Category Archives: Lay Teacher Thomas Irwin
THE EXECUTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT Part One the story
by Kobutsu Malone
From the Link: http://www.bergencatholicabuse.com/
“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.”
Serial Sexual Harassment, Assault & Battery by Irish Christian Brothers
at Bergen Catholic High School, Oradell, New Jersey: A memoir from 1964
Written on: January 20, 2002
The year was 1964. I was 14 years old and had just entered Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, New Jersey. I did not want to go to Bergen but my domineering father whose self-interests for me showed no concern whatsoever for mine, or anyone else’s, feelings forced me into the school. I remember taking a long test for placement in the school in the gymnasium and I recall receiving the acceptance form. I had mixed feelings about this, having just spent eight years under the tutelage of Dominican nuns and the Sisters of Charity.
The experiences with the nuns during those years were traumatic. Many of us kids were humiliated and intimidated by the nuns on an ongoing basis. The image of a stern nun in full habit, bearing down on you with ruler in hand is the stuff of nightmares. I graduated from the grasp of the Sisters of Charity from Our Lady of the Visitation Church School in Paramus, New Jersey in 1963. Unbeknownst to me then, my experiences with the nuns were nothing in comparison to what was to come at the hands of the Irish Christian Brothers in Bergen Catholic High School the following two years.
|Kevin Malone – 1964|
|(Ven. Kobutsu Malone)|
The first days in Bergen Catholic were disorienting. It was my first exposure to an all male environment and my first dealings with Brothers. I was assigned to Room 34 as my homeroom, in what was then the new extension to the original school building. It was intimidating at first meeting the teachers, Brothers and lay men, who taught at the school. Up until that point in time I had only had women as teachers and suddenly the teachers were all men.
As teenagers in the mid sixties, we were very naive, not having been exposed to much beyond the confines of the Catholic schools that most of us had attended before coming to Bergen Catholic. We had universally been taught that teachers, and especially, priests, nuns and brothers were to be held in high esteem and could do no wrong. To us, they represented the direct intervention of the Church and God himself. We had no knowledge of the psychology of oppression or the idea of child abuse, or even heard the word “pedophile.”
There was nothing in my life that prepared me for the horror that was to unfold in Bergen Catholic High School in the following two years. Only in retrospect, looking back at the experiences some thirty five years later can I even begin to communicate what I, and certainly many of my fellow students, went through in that place.
In our freshman class we were introduced to the teachers of the subjects on day one. We had Latin, History, Biology, Math, English and Religion. There were a few teachers I remember as likable, most were intimidating, one in particular was perhaps one of the more despicable creatures to ever wear a Brother’s cassock. Brother Charles Borromeo Irwin was his name; he taught us freshman mathematics and served as the school treasurer.
|Br. Charles Borromeo Irwin|
I remember clearly the first day this individual came to the classroom. He was unkempt, smelled of stale tobacco, with nicotine stained fingers, yellow teeth and had the most hateful demeanor I had ever encountered. He would make snorting noises in an attempt to clear his sinuses instead of using a handkerchief. He would wipe his nose with his hand and then wipe the snot from his hand on his clothes or into his hair. He would terrorize us orally with tirades of abuse, shouting out loudly without warning, calling individual students “cretin, retard, pot-head, idiot, bungler” and “toad.” He would at times spontaneously begin singing the ditty, “Mares eat oats And does eat oats And little lambs eat ivy. A kid’ll eat ivy too, Wouldn’t you?” His demeanor would change in an instant, bringing forth an outburst of vitriolic hatred directed at an individual student or the entire class. His behavior was bizarre to say the least; he built on the terror he projected, taking delight in the trauma and meanness he spewed forth on us kids.
“Charlie Irwin” AKA “The Chest” had an even darker side. This individual was given total authority over a class of thirty some odd adolescent boys. These young men were subject to him in private for forty minutes every day of the school week, we endured his presence through over 180 classes that year. His irrational behavior was obvious from the start; we all feared him right off the bat and as time progressed, our unmentionable fears became paramount in our days at school.
Irwin was a math teacher, and well accustomed to having his way with students. He had the habit of walking up and down the rows of the classroom while he talked or while we were doing tests or assignments. Periodically he would assign us work and retired to the back corner of the classroom near and open window and have a cigarette, heaven help the boy who dared to turn and look at him thus disposed.
Irwin’s most traumatic actions consisted of engaging in a verbal tirade over the stupidity of a particular student followed by a walk down the aisle next to the targeted student’s desk. Irwin was a tall skinny man, with an evident potbelly and pronounced slouch, he was far and away taller than all of the boys. His physical size coupled with his nasty demeanor and our lack of ability to communicate was totally intimidating.
I sat in the desk directly in front of the teacher’s desk in the classroom and we were required to sit at the same desks throughout the school year. I remember distinctly the first time Irwin molested a student in the classroom.
|Br. Charles Borromeo Irwin|
His first indecent assault and battery were tremendously shocking to me and I lived in fear from that moment on throughout my tenure in that school.
Irwin came down the isle next to mine and leaned over a young man and placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder. He pushed down with some force so that the boy was forced forward into his seat, leaving a space between the boy’s back and the rear of the seat. Irwin did this with his left hand, approaching the boy from the boy’s rear left hand side. After pushing the young man down in his seat, Irwin reached behind the boy in the space created by the boy’s position in the chair and began pulling out the boy’s shirttail from his trousers. All during this episode Irwin was making wise cracks and calling the young man derogatory names in a hate filled voice. His final action, on the squirming victim, was to insert his hand into the boy’s pants and, placing it on the young man’s bare backside, squeezing his buttocks while the youth squirmed in terror and embarrassment in front of all his classmates.
I recall leaving that classroom that day feeling depressed and frightened at what had taken place in front of thirty other boys. None of us had the vocabulary or psychological sophistication to even talk about what we had witnessed, few said anything, and none of us had the courage to even address the issue.
Brother Irwin became bolder from that point on. He made threats to all of us as to revealing what took place in the classroom and engaged in wholesale terrorism for the remainder of the year. Irwin would repeat his molestation countless times on various students. He had certain favorites he would molest and assault repeatedly. His method always seemed to involve placing his hands down a boy’s pants and squeezing the boy’s buttocks while holding the child in his seat by a hand on the young man’s leg or by holding him down by his shoulder.
There was rarely a week that went by that Irwin did not molest someone in that classroom. We had no words to describe what we were experiencing and witnessing. The word “pedophile” was not in our vocabulary, nor was the word “molest.”
The closest we came to having a word for what we were experiencing was what some boys voiced as “MO” (short for “homosexual” that was barely, if at all, in our vocabulary)
Charlie Irwin had a biological brother, a lay teacher, named Thomas Irwin who was also a teacher in the school. I remember being in “Tommy” Irwin’s class in sophomore year, one day when one of the students called his brother (“Charlie”) a “MO”. Tommy Irwin denied that his brother was “like that”, indicating that even his brother had heard something and was in denial.
Looking back on it now, I find it impossible to fathom that no one in authority in that school or no parent ever took issue with what was taking place in the classroom and what we kids were being subjected to on a daily basis. I can only conclude that either not one of us communicated what was going on or that if anyone did, whatever repercussions ensued were suppressed and “handled quietly.” If the latter was the case, there are some issues of accountability outstanding. Thirty-five years later, I am the parent of two fine young men. If one of my boys came home from school with such a tale of abuse, assault, battery and sexual molestation, I would instantly remove my child from harm, seek immediate legal recourse and insure that the offender never ever entered another classroom or had any dealings with young people.
That is now… back then, at 14 years old, I for one would have been petrified to tell my parents of such things. The fear I had of my own father was a terror in its own right. I wanted as little to do with interacting with him as possible then. I most certainly could not have imagined ever bringing up what was happening to us in school by having to describe how an Irish Christian Brother, who my father held in high esteem just for the fact that he might wear a cassock and belong to the order, would regularly patrol the isles putting his hands down our pants, repeatedly molesting us during our math classes.
Back then things were not as open as they are now, there were many topics that were just not discussed in high school that are easily broached nowadays. Then, as victims, as Catholic school students, we were tremendously embarrassed to talk of any sexual matters, let alone homosexual matters, let alone being molested on a daily basis by a Brother in the School that our parents had selected because of its supposed superior educational qualities.
What happened to us was not our fault, but it could not have been any more embarrassing to talk about than any other topic imaginable. It was hard to understand why our parents wanted us so much to attend that place when we were being criminally assaulted and battered on an almost daily basis.
The damage some of us incurred in that place is inestimable. I presently live in the same area as the school and periodically in my travels I pass by the place. Each time I drive by, I remember the horror of those years. I think of the harm done by Irwin to hundreds of young boys over the years and I think of the institution that would allow such behavior to perpetuate. Mostly, I resent ever being sent into that hell hole and how relieved I was when I finally flunked out of there at the end of my sophomore year. I also remember the wrath of my father when my failure became known.
But who failed in reality? My father never had a clue what us kids were going through in there. He wasn’t there in the classroom when Brother Charlie Irwin came down the isle, sticking his hands in our pants, running his fingers in out butt cracks and then surreptitiously smelling his fingers afterwards. How do you tell that to your staunch Irish Catholic father in 1965?
|Br. Ronald Alexius Howe|
We lived in fear in that school, there were other Brothers there who taught us who were indeed sociopathic, violent men who frightened and intimidated us throughout the school year. I remember one of them, Brother Howe, pulling me out of my seat in the cafeteria one day because I was practicing hypnosis on another student. This individual lifted me bodily from the chair, threw me into a concrete block wall, lifted me up the wall by my arms, held me pinned to the wall by my neck while holding his right hand in a fist in front of my face. His words still resonate in me, “You fucker, you bring him out of that trance or I will drag you up to the principal’s office and beat the fucking shit out of you every step of the way.” This is an educator of young men? Brother Howe was well known for violent outbursts, his attack on me was not at all out of character, yet he continued to serve as a teacher in Bergen Catholic.
What happened to Charlie Irwin after I left Bergen Catholic I may never know. How many boys did he molest after that? How many young men were forced to endure his criminal attacks prior to my being there? How much damage did that vile individual do to innocent young men over his career as a so-called teacher? What of Brother Howe? I may never know the answers to these questions, none of us may ever know. I know one thing, it took me over thirty years to be able to put some of these experiences down on paper. I have spent a good portion of my life in introspection and self-examination and yet it has taken me more that three decades to be able to speak openly about Irwin.
For all I know, Irwin is long dead, if so he can no longer hurt any young boys. I know full well the implications of being a victim of that criminal in monk’s clothing, I know full well about survivor’s guilt and the sense of feeling dirty as a victim of such vile, degrading and filthy sexual abuse.
There is no closure, it does not just go away “in time” it is always a part of every victim’s life experience throughout the extent of their lives. So much pain, such shame, such unfairness, such betrayal. Forgiveness? It is a quaint notion, perhaps if faced with Irwin in person today; I might be able to manage such a feat. He is not in my life any more; he disappeared from my universe in 1966. Given his state of mind and general unhealthiness, I doubt he is still alive, but the memories of his abuse and battery linger.
It’s hard to forgive a memory, even more difficult as a victim to forgive a memory of terror and profound humiliation. I sincerely hope that in my putting these words on paper, other individuals who suffered as victims of Irwin and other pedophiles hiding in the Catholic Church will find the courage to come forward and elucidate their experiences.
Ven. Kobutsu Malone-Osho
Obituary Link for Br. Ronald Joseph Howe http://www.bergencatholicabuse.com/PDFs/20120124_Howe_Obit.pdf
Obituary Link for Br. Charles B. Irwin http://www.bergencatholicabuse.com/PDFs/IrwinObit.pdf