Hundreds of child sex abuse complaints made against Christian Brothers, royal commission hears
Commission told 281 Christian Brothers in Australia subject to one or more claims or substantiated complaints of child sexual abuse
Sunday February 21, 2016 21.53 EST
From the Link: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/feb/22/hundreds-of-child-sex-abuse-complaints-made-against-christian-brothers-royal-commission-hears
In Australia, 853 people have made a claim or substantiated complaint of child sexual abuse against one or more Christian Brothers, with 75% of victims under the age of 13 at the time, a royal commission has heard.
The royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse has turned its attention to the Christian Brothers as the third round of its hearings into the diocese of Ballarat began on Monday. A religious community within the Catholic church, the Christian Brothers primarily worked in educational facilities for children.
In all, 281 individual members of the Christian Brothers in Australia have been subject to one or more claims or substantiated complaints of child sexual abuse, the commission heard, with 45% of that abuse occurring in Tasmania or Victoria.
The commission’s data showed that the highest number of claims of child sexual abuse were against a brother identified only as Brother CCK, who had 46 complaints made against him about incidents in Victoria and Tasmania. The average age of his victims was 11 years old and the abuse occurred between 1963 and 1987, including in Ballarat.
Another Brother, Stephen Farrell, a Christian Brother at St Alpius Boys’ School in Ballarat East, had allegations of sexual abuse made against him from six people, with the abuse allegedly occurring between 1971 and 1974. In 1997, Farrell was convicted of nine counts of indecent assault against two boys aged nine and 10 at the school but his two-year prison sentence was wholly suspended.
He was convicted of a further charge of indecent assault against a 10-year-old boy, with his sentence suspended on appeal. The commission heard another Brother, Gerald Leo Fitzgerald, was forced to retire from teaching at St Alpius Boys’ School, with a report saying he had “reached that stage of life when, for some men, control of emotional impulses becomes lessened”.
He was allowed to continue to live within the St Patrick’s religious community, the commission heard. A separate report stated he went into the junior dormitory to “play with boys”. He died in 1987 and was never charged.
Reading the opening address, the counsel assisting the royal commission, Gail Furness, described a number of other Brothers who had abused or who were alleged to have abused while working within religious schools and within Ballarat’s Catholic community.
Timothy Barlow, a former student of St Patrick’s College, also gave evidence to the commission on Monday morning, saying: “There were rumours among students at the school that the Brothers were sexually abusing some of the kids.
“I would describe it as common knowledge, because it was a topic of routine conversation among kids that this was going on.”
One, Brother Edward Dowlan, “made little attempt to conceal his behaviour”, Barlow said, frequently placing his hands down boys’ pants while they walked around. In a previous commission hearing about Ballarat held last year, the commission heard from a witness that he was raped by Dowlan.
It was a survival of the fittest environment, Barlow said, describing how the Brothers beat him, including bashing him on the head, when he was 15 years old.
He said he tried to stick up for the younger children who he knew who were being abused by the Brothers but was not taken seriously, even when he called his mother from the school and told her what was happening.
“Looking back at my time at St Patrick’s we were in a dysfunctional and closed environment where the abnormal was normal,” Barlow said.
“As 15 to 16 year olds, we had no idea really of the outside codes of ethics, morality and justice, so it was not a notable thing for us to see that these things were happening.”
Another witness, Martinus Claassen, said he was a pupil at St Patrick’s from 1974 and that Dowlan was his housemaster.
One weekend he left his homework in the classroom and, after he confessed to Dowlan that he had subsequently not done this homework, Dowlan became angered, Claassen said.
“He started stroking my thigh, his hand then moved so he was stroking and squeezing my genitals,” he said.
When he said to stop, Dowlan “struck me on the back of my head”, Claassen said.
Dowlan then made him stand facing the wall at the back of the room and began gyrating against him, which continued until lunch time. Claassen said that, after Dowlan let him go, he went to the toilet and vomited.
He told his mother and a meeting was arranged with the headmaster of the school, Brother Paul Nangle, who accused him of making it up, Claassen said. Nangle is due to give evidence before the commission this week, when he will answer questions about how he responded to allegations of child sexual abuse.
“Brother Nangle then terminated the meeting, saying, ‘Thank you for coming.’”
The experience left him demoralised and he worried he would be expelled, Claassen said. Claassen, who was also a victim of Brother CCK, told the commission he felt Nangle had failed to act on allegations of abuse or take action to protect children and hold Dowlan to account.
In 2015, Dowlan was convicted of 16 counts of indecent assault against 11 boys at four different Christian Brothers’ schools and was sentenced to six years and six months in prison, with a four-year non-parole period.
Over the next fortnight, the commission will hear from a number of former Christian Brothers staff and victims about historical abuse that occurred within their Ballarat institutions. Australia’s most senior Catholic and financial head of the Vatican, Cardinal George Pell, will give evidence on 29 February relating to his time serving as an assistant priest at Ballarat East.