- Volume 1
- Volume 2
- Social and demographic profile of witnesses
- Circumstances of admission
- Family contact
- Everyday life experiences (male witnesses)
- Record of abuse (male witnesses)
- Everyday life experiences (female witnesses)
- Record of abuse (female witnesses)
- Positive memories and experiences
- Current circumstances
- Introduction to Part 2
- Special needs schools and residential services
- Children’s Homes
- Foster care
- Primary and second-level schools
- Residential Laundries, Novitiates, Hostels and other settings
- Concluding comments
- Volume 4
Chapter 6 — Christian BrothersBack
The failure to train Brothers in childcare
No such training was undertaken by the Christian Brothers until, in the early 1970s, Br Burcet17, who had worked in senior positions in both Letterfrack and Artane, attended the course in the School of Education in Kilkenny in 1973, and implemented some of what he had learned in the last remaining industrial school operated by the Brothers, Salthill. He recalled his frustration in Artane in the mid-1960s when he was trying to change teaching methods and to introduce psychological expertise. He felt that he was engaged in an uphill struggle and that there was no understanding of the importance of this kind of approach among the Leadership of the Congregation.
New ideas had the potential to undermine the institutions and the Brothers who worked in them. It was this fear of change that ensured that the institutions run by the Christian Brothers remained, in all essential respects, unchanged from their foundation in the 19th century to their closure.
One effect of the belief that teacher training and the religious way of life were an adequate basis for training and caring for children was that the Christian Brothers never passed on their expertise in a formal way. They were experienced in dealing with boys in institutions; their own members had taught and cared for boys for years. They should have been in a position to pass on information and advice to those coming after them, yet they produced no written texts, nor did they give formal lectures on the subject even to their own members. Brothers testified that they were given no guidance on childcare issues during their training in Marino. Brothers learned techniques of control from older Brothers, in an ad hoc way.
It is unfortunate that a Congregation dedicated to the education of the poor never devised a system of education for their own members, which would have prepared them for the demanding care work they did in these schools, in addition to their teaching duties.
How the Brothers responded to the allegations of abuse
During the Investigation Committee’s Emergence hearings, Br David Gibson, then Province Leader of St Mary’s Province of the Christian Brothers, outlined the response of the Congregation to the issue of child abuse in Ireland.
He said that allegations of child abuse first arose as an issue in the 1980s, when four allegations of child abuse were made against Irish Christian Brothers. Following an official inquiry into child abuse at an orphanage run by the Congregation at Mount Cashel in Canada, the Canadian Leadership highlighted the issue at the 1990 General Chapter of the Congregation. The Province Leader from Canada presented a graphic picture of what it was like to have to deal with allegations from the past in a public inquiry and the subsequent litigation under the full glare of media exposure. He also referred to the need to look at institutions and the protocols that were in place to deal with the issue of abuse.
After the General Chapter concluded, the Congregation leader urged its various Provinces to issue guidelines and protocols on child protection. The leadership teams of the Irish Provinces drew up guidelines based on international best practice and published them in 1993.
Between 1990 and 1996 the Congregation received approximately 30 allegations of child abuse. Because of these complaints and the increasing publicity, the Congregation established an independent advisory group to which it passed the complaints, and received advice on how to respond. A further 52 complaints were received between 1996 and the Christian Brother Public Apology issued in March 1998.
Br Gibson said that the Congregation had great difficulty in coming to terms with the fact that Brothers could have abused children. ‘It was something totally contrary to the whole vocation of a Brother and yet we were getting detailed accounts of how Brothers abused children’. It had particular difficulty in accepting that members of its Congregation had engaged in sexual abuse, ‘[This] was creating the greatest problem and difficulty for us to come to terms with’.
It is difficult to understand why allegations of abuse should have come as such a shock to the Congregation. The documentation made available to this Committee disclosed that allegations of child abuse, and particularly child sexual abuse, were a recurring and persistent problem for the Congregation.
In 1995, St Mary’s Province organised seminars about the nature of child abuse which were conducted by Dr Art O’Connor, a consultant Forensic Psychiatrist in the Central Mental Hospital, and Ms Kate Keery, a social worker from Temple Street Children’s Hospital, and they were attended by individual Brothers. A similar exercise was carried out in the Southern Province.
Child abuse was a major issue at the 1996 General Chapter of the Congregation, which was held in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Chapter issued a document entitled ‘New Beginnings with Edmund’ in which it stated: There are signs of that death [in not living the Gospel vision] in our congregational story. Such signs include undue severity of discipline, harshness in Community life, child abuse, an addiction to success, canonizing work to the neglect of our basic human needs for intimacy, leisure and love. To-day we have been made painfully aware of these aspects of our sinful history.
The Congregation appointed a full-time Director of Child Protection Services, and set up an office called the Westcourt Child Protection Service to deal with allegations of abuse.
On 14th April 1997, on the occasion of his receiving the Freedom of Drogheda, the Congregation Leader, Br Edmund Garvey, expressed an apology and asked for forgiveness from former pupils who had suffered abuse at any of the schools or institutions run by the Congregation.
In October 1997 the Congregation asked Dr Robert Grant, a psychotherapist, to come to Ireland to speak to the Brothers and school principals on the issue of child protection and abuse. During its meetings with Dr Grant, the Leadership Teams considered making a public apology acknowledging certain failures on the part of the Congregation and expressing a willingness to meet with complainants and to deal with their complaints.
- The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, commonly known as the Pope.
- B. Coldrey, Faith and Fatherland. The Christian Brothers and the Development of Nationalism, 1838–1921 (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1988), p 22.
- There are currently 122 schools in the Christian Brother network in Ireland, according to the Marino Institute of Education website.
- Constitutions (1923).
- The general assembly of representatives from the Congregation of the Christian Brothers.
- Commission of Inquiry into the Reformatory and Industrial School System Report, 1936 (the Cussen Report) (Dublin: Stationery Office).
- A Visitor was a Congregational Inspector who reported back to the leadership of the Congregation. See Supervision/Visitations below.
- An association where the main object is the well-being and improvement of a different group of persons, such as men, women and children, or more specially, priests, youths, church helpers, prisoners, immigrants, nurses, married people, couples, etc.
- Cn 653.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife.
- Congregation of the Christian Brothers 1962, Chapter VIII ‘Chastity’, p 23 section 81.
- Const 8 of the 1923 Constitutions.
- Const 97 of the 1923 Constitutions.
- Congregation of the Christian Brothers 1962, Chapter XIII ‘Mortifications & Humilitations’, p 30 section 128.
- The Cussen Report 1936 – Commission of Inquiry into the Reformatory and Industrial School System, para 74.
- This is a pseudonym.
- There were three programmes broadcast by RTE in 1999 in the ‘States of Fear’ series: ‘Industrial Schools and Reformatories from the 1940s-1980s’, ‘The Legacy of Industrial Schools’, and ‘Sick and Disabled Children in Institutions’.
- Suffer the Little Children, by Mary Raftery and Eoin O’Sullivan, 1999, New Island.
- O’Brien Institute.
- This is a pseudonym.
- P394 Circular Letters 1821–1930
- Department of Education Annual Report 1925/1926.
- Report of the Department of Education for the School Years 1925–26–27 and the Financial and Administrative Year 1926–1927, p 83.
- Report of the Department of Education for the School Year 1924–1925 and the Financial and Administrative Years 1924–25–26, p 84.
- Rules and Regulations for the Certified Industrial Schools in Saorstát Éireann Approved by the Minister of Education under the 54th Section of the Act, 8 Edw VII., Ch 67, clauses 12 and 13 (see DES chapter).
- Rules and Regulations for the Certified Industrial Schools in Saorstát Éireann Approved by the Minister of Education under the Children Act, 1908.
- The Department submit this wording ‘education provision’ in other words the internal national school.
- Section 24 of The Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 provided:
- the rule of law under which teachers are immune from criminal liability in respect of physical chastisement of pupils is hereby abolished.
- With the removal of this immunity, teachers are now subject to section 2(1) of the 1997 Act which provides that:
- a person shall be guilty of the offence of assault, who without lawful excuse, intentionally or recklessly, directly or indirectly applies force to and causes an impact on the body of another.Teachers who physically chastise pupils may now be guilty of an offence and liable to 12 months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of £1,500.
- This is a pseudonym.