The “Christian” Brothers Shuffle:

Br. Edward Courtney

The documentation herein details the story of the Roman Catholic “Christian” Brothers order’s response to a member of their community who, in his position as a teacher and school principal, sexually abused over twenty boys in six different institutions.

The documentation constitutes a small fraction of the evidence used by the law firm of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC,  Seattle, in the prosecution of more than twenty cases over an eight-year period.  The claims brought against “Brother” Edward C. Courtney resulted in substantial settlements and Mr. Courtney was forced to surrender his teaching certificates, but he never served even a day in jail.

This case documents the actions of Church leaders who lied through avoidance, omission, denial and obfuscation, in order to protect one of their community members, the order’s reputation and the reputation of numerous schools.  These actions were undertaken despite the history of damage to children perpetrated by Edward C. Courtney.  Church officials used their positions of authority to suppress the complaints of the parents of victimized children and subjugate them into silence through deliberate evocation of guilt and shame.

We have seen consistent patterns of behavior used in religious institutions in recent years to cover-up corruption and particularly clergy sexual abuse of children.  These mechanisms often involve the use of power-over dominance by authority figures to intimidate people into silence by using their “faith” as a lever against their own best interests.  When an individual makes a personal investment in adopting a faith and situations arise that might bring their commitment into question (such as directly or indirectly being exposed to assault or corruption by their faith hierarchy) often people are easily manipulated to remain silent, repress or “forget about it” by being reminded that public exposure will reflect badly on the “church” or institution (school) that embodies their faith and consequently their individual beliefs.  People can be easily manipulated into denial when confronted with issues that challenge the foundations of an accustomed faith or belief system.  Corrupt, unscrupulous hierarchy time and again use such machinations to force their flocks into compliance.  Such suppression is not about spiritual liberation, rather the embodiment of external control, power-over domination – even “spiritual slavery.

Over the past eight years the law firm of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC, Seattle, has helped more than 20 men who survived abuse by Edward Courtney.  What follows is their description of a small amount of the evidence they have uncovered during thoseyears. 
The firm's original page is here.

Brother Manning:  “I Recommend Him Highly”

Ed Courtney was removed from St. Laurence High School in 1974 because he was molesting students.  Brother John Manning was the principal of St. Laurence at the time, and when we deposed Brother Courtney, he described how Brother Manning “called me in to talk, and he said there had been complaints and basically told me I was going to have to leave at that time.”

A year later, after the Christian Brothers transferred Courtney to O’Dea High School in Seattle (see below), the same Brother Manning wrote a formal letter of recommendation for Courtney so he could get his teaching certificate in Washington:  “I recommend him highly.”

Edward Courtney:  Assignments and Transfers

The Christian Brothers transferred Edward Courtney between at least six separate schools in New York, Illinois, Michigan, and Washington because he was abusing children and they knew he wouldn’t stop.  Between the early 1960s and 1978, they transferred him between Sacred Heart in New York, then Brother Rice High School in Chicago, then Brother Rice High School in Michigan, then Leo High School in Chicago, then St. Laurence High School in Chicago, and then O’Dea High School in Seattle.

They then helped make him the principal of St. Alphonsus school in Seattle, where he was removed after one year because he kept abusing children.  After they finally removed him from their private school system, the Christian Brothers wrote him letters of recommendation so he could continue teaching in public schools, where he kept abusing children for nearly another decade. 

While we have many documents that reflect this egregious disregard for children, you can read one of the key documents that summarizes Edward Courtney’s transfers. 

Brother Gerald Rohan Recommends Courtney as “Sensitive” to Students

In March 1974, faced with years of complaints about him abusing children, the Christian Brothers voted that Courtney should "have no contact with Rice, Leo or Laurence in any way, shape or form.  His sole contact man is to be Bernie Rohan, who will keep us informed of his developments."  You can view of a copy of their decision by clicking here

Later that year, the Christian Brothers voted to send Courtney to O’Dea in Seattle.  After four years of complaints at O’Dea, the same Brother Bernie Rohan recommended Courtney for a teaching certificate!  He told the Washington authorities that Courtney “maintained good order in his classes without being harsh or rigid” and “approached the task with a basic fairness and sensitivity to the individual student.”  You can read Brother Rohan’s glowing letter of recommendation for Brother Edward Courtney here.

But Brother Rohan was not the only Christian Brother to recommend Brother Courtney as fit for teaching.  The principal of O’Dea, John McGraw, also wrote Courtney a letter of recommendation and praised him as a “tremendous asset” who “would be an excellent addition to any school’s administration.” 

Go Quietly and Protect “Your Name and Reputation and That of the School”

After Edward Courtney was removed from O’Dea High School, the Christian Brothers and the Seattle Archdiocese helped him get his Masters in Teaching Administration.  The Seattle Archdiocese then appointed him as the principal of St. Alphonsus Parish School, a grade school in Seattle. 

He served for one year as principal, until Father Jeffrey Sarkies had to remove him because three mothers complained that Courtney had abused their children.  But rather than remove Courtney immediately, the Seattle Archdiocese and Courtney cut a deal:  they let him remain as principal until the end of the year in order to avoid “doing damage to your name and reputation and that of the school.”

Shockingly, after Courtney finished his one year at St. Alphonsus, the Archdiocese certified Courtney as fit for teaching and wrote him a letter of recommendation.  He continued abusing children for the next five or six years.

Othello, Washington

In the early 1980s, Courtney used the teaching certificate he obtained with the help of the Christian Brothers and the Seattle Archdiocese and made his way to the small farming town of Othello, Washington.  He taught children in Othello for about the next four years, until one of the kids he attacked told his parents and the family went to the police.  Courtney fled to Nevada, but was eventually extradited back to Washington and pled guilty to indecent liberties. He surrendered his teaching certificate, but he never served a day in jail.

BC Abuse Project / Post Office Box 213
Sedgwick, Maine 04676-0213 USA / (207) 359-2555

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