Quite exceptional depravity – Brothers

from: s

Senate Committee, Canberra, part of "Lost Innocents: Righting the Record," August 2001
The Christian Brothers: Bindoon, Castledare, Clontarf and Tardun

   4.2 The accounts of sexual abuse and assault at these four institutions are horrendous, supporting and amplifying the UK Committee's description of 'quite exceptional depravity'. The stories from the ex-residents of Bindoon, Castledare, Clontarf, and Tardun [all in Western Australia] provide an account of systemic criminal sexual assault and predatory behaviour by a large number of the Brothers over a considerable period of time. Evidence was given of boys being abused in many ways for the sexual gratification of the Brothers, of boys being terrified in bed at night as Brothers stalked the dormitories to come and take children to their rooms, of boys as 'pets' of the Brothers being repeatedly sodomised, and of boys being pressured into bestial acts.

   4.3 The Committee received evidence that boys who reported abuse or assault were beaten by the Brothers or abused by the very Brother to whom they had complained. Some boys ran away to escape the abuse, but when caught, police or lay people did not believe them - usually due to the aura of the cloth. While not being believed was a terrible experience, even worse for the children was when they were believed and still sent back to the institution and the matter was covered-up. In Western Australia it was most likely that the strong connections between the Christian Brothers run institutions and the police with links to the Knights of the Southern Cross (as discussed in chapter 2) meant that there was 'a closed system' with little likelihood of such complaints being either believed or examined. For many abused children there was an overwhelming seense of powerlessness with nobody they could turn to.

   4.4 Sexual abuse and assault of children within these institutions was referred to by Dr Coldrey in The Scheme, his history of the Christian Brothers in Western Australia. In the book he wrote that 'there is very strong evidence that five Brothers were multiple offenders', though they were not named and four were dead. He also referred to six Brothers who admitted an offence with a teenage boy. When the book was published in 1993 it was strongly criticised by many former child migrants as a 'whitewash'.

    4.5 However, Dr Coldrey understood that the level and extent of sexual abuse by Brothers was on a much larger scale. He subsequently expanded his account in a monograph Reaping the Whirlwind: A Secret Report for the Executive of the Christian Brothers - Sexual Abuse from 1930 to 1994. Extracts from this document were read in the New South Wales Supreme Court in December 1994 during the case that had been brought against the Christian Brothers. The reports of these extracts appear to be all that exists in public of this document, as even Dr Coldrey has indicated that he does not have a copy now and that it 'seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth'.

   4.6 The most serious revelations from the document concerned the existence of 'sex rings' at Bindoon and Castledare. It is reported that in A Secret Report Dr Coldrey wrote:

What I mean by the term 'sex underworld' or 'sex ring' in the province is that monks doing the wrong thing with boys...are collaborating with one another in their activities. They know one another are acting against the rule and assist and cover for each other. In the orphanages they may have shared the same boys...

Paedophile brothers would tell other brothers which boys were vulnerable - they would share information - if one boy complained to one brother about the sexual abuse of another brother, he would be silenced or intimidated - and it went on more or less as a conspiracy and this conspiracy has been detailed - it is very clear that these complaints went as far as the Archbishop's office.

  4.7 The research and publication of material by Dr Coldrey exposing the predatory sexual activities of members of the Catholic Church apparently made the Church hierarchy so uncomfortable that he was pressured from the highest levels - Rome - to remove material from the Internet and cease the publication of reports on the subject.

   4.8 Brothers who sexually abused migrant children have been named in previously published books and material. The names recurred in the submissions and evidence before the Committee. To date only Brothers Philip Carmody (1920), Gerard Dick (1994) and Fabian Jordan have been before the courts and successfully prosecuted. Most of the other named Brothers have since died either during or before prosecution could be launched. Brothers 'Pop' Angus, Col Beeden, Doug Boulter, Con Campbell, Serenus Cooke, Matt Dawe, C Fricker, Hubert Hansen, Sal Marques, LH Murphy, C O'Neill, BS Smith, and Matt Thyer have also been accused with a 'good deal of precision and accuracy' as perpetrators of sexual abuse and assault. Others named by a number of witnesses were Brothers Bruno Doyle, FP Keaney, PC Mohen and GP Moore.

   4.9 The Christian Brothers were 'very insistent that the abuses were not known to those who controlled the institutions' when they appeared before the UK Health Committee. This claim was moderated in the Catholic Church Joint Liaison Group's submission to the Committee by stating that 'we are now also aware that in some cases...sexual abuse occurred...It seems that these abuses did not come to the notice of the supervising authorities, be they congregational, diocesan, federal or state'. Yet reference is made in The Scheme, using the Church's own records, of knowledge by the Brothers' Executive in Melbourne, Provincials and Superiors.

   4.10 The Committee considers that, based on the personal testimonies given in evidence and like the UK Health Committee, it cannot accept this argument. Evidence is available to warrant further criminal investigation and action. The Committee discusses previous court actions and the impact that the Statute of Limitations has in undertaking legal action in each Australian jurisdiction later in the report.

Other Institutions

   4.11 The incidents of sexual abuse or assault of children in care at other institutions described in submissions covered a range of other Catholic and non-Catholic institutions. The major difference in the nature of the abuse, compared to the four Western Australian Christian Brothers' institutions, was the lack of systemic abuse perpetrated by a number of carers at the same institution. In nearly all the descriptions provided to the Committee, the abuse or assault was mostly by a single perpetrator or was a single incident.

Part of chapter 4 of "Lost Innocents: Righting the Record," Senate Community Affairs References Committee, (covering child migration from about 1938), August 2001, pp 76-77


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