Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cheverus Ignores Justice for Abuse Victims

September 4, 2008 - Between 7:00 am and 8:00 am today, a small group of survivor advocates distributed leaflets to the faculty and students of Cheverus High School (Jesuit) in Portland, Maine.

Here is the text:

Leaflet - Page 1

Dear Cheverus Students, Faculty and Staff,

We are here today to call attention to the lack of justice and unfair treatment that has been provided to the sex abuse victims of Charles Malia. As a way of introduction, I am a graduate of two Jesuit schools, Cheverus and Fairfield University. I am joined by Mr. Harvey Paul and Ms. Marie Tupper. Mr. Paul is a survivor of clergy sexual abuse and the Maine Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Ms. Tupper is an advocate for abuse victims and has a family member who is a victim of clergy sexual abuse.

It is documented that three former Cheverus students received financial reparation for the harms and injuries inflicted upon them as a result of their being sexually abused by former teacher and coach, James Talbot. Conversely, Cheverus officials have denied compensatory damages to ten or more former Cheverus students for the harms and injuries inflicted upon them as a result of their sexual abuse by former teacher, coach and admitted child molester, Charles Malia.

We hope you will join us in asking Cheverus officials to explain why the same measure of justice has not been provided to all of the former Cheverus students who were sexually abused.

We can only guess that Cheverus officials agreed to provide reparation for damages incurred by the Talbot victims when threatened with a civil lawsuit. On the other hand, school officials are taking advantage of a legal technicality (the statute of limitations) to bar Malia's victims from having their day in court or from taking any civil action. Talbot and Malia worked together at Cheverus for eighteen years. Cheverus officials insist on making the focus on when the abuse occurred rather than the focusing on the fact that the abuse did occur, a particularly frustrating and hurtful obstacle for the victims of Malia.

This injustice must not be allowed to stand, which begs the question: are Cheverus students taught to pursue legal and moral loopholes so they can find a way to avoid telling the truth and being held responsible and accountable for their actions?

In a recent letter to Cheverus students and parents about our presence here today, President Campbell wrote, “The first priority of this school community is to ensure the safety and well being of your sons and daughters.” Sadly, these were the very same expectations held by the parents of the former Cheverus students who were harmed and injured by Talbot and Malia.

In January 2003, the attorney who negotiated on behalf of Cheverus during the settlement process for the sex abuse victims of Talbot told a reporter that although she believed the civil statute of limitations had expired in one of the cases, Cheverus officials did not want to fight that argument in court.

"The school's goal was to work with these alumni rather than get involved in litigation. They wanted to resolve it, to help these men move on. That's what we were able to do," stated the attorney.

In that case the school saw the importance of making an exception in order to do what was compassionate, right and just. Why, then, are Cheverus officials refusing to provide this same measure of justice to the victims of Malia?

It can be said that all of us – students, parents, faculty, staff and alumni – are but temporary custodians of an education and tradition that teaches us that the service of our faith must include the promotion of justice. It is up to all of us to ensure that all the former students who were sexually abused while attending Cheverus are treated fairly and with equal respect and dignity.

In conclusion, we hope you will talk with us and each other, ask questions, seek answers and find solutions that will, in the end, provide justice for the sex abuse victims of Malia.

Anything less diminishes us all.

Paul T. Kendrick
Cheverus '68

Leaflet - Page 2


Part V of a summary of what the ideal graduate of Cheverus High School should look like the year of graduation.

Reprinted from Cheverus Handbook.

1. Is more aware of selfish attitudes and tendencies which lead one to treat others unjustly and she/he consciously seeks to be more understanding, accepting and generous with others.

2. Is beginning to see that Christian faith implies a commitment to a just society.

3. Is growing in awareness of the global nature of many current social problems (human rights, energy, ecology, food, population, terrorism, arms limitations, etc.) and their impact on various human communities.

4. Is beginning to understand the structural roots of injustice in social institutions, attitudes and customs.

5. Recognizes the needs of some disadvantaged segments of the community through working with them in community service programs and has gained some empathetic understanding for their conditions in living.

6. Is developing both a sense of compassion for the victims of injustice and a concern for those social changes which will assist them in gaining their rights and increased human dignity.

7. Through reflection and study, is becoming aware of alternatives to public policy which govern the services provided for various segments of the community.

8. Has begun to reflect on public service aspects of future careers.

9. Is beginning to understand one’s obligations as a Christian to participate in the building of a humane, civic and ecclesial community in a way that respects the pluralism of that community.

10. Is beginning to see the imp ortance of public opinion and voter influence on public policy in local, regional, national and international arenas.

11. Is just beginning to understand the complexity of many social issues and the need for critical reading of diverse sources of information about them.

12. Is beginning to confront some of the moral ambiguities imbedded in values promoted by Western culture.

13. Is just beginning to realize that the values of a consumer society are sometimes in conflict with the demands of a just society and indeed with the Gospel.