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Chapter 5 — Lota

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Sexual abuse


Fr Harvey wrote again to Fr Gordon on 17th September 1951: Dear Father Gordon, I am afraid the Broadgreen affair has taken a very serious turn; they phone me that proceedings will have to be taken. However, I have asked for Counsel’s advice, and am now awaiting a message from him. The police are coming again to see me on Wednesday afternoon; they are very sympathetic and will do all they can to help; but the matter seems to be out of their hands. However, you must do nothing until you hear from me. I will let you know immediately what transpires on Wednesday. If I get any special instructions from Counsel today, I will write again to you, even today. In the meantime, we can only re double our prayers. Greetings in the SS.HH of Jesus and Mary, Yours devotedly in J. C.


Ten days later, in a letter to Fr Gordon, concerning the behaviour of another Brother, Br Johann,14 Fr Harvey mentioned that he was still very occupied with the Broadgreen affair and was meeting the Chief Superintendent of Police in a last-ditch effort to put things right. Br Johann had been physically abusive to staff and boys, and the authorities appear to have been in no doubt at all that this conduct deserved expulsion from the Congregation.


The meeting took place and on the same day, 27th September 1951, Fr Harvey again wrote: Dear Father Gordon, I have done all I possibly could; but there is no other way. The two Brothers must come back and stand their trial. I have promised the police they will come back on their own. If they do not, a warrant will be issued and that will make matters worse for them. Hence, I think they had better come back at once. At the moment, I do not know if the strike has been settled, so I cannot say if the [boat/train] service is running. They should travel back next Monday night; so that they can come back to Runshaw. If you can find time to come with them I would be glad to talk matters over with you and Fr.Jan.15 I realize, however, that you will probably not want to be away from home, particularly as I have asked you to see to this matter of Br Johann. However, you might consider if it is wise to let the two fellows come over by themselves. What about sending [an escort] with them? To-morrow I am meeting [the Solicitors] and probably we shall go also to see the Counsel in ... I am feeling the strain very much, and I know I must be very careful or I shall have a collapse. Please help me still more with your prayers. Greetings in the SS.HH of Jesus and Mary, Yours devotedly in J. C


Following his meeting with counsel, it was agreed that Fr Harvey would defend the two Brothers and, in a further letter to Fr Gordon, he stated that ‘Everything possible will be done to keep down the publicity of the affair’.


There is no record in the discovery of the outcome of the case in the UK, but it is clear from the Minutes of the Provincial Council Meeting, held on 2nd October 1951, that the case was to proceed before the courts within a couple of weeks of that date. The Minutes note: Everything has been done to provide for their defence; Advocate and Solicitors have been engaged who will see to the interests of the Congregation. The Vicar General of the Diocese has been informed and he is very sympathetic.


The details of this case are still not known to the Investigation Committee despite extensive inquiries.


By March of the following year, it was clear from a letter from Fr Harvey to Fr Gordon that Br Guthrie had been transferred to Lota, and he was still contemplating where to send Br Gerhard. Fr Gordon, by letter dated 18th March 1952, confirmed that he was sending Br Guthrie to Lota, as suggested by Fr Harvey: If you think the other can be made better use of elsewhere it is alright with me. I have found both of them very willing and useful and I am sure the poor fellows will make well. The both admit that they have a better outlook regarding Spiritual matters. Lack of prayer was the cause of their trouble in the past.


Br Guthrie immediately took up a teaching post in Lota, and as previously stated he taught 11 to 14-year-old, mild to moderately learning disabled boys. By 1955, he was Principal of the School, a position he held until 1974 when a layman took over. Br Guthrie became School Manager and then Chairman of the Board of Management. He told the Committee that, from 1973 to 1984, he did ‘other jobs’ and ‘what you call recreational activities with the boys’.


In 1984, he was ‘taken out of it altogether. I have not been with children since’. He was removed, he said, ‘because of the complaints about me’.


Just why he was removed from the post of Principal was not made explicit, but it may have been related to the concerns expressed in a letter that was sent by the Provincial Superior to Br Finn.16 It said: 21st May, 1975 Dear Brother Finn, Brother Guthrie In reference to the above named I am writing to confirm that it is absolutely imperative that he accept the necessary psychiatric treatment that his case requires. For the implementation of this treatment I hereby request that you make arrangements for him to transfer to Belmont Park where [a doctor] will interview him and prescribe the necessary medication. As this matter is most urgent would you please see Brother Eric17 [Superior of Lota] and explain the urgency of the matter and then, without delay, fix the day for him to travel to Waterford. The sooner he receives treatment the better as the matter could easily pass outside our control and this would be tragic. I shall see Br Guthrie myself the next time I am in Waterford. With every best wish, Sincerely in J.C.


There is no evidence that the problem identified in 1975 was ever addressed, or that he was transferred to Belmont Park for psychiatric treatment. His transfer records show no break in his service in Lota between 1952 and 1984.


In 1984, Br Guthrie was removed from his post as Chairman of the Board of Management in Lota because of complaints made against him. He told the Committee: I was changed to another house altogether and I did housekeeping and various odd jobs around the house but it was not a place for children. It was a place for grown-ups.


In a statement made to Gardaí, Br Guthrie stated: The abuse was happening from 1952 to 1984 ... I can recall coming back from Lourdes after Easter in 1984, after spending three to four weeks there. Brother Bert18 who was Provincial Superior at the time, requested me to Dublin. He informed me of certain accusations being made against me, namely having sexually abused a child. I was not told whether it was one or more. I was kept in Dublin for nine months and then transferred to Limerick and I was given no more contact with children.


A Senior Child Psychologist on 19th January 1996 made a statement to the Gardaí, in which she recalled commencing work in Lota in early 1984, and having attended combined clinic meetings and having a considerable amount of interaction with professional staff. During that year, she became aware that a Brother was engaging in behaviour of a sexual nature with boys in residence, and this activity was giving cause for concern. A number of boys were interviewed by a Consultant Child Psychiatrist, for the purpose of validating the sexual abuse in which Br Guthrie was involved. A report was prepared and, as a result of the investigations, Br Guthrie was moved. The full account of the events of 1984 is given below.


The author of the statement said that her information about Br Guthrie’s behaviour came from listening to the concerns of other professional staff and from information given to her by the Principal Psychologist in Bawnmore, Limerick, a residential care centre for adults with learning disability, to which many of the boys from Lota graduated. This psychologist said that the male clients that came from the Lota service had been a source of difficulty in Bawnmore because of their unacceptable sexual behaviour.

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