Catholic officials knew of teacher’s abuse, court files indicate

November 27, 2012 Comments Off on Catholic officials knew of teacher’s abuse, court files indicate

also: Brother convicted of sex abuse a church ‘treasure’

Catholic officials knew of teacher’s abuse, court files indicate
John Merzbacher, sent to prison, now seeks release
By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun
November 25, 2012

The Catholic-school teacher had a pre-teen student pinned to the ground in his Baltimore classroom, the girl’s blouse open and her chest exposed when the doorknob suddenly turned and the school principal — a nun — burst in.

The screaming girl thought she was about to be rescued, according to court records that describe the scene at the Catholic Community Middle School in Locust Point. But Sister Eileen Weisman, who had a key to the room, merely chastised the teacher, John Joseph Merzbacher, for locking the door.

“[Weisman] looked down and her exact words were ‘John, oh John, I told you never to lock the classroom door,'” Linda Tiburzi, who described the incident in a civil court deposition in the mid-1990s, said in a recent interview. “And then she looked at me and said ‘I never want you staying after school again.’ … That’s all she said, that’s all she did, there was nothing, there was no investigation, there were no questions.”

That incident is one of several outlined in court documents, analyzed in a Baltimore Sun investigation, indicating that Weisman and other Catholic officials were aware of the lay teacher’s sexual abuse of students in the 1970s but did not report it until Merzbacher was criminally investigated in the 1990s.

Recent accounts from more than two dozen former pupils and a review of hundreds of pages of documents describe several situations in which critics claim the church had opportunities to protect schoolchildren from Merzbacher, but did not notify police of the allegations against the teacher.

The alleged failures took place in two phases. In the 1970s while the abuse was occurring, Weisman and at least two archdiocesan priests ignored the behavior, even when confronted with it directly, according to accusations in court records. Years later, Weisman and archdiocesan officials delayed reporting Merzbacher to enforcement agencies, despite a victim’s allegations of abuse….

In court records, former students describe Merzbacher, now 71, as a charmer who drew them in with rock records, forbidden foul language, alcohol and marijuana, then terrorized them. The potbellied English teacher beat the boys and humiliated the girls, engaging in sexual acts with both genders and forcing the kids to turn against one another, his accusers claim in the documents. He once fired a revolver in class, students testified during Merzbacher’s trial, and routinely used the weapon to threaten children with death….

Weisman and two archdiocesan priests — identified in court documents as Herbert Derwart and Richard Tillman — were involved in firing another teacher who said he brought concerns about Merzbacher to them in 1974. The officials allegedly told the teacher, Gary Homberg, that he could continue in his position “only under the condition [he] made no mention to anyone of [his] observations of John Merzbacher’s sexual misconduct, the allegations and rumors about John Merzbacher, or the school’s or church’s knowledge of these allegations.”

Weisman went to the archdiocese for guidance after Homberg’s allegations, telling officials that Merzbacher may have brought a gun to school and may have been “interacting inappropriately with the students.” Merzbacher was placed on leave, but reinstated after Weisman said she conducted an internal investigation….

Merzbacher was put on administrative leave while Weisman investigated the claims against him and reinstated shortly thereafter via a Feb. 22, 1974, letter from archdiocese attorney Joseph P. McCurdy Jr., which was submitted in court during the criminal case. That same day, the attorney sent a letter to Homberg advising him of his termination….
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-archdiocese-merzbacher-20121124,0,163396.story

Brother convicted of sex abuse a church ‘treasure’
By Emma Alberici  11/26/12

The head of the Patrician Brothers in Australia has apologised after a brother jailed for child sexual abuse was referred to as a “treasure” in a church publication.

Patrician Brother Thomas Grealy was convicted of molestation and buggery charges in 1997.

He spent four years in jail for the rape and indecent assault of two boys when he was principal at the Patrician Brothers’ Primary School at Granville in Western Sydney.

During his trial the court heard Brother Augustine, as Grealy was then known, would cover the statue of the Virgin Mary in his office with a coat to hide his shame before abusing the nine and 10-year-old boys in his care.

Not only does he remain a Patrician brother, but in a September newsletter Grealy is pictured standing alongside leaders of the Patricians in Australia and is referred to in the caption as one of three “Patrician treasures”.

Lawyer Jason Parkinson represents five men who allege they were abused by Grealy in the 1970s.

“It’s had such a detrimental effect on their life that there’s been a number of suicide attempts and a number of serious issues in relation to self-harm,” he said.

“[I] just couldn’t believe that the order would refer to a child molester as a treasure.

“It just goes beyond belief that they would even be inviting him to remain within their group. He should’ve been shunned, should’ve been sent away. Shouldn’t be allowed in the order.”

Nearly 40 years later, Mr Parkinson said the Patrician Brothers had not taken responsibility for Grealy’s behaviour and was squabbling with The Archdiocese of Sydney over responsibility….

Brother Philip Mulhall, the head of the Patrician Order in Australia, was until recently also the executive officer for national standards around dealing with child sex abuse claims for the entire Catholic Church in Australia.

He says the publication describing Grealy as a treasure was a “dreadful, sad mistake”….

Brother Mulhall said Grealy had never been dismissed from the order….

Another Patrician Brother was charged with child sexual abuse at the Patrician Brothers College at Blacktown about 12 months ago but remained at the school for two months before his removal….
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-11-27/brother-convicted-of-sex-abuse-a-church-treasure/4393618

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