Catholic boarding school sued in alleged sex abuse

Published 6:59 pm Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A federal lawsuit alleges officials with a Catholic boarding school in Bay St. Louis concealed the sexual abuse of a then-15 year-old in 1983 and 1984.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Gulfport against Saint Stanislaus College/Saint Stanislaus High School. The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages.

The school principal and school president both are away this week attending a retreat, said Assistant Principal Susan Estrade.

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“I would not be knowledgeable enough to talk to you about the lawsuit,” Estrade said.

The Saint Stanislaus school, for grades six to 12, is independent of the Catholic Diocese. It’s operated by the Brothers of Sacred Heart, which operates 10 schools in the United States and one in Great Britain.

“Our investigation indicates that this case falls into the same sad pattern of child abuse followed by cover-up of which we are all too familiar,” said attorney Jim Reeves of Biloxi, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the former student. “These defendants must be held accountable for their actions and the damage caused this family.”

According to the lawsuit, during the 1983-1984 school year, the plaintiff in the lawsuit was subjected to the supervision of an instructor referred to as Brother William, whom the suit describes as a pedophile.

On multiple occasions during the school year, the student was summoned by Brother William to his office and sexually and mentally abused, the lawsuit says.

“As a result of the foregoing, (the plaintiff) suffered extreme physical and mental pain and suffering,” according to the lawsuit, which presents only one side of a legal argument.

The lawsuit says the plaintiff, who is now a Wyoming resident, turned to mind-altering drugs to deal with the abuse and developed a repressed memory. His addiction and unsoundness of mind continued until the late summer or early fall of 2006, and he continues to deal with occasional drug relapses, according to the lawsuit.

His repressed memory of the alleged sexual and mental abuse was revived through counseling in November 2006, the lawsuit said.

“Based upon information and belief, the defendants obtained actual knowledge of the crimes committed as outlined herein,” the lawsuit said. “However, rather than report these to the minor’s parents or appropriate law enforcement authorities, the defendants actively concealed the crimes.”

Nationally, the Catholic church has been engulfed in controversy over allegations that officials often didn’t remove priests accused of abuse and transferred them instead.

In March 2006, the Catholic Diocese of Jackson agreed to pay more than $5.1 million to settle six lawsuits involving 19 individuals who were sexually abused as children by priests or had loved ones who were abused.

The lawsuits involved accusations of sexual abuse by priests from the early 1960s through the early 1980s.