He then described the punishment: If your shoes were cast you knew you were going to the wall. You would go and face the wall until they finished the inspection on all the children and then you would receive slaps. With Br Karel53 he could use a hurl, he could use a leather. Br Raoul54 the same, leather, hurl ... At times a hurl, at times a leather. At times an open palm. At times, as far as I was concerned a closed fist, pulling of the sideburns, being lifted by your sideburns. The particular instant that would frighten me and still does today was ... The chap in front of me at the time was a guy called David.55 When we were going up to get the boots examined you could see that ... there was no sole left in the boot and when he got up in front of him, he turned up the boot and I know now I didn’t know then that ... Br Raoul was just being totally sarcastic and he said “They’ll do you another week ...” and David – it was a relief, he was too young to understand, so was I to what was going on, but when David turned to walk away with his boots, thinking that’s great, he suddenly got a belt of a hurl on the back of – the back, then he was beat up and down the dormitory with a hurl.
Br Karel, who was removed from Artane following allegations of sexual abuse in the 1960s, spoke about the allegations, which he denied in full, and the events leading to his leaving Artane. Br Karel said that, in the early 1960s, he was approached by the Manager of the School, who told him that two boys had signed a joint statement in which they alleged that ‘I put my hand under the bedclothes and touched them in the genital area’. A third boy also made a similar allegation but he did not sign the joint statement. The boys made these written allegations after speaking with the chaplain, Fr Henry Moore. Fr Moore recalled speaking to the Superior in Artane, Br Ourson, about an allegation of sexual abuse that had been reported to him by a pupil. He could not recall the name of the Brother in question, but he could confirm that the Brother was removed shortly after the complaint had been communicated.
The Resident Manager informed Br Karel of the allegations and that the Provincial Superior would have to be informed. Within days, he was summoned to the Provincial’s office in Marino, where he was asked about the allegations: I explained as best I could that I didn’t do it, that there was a mistake somewhere, what could I do, what else could I say? I didn’t do it and that was as honest as I could be in saying that.
Br Karel was not shown the written statement signed by the boys, neither was he given an opportunity to question the boys himself. He was asked if the allegations were true, and he denied them. As far as he was aware, no further investigation of the matter took place. He returned to his normal duties in Artane for a year, before being transferred to a day school outside of Dublin. Some ten years after leaving Artane, he was transferred to Letterfrack, where he worked for less than two years.
When this Brother applied for a dispensation from his vows many years after these allegations, a report was prepared by a senior Christian Brother, which stated: While Br Karel was in Artane an accusation was made against him that he had interfered sexually with some of the boys. The Provincialate files are incomplete on this and contain simply a joint statement of three boys. However, the Provincial at the time ... on the basis of the case as presented, transferred Br Karel out of Artane ... There is no record of any similar accusation against him in succeeding years.
Whether Br Karel was transferred soon after the complaints or at a later stage remains unclear, but the question of his guilt or innocence was not resolved. The Provincial was satisfied to let the matter rest and to use Br Karel’s desire for a transfer as part of the reason for moving him. The authorities appear to have thought that the allegations were true but they did not investigate the matter. The result was that there were two possible situations: either the School had a child abuser on the staff, or three pupils had made serious, untrue charges against the Brother.
Br Karel maintained that his transfer from Artane was made almost a year after these allegations were made, and a Visitation Report would appear to bear that out. He said that he had already requested a transfer within a year of being sent to Artane, and that the Provincial had also suggested that it would be ‘the wisest thing’ in light of the allegations. In any event, he was not transferred immediately after the allegations were made.
Br Davet, who spoke to the Committee, recalled Br Karel’s departure from Artane as being unusual because it occurred in the middle of the school year. He said that he had no idea why he left and had heard nothing about a complaint signed by three boys. He also said that he knew nothing about any inquiry carried out by the Superior or the Provincial.
Br Karel worked in Letterfrack in the early 1970s and had been sent there because the school was experiencing problems. Discipline was poor as a result of low staff levels, and the small number of staff that was there was overworked. Shortly after he arrived, the boys staged a sit-down protest and were only persuaded to go to bed with difficulty. The other Brothers working there told him they were barely able to keep control and there had been assaults on two of them. Bullying was a big problem, with bigger boys regularly trying to impose their will on smaller boys and even on Brothers. He administered corporal punishment with a leather strap which was carried by all of the Brothers and he also used his fists. He confirmed that there was no punishment book in which punishments administered were recorded. He told the Committee that he used the threat of three slaps on the buttocks to deter boys from absconding.
Br Karel worked in Letterfrack for the last two years of the Institution, during which time the numbers reduced dramatically. When he arrived, there were 41 boys in the Institution, and when he left in 1974, there were only 11 boys and the School was in the process of closing.32 Even though numbers were that small, violence was still a serious problem in the School.
Br Karel, who had been the Superior of Letterfrack for two years, said that he had an argument with Br Dax over the manner in which the refectory was run. He said that he told Br Dax to give the boys more food and that he supervised a meal to ensure that the bigger boys were not stealing food from the smaller boys.
Br Karel was the subject of a complaint of sexual abuse of boys when he was in Artane in the early 1960s. It was alleged that he had put his hand under the boys’ bedclothes and touched them in the genital area. The Resident Manager investigated the allegation and referred the matter to the Provincial. The Provincial interviewed Br Karel, who denied the allegations. Br Karel remained in Artane for some time after these allegations were made, and he was then transferred to a day school outside Dublin. Br Karel testified that he had previously sought a transfer and he did not know whether he was transferred because of the allegation or because of his request.
The matter was never pursued by the Provincial and so the situation remained that Br Karel was either guilty of serious offences or that a number of boys had made the gravest false allegations. This was a situation that urgently needed to be resolved but the matter went no further.
Br Karel was later moved to Letterfrack.
The Congregation responded to allegations of sexual abuse by transferring Brs Benoit and Karel to day schools and after a period of 10 years they were sent to Letterfrack. The explanation offered in the Brothers’ Submission was that it was an administrative accident. The suggestion that the Congregation would make an appointment to a senior position in an industrial school without reference to the Brother’s recent history or to his personal file is incomprehensible. Failure in all these respects by the senior management of the Congregation ignored the safety of the children and the requirement of good management in the institution. A record of sexual abuse would have precluded appointment to a residential school if protecting the boys was the priority.