In 1939 the Provincial again had to deal with a case of sexual misconduct, this time involving an ex-pupil who was subsequently employed in the School and was in charge of some of the boys. On 20th July 1939, Br Leveret, the Disciplinarian in Letterfrack, wrote to the Provincial, Br Corben, complaining about the sexual activities of Mr Russel: You may remember when you called to Letterfrack some time ago my drawing your attention to improper conduct carried on between the young man ... Since your visit, the individual concerned has repeated this misconduct and the attention of the Superior was directed to the matter by the Sub Superior. The latter incident happened towards the end of May. Since then no action has been taken to have the fellow removed. I am now relieving my conscience by again bringing the matter under your notice. If there be a repetition of the misconduct I shall feel that I did my part in trying to have things put right. I now consider that I am no longer obliged to make any further representation on the matter.
The Provincial wrote to the Resident Manager, Br Troyes, on 23rd July 1939 to ascertain what was going on: You will remember that when you were here some months ago I spoke to you about the undesirability of keeping [Mr Russel]–in your employment. You told me that though he had been admittedly implicated in immoral practices with the boys he was now reformed. I have quite recently been informed that he has since reverted to his immoral conduct and that a complaint to this effect was made to you last May. I shall be thankful if you will kindly let me have the particulars of the charge that was made against Russel and to what extent, if any, you found he was guilty.
The Sub-Superior, Br Vernay, replied on behalf of the Superior on 25th July 1939: I have known Russel for upwards of seven years and I know that whilst he was in the school as a pupil and that whilst he was out he bore an unblemished character all the time. He has possibly been guilty of a misdemeanour in his contact with the boys but this lapse would be due to an inadvertence rather than any serious notion of guilt on his part or on the part of the boys. The whole thing seems much exaggerated and points to a campaign against Russel rather than to a desire to correct an evil. Russel since being warned of the seriousness of the position, has become a member of the Sodality and was at Holy Communion on the first Sunday of the present month, Sodality Sunday.
The Provincial replied to the Resident Manager on 25th July 1939: I am glad to hear that you investigated the charge that was made against Russel, and that you have given him a serious warning with the threat of dismissal in case that misconduct would be proved against him. I dare say the action you have taken will have a salutary effect upon him. It is good that he is in the Men’s Sodality and frequents the Sacraments. Let us hope that with such safeguards and with the grace of God he will not again commit himself. We cannot be too particular about the character and conduct of the people we have in our employment, especially in our institutions.
The Russel episode became known outside the School, and the Auxiliary Bishop of Tuam, Dr Walsh, wrote to the Provincial, Br Corben, suggesting a Visitation. The complaint was brought to the attention of Br Troyes, the Superior, who wrote to Br Corben on 25th September 1939: The matter you refer to was inquired into and vehemently denied. At the inquiry Mr Russel was told, that if ever again, there was a complaint and that it was proved to have foundation, it would mean instant dismissal for him. He goes to the Sacraments and is a member of the Men’s Sodality. I am satisfied that there has been no cause of complaint. His conduct and the company he keeps about the locality give no cause for anxiety. I was pained to get the complaint in the manner I got it and annoyed that you should get this trouble. The complainant did not mention it to the Superior but talked about it to others. After all if it were a serious breach of conduct, it is not a matter for public talk. I have never failed to investigate a charge made against an employee or a boy. I am afraid the accuser has an axe to grind in this affair. If he had a difference, as he had with [Mr Russel] and the latter said things to him or of him, he ought not to keep up deliberately showing his spleen as this has been done in many ways. I am afraid the rules of charity and justice have been out stepped. I am satisfied, [Mr Russel] is conducting himself in a proper manner.
On the same day, 25th September 1939, a member of the Christian Brothers Provincialate had a meeting with Bishop Walsh and noted in a memorandum: He told me that he had complaints about some immoral practices carried on by [Russel] in Letterfrack with some of the boys in the institution. This he said was reported to him by outsiders and was talked of freely by people who lived in the vicinity of Letterfrack. He (the Bishop) was very disturbed by this information and wished to have it investigated at once. I told his Lordship that we had already investigated these regrettable incidents and I showed him the correspondence, which passed between the Superior of Letterfrack and the Br Provincial on the subject. He was satisfied that the matter was already taken up and thanked me for attending so promptly to the matter. He however expressed a desire that the Visitation should be held in Letterfrack as soon as possible and asked me when it could be done. I promised him that it would be done before the end of October. This satisfied him... he wished however that this question should be thoroughly gone into at the Visitation, and that if there was evidence of Russel having reverted to his malpractices that he be sent away. I promised that this should be done.
The Provincial, Br Corben, carried out the Visitation between 12th and 16th October 1939. He investigated the allegations against Mr Russel and satisfied himself that they were true. He directed the Resident Manager to dismiss Mr Russel and the latter did so with the greatest reluctance. His Visitation Report stated: A short time before the Visitation the Auxiliary Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. Walsh had written to me to say that he had been informed that [Mr Russel] had been carrying on immoral practices with some of the boys. On investigation I found that such was the case, and that this man, who is an ex-pupil of the school, was not only corrupting the morals of the boys but was trying to undermine their Faith. I had on two previous occasions within the past six months told the Superior of complaints of this nature that reached me from the Brothers but he still kept him in his employment. Even now it is with reluctance he carries out my direction to dismiss this man. The Superior adopts a very stupid attitude in matters of this kind.
When the Visitor was presented with information by one of the Brothers in Letterfrack, he investigated at once. He took statements from the boys involved, and was so horrified about the information that he took immediate action to remove the Brother. The Congregation described in the Opening Statement how a trial of this Brother had been arranged in 1941 which would have led to his dismissal if he was found guilty. The trial did not proceed because the Brother was permitted to apply for a dispensation from his vows which was granted. It is significant that the same Resident Manager was in charge during Br Perryn’s and Mr Russel’s time, namely, Br Troyes, who was in the School from 1935 to 1941. Br Perryn was the second Brother referred to by Noah Kitterick in his letter to the Provincialate in 1953. Noah Kitterick alleged sexual and physical abuse by this man when he was in Letterfrack from 1924 to 1932, which was during Br Perryn’s second period there. The Congregation must have been aware of this man’s history and yet they refused to engage with Mr Kitterick or to acknowledge his complaint in any way. The Congregation’s comment that ‘it is most unfortunate that the early warning signs had not been acted upon adequately’ failed to address the fundamental questions raised by this case. The fact that this Brother was able to abuse boys undetected and unreported for such a long period is indicative of a serious failing in the management of the school. To compound the seriousness of this case, even the Brother who discovered the abuse felt unable to report it to his Superior, waiting instead for the annual Visitation to disclose what he had heard. If a member of the Congregation felt that the Superior would not believe him, it is hardly surprising that the boys felt unable to speak up. This Superior was the same man who had refused to acknowledge the case of Mr Russel, referred to above. He was also the Resident Manager when an anonymous letter was sent to the Provincial regarding Br Piperel. The fact that the Brother had felt unable to report the matter to the Superior and had to go through the Visitor was not addressed. Instead, the Brother was criticised for his indiscretion in mentioning the matter to another Brother in the School. The documents do not record the 14 years of abuse by this man, which indicates that there was a higher level of sexual abuse in the Institution than was revealed by the evidence.