Part of the reason for taking this approach was to avoid causing further distress to the former residents of Ferryhouse and Upton. During the hearings, counsel for the Order examined witnesses sympathetically, and, even when evidence was being challenged, it was done with courtesy and care. The Investigation Committee was impressed by the number of apologies that were made. The following are examples: we have learned since your statement to the Commission came in that Br Lazarro5 did sexually abuse boys, I hope you will accept the Rosminian’s apology if that happened to you. We haven’t ever suspected it of [the other Brother] and I am sorry to ask you questions about it. I am ashamed to ask you questions about what you describe about Br Valerio6 (the questioning that followed was solely to elucidate how contact was made after the boy had left the school). I don’t want to ask you much at all because the hardship you have described deserves not to be investigated in any way or questioned. We accept what you have said, we trust the truth of it completely. There is one very big thing, which you have done today. [Your evidence] is a testament to the pain you suffered and others with you.
Br Lazarro joined the Rosminians in the early 1950s. He was sent to Ferryhouse in the mid-1950s as Assistant School Prefect and was promoted to Prefect in the early 1960s. He left Ferryhouse after a year, when he was transferred to Omeath. The reason for his sudden removal from the School is apparent in a letter from Fr Placido, the Provincial, to Fr Lucca, the Superior General: The other case is that of Br Lazarro who was prefect and over a period had been very indiscreet. He left for Omeath ... You will fully appreciate ... how instant action is often necessary and the changes made are a cover up in some respects.
A former resident, present in the School in the early 1960s, complained about Br Lazarro, alleging fondling of a sexual nature when the Brother was Prefect: He put his hand under the bedclothes and started, you know, all that. I suppose, you know, this is kind of bloody hard talking about this in front of women, I tell you that much now ... I don’t know how long it went on for, I was in a position that my job was cleaning his bedroom and that, so it went on there as well ...
He said that the abuse continued up to the time that Br Lazarro disappeared. He was unable to remember the circumstances of the Brother’s departure, but said ‘This is only hearsay as well, I heard that someone complained about him’.
The witness had difficulty recounting the abuse, and instead confirmed to the Committee the contents of the written statement that he had provided, which contained further detail about the sexual abuse that he alleged against Br Lazarro.
In the time between the writing of that statement and the hearing of the complainant’s evidence, the Rome files came to light, containing documents which identified Br Lazarro as an abuser. As a result of this, the Order changed their response. At the commencement of his cross-examination of the complainant, counsel for the Rosminians said: We accept what you have said, we trust the truth of it completely. There is one very big thing which you have done today ... and it is a testament to the pain you suffered and others with you.
Most of the other former residents who referred to Br Lazarro did so in the context of physical abuse. However, one resident present in the School in the late 1950s recalled one occasion when another Brother instructed him to fetch the leather strap: I ran over to the office and I ran into the room, into the office; when I went into the office Br Lazarro was sitting down with a boy on his lap, a young boy ... he was only probably 10/11 ... he shouted at me, "what are you doing in here, what are you doing in here?" I said "Brother Donato36 sent me over for the leather, he wants to slap [a boy]". He gave me the leather and said “I will see you afterwards.”
Staff members who served in Ferryhouse at the time of Br Lazarro’s departure were unable to remember the circumstances of his leaving, which suggests that there was secrecy about the matter. It is nevertheless surprising that, in a small community, a sudden departure would not have generated a great deal of interest. Moreover, Fr Lucca’s letter cited above refers to talk and ‘admiratio’,37 suggesting there was indeed curiosity about the departure.
In reply to an internal Rosminian survey, other members of the Order who were not in the School at the time recalled how they heard about the Br Lazarro episode. One priest, who was appointed teacher in Glencomeragh in the mid-1960s, stated in his questionnaire that he heard that Br Lazarro had been involved in improper behaviour and that the Rector, Fr Rafaele, was suspicious. Similarly, another priest described a conversation that he had with members of the Institute in the early 1960s, when he was a student in Glencomeragh, in which it was mentioned that Br Lazarro and Br Mario ‘were somehow implicated with some boys at Ferryhouse’.
It is unclear from the documentation whether Br Lazarro was assigned to work directly with the boys or for the staff.
Fr Lucio was still Rector when Br Lazarro was sent to Omeath, although he was replaced a few months after the transfer of Br Lazarro.
When Br Lazarro joined Br Mateo in the early 1960s, there were two sexual abusers working in Omeath.
The Order was unsure how to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct by Br Lazarro but, once the correspondence in the Rome files was found, the Order accepted unreservedly the truth of what the former resident said and apologised to him. Although there is some doubt as to whether the two offenders worked together, it was particularly reckless to have two known sexual abusers working in proximity in an institution like Omeath.