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Spotlight Report

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School says abuse alleged

By Sacha Pfeiffer, Globe Staff, 6/7/2002

Central Catholic High School in Lawrence has notified all students, faculty, parents, and graduates that two former faculty members, both Marist Brothers, have been accused by three former students of sexual misconduct dating to the late 1950s and 1960s.

Both of the accused men - James Barron Holsenbach, also known as the former Brother Stanislaus, and the late Brother Edward Michael - left the school many years ago, according to a letter to alumni by the school's president, Brother Thomas P. Long.

In response to the accusations, school administrators and Marist officials have apologized for any harm caused by the alleged abuse, offered to pay for counseling for victims, and set up a toll-free telephone help line staffed by a professional counselor for reporting allegations.

School officials also said they have notified the Essex district attorney's office of the allegations and are supplying information to prosecutors as it is learned.

According to administrators, a review of files at the school and Marist headquarters turned up no complaints about either brother. But in a two-page statement that accompanied the May 16 letter to the school's 11,000 alumni, which was not received by some graduates until this week, school and Marist officials acknowledged that ''it is possible that complaints lodged during those years were not recorded.''

A call to Long was referred to Andover attorney Michael W. Morris Sr., the school's lawyer and a member of its board of directors. In an interview yesterday, Morris said that by notifying the school community of the allegations, ''We felt we did the moral and appropriate thing.''

According to the statement, two of the complaints, made in April and May, stem from alleged incidents dating to 1958 and 1960 involving Holsenbach, who served at the school from 1958 until 1961, when his membership in the Marist Brothers was terminated.

Morris said he did not know why Holsenbach was terminated, but ''we infer ... that it was the result of a disciplinary action'' involving sexual misconduct. Holsenbach, now retired and living in Augusta, Ga., could not be reached for comment.

The third complaint, made in July 2001, stems from alleged abuse in 1967 involving Michael, who served at the school from 1964 to 1972 and returned as a part-time volunteer from 1985 to 1986. He was removed from the school in 1986 following a complaint by a student of ''inappropriate behavior,'' the statement said. Michael died in the early 1990s, Morris said.

Morris said all the complaints involved ''improper touching.'' Faculty and students were briefed on the accusations last month, and alumni and parents of the school's 1,100 students were notified in writing, the statement said.

Morris said the school decided to make the accusations public because, ''We were concerned that our former students had suffered abuse, and we did not feel that we knew the depth of the problem. We felt ... we had a duty and an obligation to our alumni as well as our present students to determine the scope of the problem.''

Public disclosure of the July 2001 complaint was delayed because ''there were some inconsistencies in that particular incident,'' Morris said.

Central Catholic was founded by the Marist Brothers, a religious order, as an all-boys schools in 1935 and became coeducational in 1996.

This story ran on page A16 of the Boston Globe on 6/7/2002.
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