Category Archives: Brother Joseph Smith
THE EXECUTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT Part Three The Victims
by Kobutsu Malone
From the Link: http://www.bergencatholicabuse.com/
Following are some of the letters I have received to date. Most of these have been redacted and *names changed* to maintain confidentiality. Each redacted letter was edited and approved by the individual correspondent prior to posting. All correspondence received concerning this matter is held in strict confidence.
The First Letter:
From Thomas Schwarz – BC ’66
January 5, 2009 9:51:13 PM EST
Dear Kobutsu Malone,
I feel as though I am at the beginning of a long, rough, perilous, unclear trail. I hope that you can help me, and perhaps I might be able to help you.
I graduated from Bergen Catholic in 1966. Memories of my four years at B.C. have never been pleasant. As I have grown older it seems those memories come more often. Because I am contacting you I suspect that you realize already that I, too, endured abuse at B.C. I recently began Googling all the word and name combinations I could think of to let the internet retrieve information for me, but alas I have come away almost empty-handed — except for your short piece on engaged-zen.org. [A precursor to this bergencatholicabuse.com website] Your description of the Irwin brothers behavior was stunningly accurate. (Sentences redacted)
Finally, my own recollections of beatings I suffered while being “jugged” involved Bro. John P. Seibert.
Why are there no other mentions on the internet of these events? Are we the only men who recall such incidents? Are they figments of our collective imaginations? I doubt it.
I would be most appreciative if we could share information and perhaps make a collective, concerted effort to unearth and explain those sordid events.
I look forward to hearing from you.
|Brother John Peter Seibert|
January 5, 2009 10:34:01 PM EST
I am very glad we had the opportunity to speak earlier. You are the only person I know of so far who can corroborate what I wrote about Charlie Irwin’s behavior.
Would you be willing to write about your experiences with Irwin’s behavior? Would you be willing to publish it on the internet next to my account?
There were some 30 odd kids in my class room. Irwin taught perhaps five different classes a day, that means 150 kids a day could have been exposed to him perhaps 180 times a year. I have no idea how many years he was at BC, where he was before BC or even when/if he left BC. I was told by the order attorney in 2003 that Charlie Irwin had been dead for five years (1998?). His younger brother Tommy Irwin is still teaching at BC as far as I know.
That man did not just adopt his behavior only in Room 34 in 1964, everybody in that school was terrified of Irwin. Other students who had him in different classes reported the same kind of treatment. Irwin potentially terrorized and induced traumatic stress to many thousands of young people over the years.
I do not know if he was ever “exposed” or if anyone ever filed any sort of formal complaint against him, that information is hardly going to be made readily available through the alumni association or the order. I would like to hear that at some point someone in authority stepped in and took him away from teaching high school kids.
Back in ’65 I did not know the meaning of “sociopath,” now I do. Irwin was himself mentally ill and in need of supervision and care. I do not know if he ever got any care for his afflictions.
There have got to be others out there who might be willing to share their experiences if enough of us come forward. I don’t know where it all might lead, but I sense that us being in contact has something to do with us both healing. There have to be others out there with stories to tell, many may have never even realized what we were put through. Reading what two of us have written might serve to motivate others to come forward.
Telling our stories is vital to heal ourselves, motivate others, correct injustice and set the record straight.
From another man:
On Mar 19, 2009, at 11:36 AM, *Pete* wrote:
I just finished reading your article re Brother Irwin. I am speechless. I am catching my breath. I graduated from BC in 1966 (attended 1962-66) and thus was there when you were there and had much “exposure” to Irwin. My stomach is in a knot. Your description was so incredibly accurate and it instantly shot me back to those days. I am speechless. I think I want to thank you. I think I want to forget. But I think it isn’t right to just forget.
Have you heard from others?
On March 19, 2009 11:42:46 AM EDT
I responded to *Pete* and told him I had heard from others. I sent him my phone number.
On March 19, 2009 2:22:43 PM EDT *Pete* wrote:
What rapid responses! I appreciate your responses and your phone number. It is a gloomy day here and my spirits are darkened by thoughts of Irwin and the other BC nightmares. I have asked myself often why it is that I do not feel much affection for my high school days. I always attributed that lack of nostalgia to the fact that it was an all-male institution and the fact that it was a catholic school and I have become quite non-catholic. But I realize it is also issues such as this that compromise fondness for those days of youth.
Given that there have been two recent deaths in my family and that I am struggling in the process of healing and given that this realization about Irwin and his colleagues in crime is bringing me down, I am going to let this go for now.
I greatly appreciate your article and your bravery. I have your contact information and hopefully we can talk about better things someday. Meanwhile, I wish you a very wonderful life. From what I can see, you have been having one.
From a third man:
On Dec 19, 2009, at 11:36 AM, *Jack* wrote:
“I found your site and was at BC around the same time as you. You mentioned ‘for all I know Irwin is long dead’ and another alumnus clipped this from The Record in 1999 and sent it to me and for whatever reason I tucked it into the yearbook pages and so still have it.”
The summary of the obituary is as follows:
Charles B. Irwin
Born: Jan. 28, 1928 – Mount Vernon, NY
Graduated Iona Preparatory School, New Rochelle
Entered Congregation of Christian Brothers July 1, 1945
Professed First Vows September 8, 1946
Professed Final Vows September 8, 1953
Fordham University – BA Education 1953
St. John’s University – MA History 1956
Charles B. Irwin taught at the following institutions:
- St. Joseph’s Juniorate, West Park, NY
- Santa Maria Novitiate-Novice, West Park, NY
- St. Gabriel’s Scholasticate-Student, West Park, NY
- Sacred Heart Community and Grammar School, New York, NY
- Cardinal Hayes-Holy Family Community, Bronx, NY
- Cardinal Hayes-St. Helena’s Annex, Bronx, NY
- Cardinal Hayes Community and High School, Bronx, NY
- Power Memorial Community and Academy, New York, NY
- Leo Community and High School, Chicago, IL
- Bergen Catholic Community and High School, Oradell, NJ
- St. Patrick’s Provincialate Community, New Rochelle, NY
- Iona Prep, New Rochelle, NY 1979 – 1991 [Retired]
Died: October 9, 1997 – New Rochelle, NY
An anonymous individual with Photoshop skills offers some “psychological” advice:
Date: January 17, 2010 6:33:09 AM EST
Subject: Your site regarding an Irish Christian Brother
A Letter of Support:
On February 19, 2010 7:15:35 PM EST
Dear Rev. Kobutsu Malone,
After reading a report by Ireland’s Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse which came out in 2009, I was shocked at the accounts of many of the surviving men and women who gave accurate details of emotional, physical and sexual abuse at mainly the hands of the Irish Christian Brothers and nuns who ran the Reformatory and Industrial Schools where many of these surviving victims were brought to live at a very young age. I was very affected by their accounts and one school in particular was mentioned as being “a living hell”-it was called Artane. When I read the accounts of the boys who lived there from the 1930’s to the 1960’s I was emotionally wounded for them. I cried a lot because I could not believe how much they suffered at the hands of not only the Brothers but any adult who was affiliated with the place in one form or another.
What was even more disturbing was how the government, local police, residents and family members did very little to investigate when some of the boys, at the time, turned to them for help. I can honestly say that I am not shocked however at the reaction of the Catholic Church then and now, for decades it has done “absolutely nothing” to protect the victims but everything to protect the abusers.
I came across an article you wrote, ‘The Execution of the Holy Spirit’ regarding your experience at Bergen Catholic with a Brother Irwin and a Brother Howe – first of all they do not deserve to be called brothers, they deserve to be recognized as “pedophile” and “sociopath” Irwin and “pedophile” and “sociopath” Howe and I hope that all of those young men who they tried to break realize that they are not victims rather “brave” boys and now “brave” men who did absolutely nothing wrong but everything right. The fault, as we all know, lies in the hands of those evil, cowardly fools!
I too suffered at the hands of abuse as a child, the hands of my father who physically and mentally abused me and it took me years to realize that I had nothing to do with his cruel actions-it was his issue not mine. I was compelled to write to you because I wanted to thank you for reaching out to all those wonderful men who related to your experience at Bergen and for reiterating that what happened to you and to them is “not your fault.” I believe it is good for them to hear this and to realize that no matter how hard it is to remember, it should be talked about and not repressed. They have nothing to be embarrassed of and neither do you.
I hope you continue to reach out to those who have had similar experiences at Bergen and someday fight to be heard as they are doing in Ireland, for your sake and for the sake of any future, potential victims. The Catholic Church needs to continued to be challenged until they completely take actions to rid the evil souls that still hide behind their doors.
Kobutsu please remember that you and those other individual are not victims of abuse rather survivors of abuse! 🙂
From yet another man:
On April 2, 2010, at 1:13:40 PM EDT *Ralph* wrote:
I was a couple of years ahead of you 62-65, and transferred to Xxxxxxx H.S. for my senior year. I had Irwin of course for algebra, I have a vivid memory of his running his hand down the back of my pants, down the crack of my ass, and then watching him sniffing his finger as he sat at his desk. I don’t have a clear memory of how many times he had his hands on me. There were others he liked more – egads, I especially remember a kid with long blond hair, Elvis style, he was Irwin’s favorite in my class. I’m reflecting on thinking how lucky I was that he enjoyed abusing/torturing others more than me – geeze, that is sick. There was another brother, who was also talked about, who I seem to remember left the school in the middle of the year of 1962.
Somehow once I ended up under that guy’s arm, and he escorted me into the boys locker room, but kids were there, and somehow, I got away. Never went near him again, his name started with and M or W and sounded maybe polish. After he left there was just brother Irwin to worry about.
I don’t remember his rage especially, there was a lot of that rage, odd for such a vocation? There was a Brother Ryan? who would make us take off our pants in the halls with our shoes on, if we couldn’t he would beat the shit out of you. Another lasting memory, was the brother’s seeming obliviousness to bullies. I remember a kid named Xxxxxxx from Fort Lee, New Jersey – his favorite recreation between class, at lunch or gym was picking on littler, more timid kids. It was constant and of course there were other bullies, and the brothers turned a blind side to all of that too. It’s Kafkaesque, no?
So you’re a Malone, and then you took a Zen first name? I am still a practicing Catholic, attend mass etc, despite the current/new scandals reaching to touch the Pope. Most Catholics I know have little to no respect for the Magisterium in all its majesty and hypocrisy.
“I have a vivid memory of his running his hand down the back of my pants, down the crack of my ass, and then watching him sniffing his finger as he sat at his desk.”
Charles “The Chest” Irwin greets prom attendees 1965.
And another man:
On October 22, 2010, at 12:52:18 PM EDT *Sam* wrote:
Just found your web site. I was searching for pictures of BC to show my wife. I have a similar story not of any sexual abuse but definitely physical abuse. I graduated from the class of ‘70 and rode the Fort Lee bus. Yes, that bus. I remember the bullies who picked on us very well and had a few fist fights with them myself.
The school principal was expelled as I remember and a new principal took over. I believe the principal was expelled for physical and verbal abuse.
Yes, we had brothers who were in hiding. Some were obviously sexually confused and some not so obvious. We had one brother who was referred to as Sister Mary by some of the students. I will not use his name but I remember him well . He had a mean streak and liked to slap you in the face. We also had brothers who would punch you and knock you down for chewing gum in the hall.
My brother also had the misfortune of going to BC but failed out in his freshman year. There was a Brother who was a coach there and he was cruel to my little brother.
I did not want to dissapoint my Mother so I hung in there and took the abuse. It wasn’t a healthy atmosphere for kids that already had issues. It was certainly not nurturing. My brother did well in public school and enjoyed his high school years.
Brother Howe, I remember him well but not as a sexual abuser. He was just a bully . He enjoyed it and I had many fights with him in class. Mostly he would throw erasers at me . He was surprised when I threw them back at him. I wouldn’t take his crap.
We had a history teacher. His name was Mr. Darts. Mr. Darts was a nice man who took me out in the hall one day and spoke with me as a mentor. He knew I was having problems and suggested that if I didn’t want to be there I should talk to my parents. I have never forgotten him. His were the kindest words I had ever had at BC. Thankyou Mr. John Darts.
The Infamous Fort Lee Bus. I hated it but learned to defend myself. We had two upper classman who were big bullies. I only can remember their faces. They were football players and wore their BC jackets. I only wish they were in front of me now as an adult!
Send your boys to a good public school.
Here’s a memory for you and as crazy as it sounds it is 100% true.
I had a Jesuit for some religion class. He was talking about masturbation and the dropping of the seed intentionally. Did you know that is a mortal sin and you can go to hell for that? Well being defiant I asked him what would happen if it happen unintentionally, like while you were sleeping. What happens then if you die? Do you go to hell or only purgatory? Well the stuff hit the fan. I was told to go to the office. They sent me home with a letter recommending I leave the school. Guess the tuition was more valuable because my mother’s letter saved me.
What a bunch of sick people. I feel sorry for them and forgive them their sins. God only knows what they went through as young men entering the seminary. Forgiveness is the best lesson I have learned in life and it wasn’t taught to me at BC.
If you can pass my email along to the person who rode the Fort Lee bus I would appreciate it.
PS. I did not go on stage to accept my diploma at graduation. As an act of defiance I sat in the stands without a cap and gown. It was a great dissapointment to my Mother who could never understand. Sorry Mom.
Brother Michael McElhatton
A.K.A. “Sister Mary”
And another man:
On November 29, 2010, at 6:01 PM EDT *Karl* wrote:
I was in the class of 1971.
Fortunately, I never had the horrendous experiences you mentioned with Br Irwin and Br Howe, but I remember them both and am not at all surprised. Br Smith was a religion teacher that gave me a slap across the face that left a handprint for a few minutes. He was clearly effeminate, but was intolerant of anything but undivided attention. I had great experiences with all the lay teachers. Mr Stevenson in particular was the chess team coach. My guidance counselor was also the basketball coach (Dougherty?) and he was also very helpful. I got a great education at BC, but it is disgusting what the Catholic Church allowed to happen.
Brother Joseph Smith
On March 25, 2011, at 3:57 PM EDT *Jerome* wrote:
I just read your story about Brs. Irwin and Howe. I was a member of a late 60’s graduating class. I remember Charlie Irwin. We all knew he was a “fag” as we called him them. He did not sexually bother me but I do recall him putting his hand down boys shirts. I never saw the pants action. There were a number of homosexual brothers back then. Maybe because I came a few years after you, I (we) knew a little more about them. I know “Sister Mary” as one writer mentioned. There were plenty of mean ones too. Br. Howe was nasty as were others. I did not take their crap. As a matter of fact, I do believe I slapped Br. Fish after he slapped me one day.
Another guy mentioned the Fort Lee bus. I was on the same bus at that time. The bullies were in full force on that ride. I was picked on in school. I was skinny and not a jock. Fortunately, I always had a way with words and gave it right back. I remember one guy bothering me and I punched him in the face. Of course, he was twice my size and picked me up and threw me across a row or two of desks. But that was the end of it. I did not take the bullies crap either.
On June 7, 2011, this letter was received from *Greg* at 10:40:55 AM EDT:
I was reading an editorial in this past Sunday’s New York Times by Maureen Dowd in reference to a Bishop in Ireland, who among other things, got down on his knees and washed the feet of sexual abuse victims at a mass in Dublin. The editorial went on to say how his papal colleagues in the Vatican did not look upon the Irish Bishop favorably.
The editorial brought out the old anger of 40 years ago and I did something that I have resisted for decades. I goggled Bergen Catholic sexual abuse and your article came up. As I began to read my first impression was that I had written this in some trance-like state. When I showed your article to my wife she asked if I had written it. First I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for having the courage to bring out these things that many of us have tried to bury over the years.
My own experience begins with attending Xxxxxxxxxx grammar school in Xxxxxxxxx, NJ. I had gone to public school and had many happy years but my three older brothers had graduated from a Jesuit College and in my young mind I thought going to BC would give me a leg up on doing the same. From sixth thru eighth grade Brothers taught me. As with you, the terror was on a daily basis. Being slapped and hit was common but the worst for me was having to come to the front of the room and having your hand held while you were beaten with a steel ruler. I learned early that tears might diminish the amount of hits and so for me, the tears came quickly. My other recollection was to see some of my tougher friends hold out tears and piss the brothers off and receive many more hits.
Seeing your picture and knowing the dates that you attended Bergen Catholic I know I was there the same year and I am fairly sure that I was in the same algebra class with Irwin. I have forgotten most of my year at Bergen Catholic but the hell of a Brother Irwin algebra class will always be locked in my memory. I remember that his class came early in the day and that once we had gotten thru that part of our day, I personally felt a great sense of relief.
Looking back on that class I felt like that out of a class of say thirty boys, (I was maybe 5’4″ 105 lbs.) Brother Irwin gave me more heinous attention than other, bigger kids. This, coupled with a strong dislike of Math, was almost a death sentence in his class. Don’t get me wrong, everyone suffered and lived in utter fear in that class, but there were about ten that maybe fit his victims’ profile.
I do remember him marching up and down rows with his pointer and for someone like myself, who did not always do his daily homework, trying to guess when he would call on me and quickly trying to work out that problem only to have him skip a person and not know the answer when he circled back and called on me. I did not remember many of his little sick quirks that you mentioned because I kept my head down giving him no eye contact for fear of repercussions.
This is where my story gets a little more intense. A fellow classmate and I were caught cheating by Brother Irwin on the end of year Algebra final. Whether we had crib sheets that we were using or were verbally exchanging answers I don’t remember, but we were requested individually to see Brother Irwin at the end of the day. I entered his classroom at the end of the day, Irwin was seated behind the desk and he said, “I got you Mr. Xxxxxxxxx, I know you cheated, and I can fail you for the year.” I denied cheating and he continued to accuse. At one point he came from behind the desk and approached me. He did his usual neck pressure points and as I was standing there he reached down the rear of my pants. As I stood there, he took his hands and came around to my genital area. At this point I stepped back and summoned some courage and gave him a look like – “this ends now.” He stepped back and did his usual “cretin” and “retard” routine and told me after an awkward moment to leave.
I left that classroom knowing that I would never return to Bergen Catholic and it gave me a great sense of relief. I never mentioned the incident to my parents and thankfully they let me transfer to public school. The coward must have known that he might need to cover his tracks as I was given a “C.”
Over the years, I have always been thankful that I stepped back that day but I have always thought of how many other kids who fit his sick profile were put in a position were they did not have that option. There has never been any doubt in my mind that Brother Irwin, if given the right circumstance, would rape and abuse one of us. I have always wondered about the other boy who was caught cheating with me. How was he treated? He fit the same physical profile as me.
Again thank you for your initial essay as it gave me the courage, as a soon to be 61 year-old man, to express these long suppressed feelings.
“At one point he came from behind the desk and approached me. He did his usual neck pressure points and as I was standing there he reached down the rear of my pants. As I stood there, he took his hands and came around to my genital area. At this point I stepped back and summoned some courage and gave him a look like – ‘this ends now.’ He stepped back and did his usual ‘cretin’ and ‘retard’ routine and told me after an awkward moment to leave.”
On August 2, 2011 4:33:20 PM EDT *Chuck* wrote:
You were sexually abused by Brother Irwin at Bergen Catholic. I was physically abused.
I lost my algebra book (actually stolen from my locker) and Brother Irwin told me to get another one. My family did not have the money to buy a new one.
On the afternoon of Tuesday October 16, 1962 (I know this because I was removed from Bergen Catholic by my parents after this incident) Brother Irwin came down the aisle and stood towering over me at my desk. He flipped the book open and saw another student’s name, Xxxx Xxxxxx, inside the cover. He made me go to the back of the room and bent me over a desk. He was known for lifting boy’s shirts and taking three fingers together and snapping them across the exposed flesh. Before he started he said he knew something better. He took a belt from another student, Xxxxx Xxxx, and started to whip me. Forty lashes with that belt. Forty really hard lashes. Nothing like I ever experienced in my life, before and ever since. Beyond pain.
Some of the students tried to come to my aid but he threatened them all that if they did anything they would get the same. You could get all their names by going to the 1962 Algebra class records and ask each of them. They were totally intimidated by him.
After he finished beating me (I was a complete mess, crying and almost unable to walk) he made me stand up and said, Mr. Xxxxxx, you didn’t seem to like your punishment. Would you rather have had a month’s worth of detentions? I nodded “yes” and he said, “You got it” and started to write them out. Xxxxx Xxxx and several other classmates protested, it felt as if a riot was going to break out but I couldn’t care less. I was beyond pain. He stopped writing and told everyone to sit at their desks and be quiet. I lay with my head on my desk, crying uncontrollably. I couldn’t stop no matter how hard I tried. The bell at the end of the period rang. We stayed in that classroom as the teachers rotated classes.
Brother O’Sullivan was the next teacher and came in and walked up to my desk and asked what happened. I couldn’t speak but one of the students told him what happened. He left the room and came back five minutes or so later and told everyone to read quietly. After that class, several students helped me get to the bus. I still was crying uncontrollably and it took me all the way home to finally control the crying.
We lived down the street from Xxxxxxxxx Church and Father Xxxxxxxx came to the house. His response was that “*Chuck* must have done something to deserve this”. My parents had me stay home the next day and on Thursday my father took off from work and took me to Bergen Catholic and confronted Brother Kean the principal and demanded that Brother Irwin come to the office. When Brother Irwin came in my father took his belt off and tried to go after Brother Irwin but was physically restrained by Brother Kean.
I was taken out of school and started at Xxxxxxxxxx High School the next Monday.
My life was never the same.
“He took a belt from another student, Xxxxx Xxxx, and started to whip me. Forty lashes with that belt. Forty really hard lashes. Nothing like I ever experienced in my life, before and ever since. Beyond pain.”
“My parents had me stay home the next day and on Thursday my father took off from work and took me to Bergen Catholic and confronted Brother Kean the principal and demanded that Brother Irwin come to the office. When Brother Irwin came in my father took his belt off and tried to go after Brother Irwin but was physically restrained by Brother Kean.”
“My life was never the same.”
|Br. Alfred X. Kean
A.K.A. “The Axe”
|Br. Charles B. Irwin
A.K.A. “The Chest”
Another man writes:
On Aug 3, 2011, at 12:36 PM, *Dennis* wrote:
Physical and verbal abuse was so common in Catholic Schools, but *Chuck’s* account here is the most intense I ever read or heard about other than in some novel or movie.
I went to Cardinal Hayes High School. In my freshman year (1965) the most severe abuse I witnessed was during announcements at the end of one spring day. A classmate was chatting away and was spotted by one of the priest teachers from the hallway. The priest came running in, grabbed the student out of his seat, carried / dragged him to the front of the room and smashed him face first into the blackboard. The priest then threatened to do the same to any of the rest of us. The kid was terrified, traumatized – his parents eventually removed him from the school.
Cardinal Hayes High School, Bronx, New York