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Illinois religious order to pay $2.9 million to settle sexual abuse claims against former teacher at Mount Carmel

Chicago Tribune - 11/17/2023

A Catholic religious order has agreed to pay $2.9 million to settle claims of child sexual assault by a Catholic brother and former teacher that allegedly continued occurring after the student brought the claims to the attention of upper administration at Mount Carmel High School.

The settlement with the Order of the Carmelites, filed in September, alleges that Brother Robert Murphy, a former teacher at Mount Carmel High School, sexually assaulted a boy more than a dozen times while he was a student at the school from 1982 to 1986. The settlement claims the student made a school disciplinarian aware of the abuse but that no action was taken against Murphy.

The student met Murphy in the summer of 1982 prior to the start of the school year when Murphy supervised activities sponsored by the school, the settlement says. The suit alleges Murphy “paid an inappropriate amount of attention” to the student and in one instance locked the student in a classroom to sexually assault him.

Attorney Mark Brown said his client came to him after 30 years of suppressing the memories of the abuse he experienced at Mount Carmel.

“He was basically trapped living his life,” said Brown, managing partner at Lane Brown LLC. “He was the only one who knew what he was going through.”

The Carmelites, based out of Darien, run and operate the all-boys high school on the South Side of Chicago.

The religious order removed Murphy from public ministry in 2002 after reexamining old allegations he had engaged in sexual misconduct with children in Georgia and at Mount Carmel during the 1970s and 1980s.

The Carmelites told the Tribune in 2002 that the review was done at the request of Murphy himself “in light of the current national and international focus on the issue of sexual misconduct.”

Before teaching in Chicago, Murphy was assigned by the Carmelites to the Catholic Diocese of Savannah in Georgia where he was accused of sexual misconduct with minors in 1973. The Diocese of Savannah reported the allegations to the Carmelite Province.

Murphy taught at Mount Carmel until 1985, when he was removed as a teacher for claims of sexual abuse of minors, the order previously told the Tribune. He was restricted from all unsupervised contact with minors and underwent treatment from 1985 through 1999, but continued to serve in public ministry.

After the order’s ruling, Murphy lost his job at Lewis University, a Catholic university in Romeoville where he had worked since 1987 as a history teacher and director of ministry.

Brothers are members of religious orders who are not ordained but take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Brown and his partner Kellie Snyder first found mental health care for their client before moving forward with the lawsuit.

“Our client was not in a position to move forward in the case when he came to us,” Brown said. “So we focused immediately on getting him help for his mental treatment, and we had to find him an appropriately qualified therapist that has experience treating victims of child sex abuse.”

Mediation began in June and when a settlement was not reached, Brown drafted a lawsuit against the Carmelites. The parties then returned to the table and reached a settlement before the suit could be filed.

Murphy remains a Carmelite Brother, Brown said. The Carmelites could not be reached for comment.

The court documents remain private as it was settled before being filed in court.

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