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The Christian Brothers, a legacy of horror


In several posts made over the last week, references were made about the role being played by churches in both child placement practices and child abuse. The most severe cases of child abuse in church run child placement facilities known, revolve around the Congregation of Christian Brothers.

Established in the early 19th century by Irish merchant Edmund Ignatius Rice, the Christian Brothers were a religious community dedicated to teaching disadvantaged youths. In the second half of the century as part of the child migration movement, the Christian Brothers spread out to Australia and Newfoundland, Canada, where they established schools and orphanages.

The most notorious of all orphanages was Mount Cashel in St. John's Newfoundland, an all boys home established in 1875.

In the late 1980's allegations of sexual and physical abuse led to the so-called Hughes inquiry, which concluded that several hundred boys were systematically abused, both sexually and physically by the members of the congregation. They also concluded that officials had transferred offenders and covered up the abuse at Mount Cashel. Eleven Christian Brothers were eventually convicted and sentenced to between 4 months and 11 years in prison.

Mount Cashel was not the only orphanage where the Christian Brothers committed their horrendous crimes, in Geelong, Australia, at the St. Augustine orphanage, at the St. Vincent's boys home in South Melbourne, and at their facilities Bindoon, Castledare, Clontarf and Tardun, Western Australia, similar practices took place.

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.

reported by Barry Coldrey

The brothers didn't just target orphans, they ran schools in Ireland Great Britain, Australia, United States of America and New Zealand. At least at three schools in Australia sexual abuse took place:  Aquinas College in East Melbourne, St. Patrick's college and  St Aliphius Primary School in Ballarat, Victoria.

In 1998 the Christian Brothers handed over 29 primary and 109 secondary schools to a charity staffed entirely by lay people after hundreds of abuse charges from all over the country kept coming in.

In the US at least at two schools,  De La Salle High School in Concord, California and Briscoe Memorial School for Boys in Kent, Washington, members of the congregation were guilty of sexually abusing pupils.

The horrors done to children in the name of religion by the Christian Brothers will never be known in its entirety. Correspondence from the 1920's already indicates the abuses taking place were known. For years the Brothers were able to cover up their act and much of the documentation related to the congration is "safely" stowed away at the Vatican, out of reach of countries that have children to look after.

by Niels on Monday, 21 July 2008