In their Opening Submission for the Artane hearings, the Congregation dealt with the question of funding in general terms, which applied to all their industrial schools. It made two important assertions: first, it stated that the Kennedy Committee found that the grant aid paid to industrial schools in Ireland was ‘totally inadequate’; and, secondly, it compared the capitation in the State to funding in Northern Ireland and found that the former rate was significantly below the allowance in the neighbouring jurisdiction.
The Congregation stated: The Building Fund consisted of monies which were forwarded to the Provincial Councils by communities for use in refurbishing existing schools and building new schools. A Community submitted excess funds to the Building Fund, which funds could be called on for refurbishments and/or erections of new buildings.
This contrasted with the Congregation’s Opening Statement for Artane in which they stated: the Brothers, in keeping with their vocation, lived frugal lives and surplus monies thus, generated in the Community Accounts were lodged to a Building Fund established by the Congregation for use on capital expenditure on Artane. It is quite clear, therefore, that the financial contribution from the Community in Artane to the Institution was substantial.
In the Phase III public hearing for Tralee, Br Nolan was asked to explain what the Visitation Dues were: The Brothers in the Community maintained their House through taking a stipend and taking a salary from the money available. So also would the Provincial Council, they had no means of support other than putting a stipend on each House. It is a few hundred pounds. It changed with time of course. It was a levy on each Brother to contribute to the Provincial Council.
One former Brother described his experiences as follows: [it was a] well run [boarding school] ... much better run school than the one I had left ... It was immensely pleasant and companionable and I have nothing only good memories of it. I had no trouble about it I think in my mind ... When I went to the juniorate, to Old Connaught, there was no corporal punishment, there was no sense of fear. They were much better. I think I had a particularly bad set of teachers in [a named National school], but there was good teaching and everything was structured. I think again, a good boarding school operates on keeping you busy all the time and we were certainly kept busy all the time ...
In his article ‘Seven Years in the Brothers’, Professor Tom Dunne described the contrast between the juniorate he attended and his old schools as ‘remarkable’: Here there was no corporal punishment and bullying was not tolerated. We were treated fundamentally as adults who had taken on immense responsibilities, and as new members of the Community. The teachers were all Brothers, and were among the best the Congregation had. It was all profoundly civilised, carefully disciplined and immensely caring.
The importance of the vow is emphasised by Constitution 62, which requires the General Council to be careful not to admit to the profession of vows by any Brother who in his conduct shows a ‘want of submission, and due respect for, those placed over him’ or a ‘litigious and critical spirit’. A Brother who deviated from this duty to obey was quickly reminded of his position. One former Brother described his experience of obedience thus: I think the vow of obedience was conceived of as being partly like military discipline. Indeed, the priests who gave the Brothers their retreats and so on, and the 30-day retreat we had in the novitiate, all from Jesuits, and they’d famously have a military metaphor for what they’d do. I think there was a certain amount of that, this was like the army and you just obey. But that’s not what I understood as the vow of obedience, I think the vow of obedience was an internal – if I can use the kind of language that I think would have learned – an internal resignation of your will to the will of your Superior. The most important thing about obedience was not what you did but how you thought. I certainly would have believed that when I was that age, yes.
The same witness described some of the more unusual ways in which obedience was tested while the Novices were in training. He recalled how Novices were made to walk about with no coats or hats in bad weather, and he went on to describe one incident when he was put to the test. He told the Committee: The one I remember in terms of work was being told to move a pile of stones in part of the garden, I think, an old shrubbery from there to literally the far side of the table and spending several days doing it with an old wheelbarrow, when it was all finished he came around and said, “That is very good now. Excellent. Now would you move them all back again please”. You were meant to say, “certainly, Brother”, which I did being a very good boy.... It was a bit silly really but we just accepted it.
A consultant psychiatrist who regularly visited Artane in the 1960s told the Committee: On average my general impression, well; with the greatest respect to everybody, it was a daunting institution. The abiding impression I had was that during the school hours my biding impression was the silence. The silence. So you had all these children, young boys, and virtually not a sound.
In his evidence at the public hearing into Letterfrack during Phase I, Br Gibson stated: You see the Brothers who were teaching in the school, who were mainly the young Brothers, they were with the boys almost 24 hours a day; in other words, from 6:00 to 10:00 at night. They would have had very little free time during that period. They slept then in small bedrooms at the end of one of the dormitories. Often those rooms were very simple. There wasn’t heating for a lot of the time. That was their place of living and then they went up to the house for a short period of recreation at night-time, but effectively speaking they were on the job seven days a week.
According to Br Gibson: He [Dr Grant] was emphasising the need to really take this on board, that child abuse had taken place in our institutions. Through his help but also from our own realisation of this, we felt the time had come to make some form of apology.
Br Gibson said that the Irish Leadership Team decided to issue a public statement: because we felt that there was a need for healing and we felt that no healing would be possible unless we were prepared to accept the fact that it happened, number one, and to say that we know it happened, we are sorry it happened and to be open and honest with that.
He added that the Congregation intended its public statement to be more than an apology: it was to set out various mechanisms to promote healing, such as mediation, counselling and reconciliation. The leaders engaged in a widespread consultative process before issuing the apology. It met with individual Brothers, the advisory group, the Archbishop of Dublin, the Conference of Religious of Ireland (CORI), the Government and legal experts. The statement was issued on 29th March 1998 and read: Over the past number of years we have received from some former pupils serious complaints of ill-treatment and abuse by some Christian Brothers in schools and residential centres. We the Christian Brothers in Ireland wish to express our deep regret to anyone who suffered ill-treatment while in our care. And we say to you who have experienced physical or sexual abuse by a Christian Brother and to you who complained of abuse and were not listened to, we are deeply sorry. We want to do much more than say we are sorry. As an initial step we have already put in place a range of services to offer a practical response and further services will be provided as the needs become clearer.
Br Gibson explained: However, when our archivist went to Rome, she came across their minute books of their Council decisions, the General Council decisions. In those, she came across details of allegations of abuse in the institutions in Ireland that did not exist in our files ... Yes, all of these dealt with incidents of child abuse in our institutions between, say, 1930 and when they closed.
Br Gibson outlined the number of allegations recorded in respect of residential schools: ... we came across details of incidents of abuse in our institutions in Ireland. We came across eleven incidents of child abuse in Artane, ten in our day schools, three in Letterfrack, two in Tralee, two in the OBI,20 and two in Glin. Now, what we came across was that there had been information given to the Leadership Team at the time when they occurred. These allegations had been investigated. The investigation included getting the boys to write out what had happened to them and the boys had done that in some cases – well, in one case at the moment we have one incident of that. Then they had at the end of what they called a trial, they had a decision made, and the decision was either to give a Canonical Warning to the person, they were dismissed from the Congregation or they were rejected for the application for vows that year. Now, we wouldn’t have the details of all the allegations, but a lot of material has emerged there which we didn’t know about ... It shows that there were individual cases of abuse. It wasn’t, in a sense, systematic or widespread, but over 30 years in Artane there were eleven cases that had been discovered at the time they had occurred.