Catholic School Says Students Responsible for Alleged Abuse

Associated Press, carried in Portsmouth Herald [Nashua NH]
Dowloaded May 17, 2003

NASHUA - A Roman Catholic high school says in court documents that the alleged sexual abuse of three former students by a teacher was caused by their "own failure to exercise reasonable care." The men are among 10 suing Bishop Guertin High School and the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, the Rhode Island-based religious order that runs the school, saying they failed to protect students from abusive teachers and covered up allegations.

In a response filed last week in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Manchester, the school and order denied any liability for the alleged abuse.

"The injuries suffered by (each) plaintiff, if any, were caused by his own failure to exercise reasonable care," the response said.

Such "comparative fault" defenses have been used in other clergy sexual abuse cases, angering alleged victims and their families.

"It demonstrates a very unfortunate continuing insensitivity by the defendants and their lawyers to the nature of these cases and to the harm they have caused my clients," the men's lawyer, Peter Hutchins, said Thursday.

A lawyer for Bishop Guertin and the order would not elaborate on the filing.

"It's the defense's position that these will be tried in the courts before Judge (William) Groff and not in the public media," Matthew Cairns said. "The defenses speak for themselves."

In their motion, the school and order say they exercised reasonable care, the lawsuits were filed too late, and that any harm to the men was caused by "third parties over whom the defendants had no authority or control."

The three men say they were abused by Brother Guy Beaulieu, who taught at Bishop Guertin from 1971 to 1991 and has since admitted molesting about 20 students. Beaulieu has not been charged with any crimes; none of the victims who has come forward has been within the statute of limitations.

During the past year five Bishop Guertin teachers, including Beaulieu, have been accused of molesting minors with allegations dating back to 1971. One other brother, the late Roger Argencourt, has acknowledged abusing students.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.