Saturday, May 23, 2009

MN: Cretin-Derham Hall principal takes heat for naming sex abuse victim

A group wants action against Cretin-Derham President Richard Engler for releasing the plaintiff's name in a suit over alleged sex abuse at Cretin High in the '70s.

Last update: May 23, 2009 - 7:32 AM

The director of the group Minnesota Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) called Friday for disciplinary action against the principal of Cretin-Derham Hall High School for releasing the name of a former student who filed a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by a teacher in the 1970s.

On Monday, Cretin-Derham President Richard Engler sent a letter to parents of current and prospective students and to members of the school's advisory council, alerting them to the lawsuit against the school. The suit also names the Christian Brothers of the Midwest.

"Talk is cheap," SNAP director Bob Schwiderski said at a news conference held in front of the offices of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. "It is a blatant attempt to quiet those that might also be on the verge of stepping out of the shadows of silence."

Engler said by phone Friday that the former student's name was revealed to him in a letter from the man's lawyer and that he included it in the name of full disclosure.

"I wanted to be perfectly transparent with our parents and our Presidential Advisory Council as to what was occurring," Engler said in a phone interview. "There was no ill intent at all. ... I was afraid it would be released in the media, and my parents would be alerted by the media and not by the school. I wanted to be perfectly honest with our parents."

Though Schwiderski demanded the archdiocese take action against Engler, spokesman Dennis McGrath noted that while the school operates under the auspices of the archdiocese, it has no institutional authority over the school's day-to-day affairs. Calls to the school's parents group and to leaders of the Presidential Advisory Council were not returned Friday.

Engler's letter did not include the name of the teacher accused of the abuse, Brother Anthony (Raimond) Rose, who has been accused in a separate suit of sexually abusing a student while a teacher at Minneapolis' DeLaSalle High School a few years earlier. Rose, 76, is now retired and living in Chicago.

The Star Tribune does not identify victims of sexual abuse. An e-mail sent to an address linked to the plaintiff's name did not go through.

Cretin High School was an all-boys academy run by the Christian Brothers of the Midwest when the abuse is alleged to have occurred. Cretin merged with the all-girls' Derham Hall High School in 1987.

On Friday afternoon, Schwiderski held the news conference in front of the archdiocese offices in St. Paul before he hand-delivered a letter calling on Archbishop John Nienstedt to "harshly and publicly punish" Engler.

McGrath addressed reporters on the office steps. "It's ludicrous to say we would discipline the principal of a school," he said. "They're hopping on this as an opportunity to embroil the archdiocese."

In front of TV cameras on the sidewalk in front of the archdiocese's offices, Schwiderski was joined by Dave Leinen, a survivor of abuse at the hands of a Benedictine brother at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minn. His partner, Carrie Doerr, stood at his side.

It took 40 years before Leinen could talk at all about his childhood abuse, he said. In 2008, he sought help to deal with it. It's a bit easier to talk now, after a year of intensive therapy and group support. But he said he can't imagine what it would have been like if he hadn't been able to choose his own pace.

"I am still and will always be recovering from this," said Leinen, who now lives in the Dallas area. "I can only imagine the terror [the plaintiff] is going through right now. Something as private and scary and frightening as that is, and now everybody knows about it, and he hasn't had an opportunity to explain his side of it. I can't imagine."

Schwiderski noted that other clergy abuse cases have been handled without revealing the name of the plaintiffs. He reiterated his fear that "outing" this John Doe will have a chilling effect on others.

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