Christian Brothers claim angers victims

VICTIM support groups bitterly clashed yesterday with the Christian Brothers after the religious order said claims of abuse in its institutions were exaggerated.

The One in Four organisation angrily accused the order of causing further hurt to people who had been sexually and physically abused.

Clinical director Therese Gaynor said yesterday’s statement represented a backward step and a return to the mindset of blanket denial which characterised the Christian Brothers’ approach to the issue of sexual abuse prior to 1999.

John Kelly of Irish SOCA, the support group for survivors of child abuse, said the Christian Brothers’ statement was deeply offensive. The statement, he said, implied the majority of the thousands of survivors who made statements to gardaí and had applied to the Laffoy Commission were “liars”.

In a statement, the religious body rejected “the now-established perception” that there had been large-scale systematic abuse in institutions they managed. It was openly acknowledged, the statement conceded, that “some abuse had taken place”.

The Brothers said, while allegations had been made against a large number of their members, the vast majority rejected the claims. The order maintained that over 95% of Christian Brothers had worked in ordinary day schools for periods of up to 40 years without any allegation or hint of complaint against them.

However, One in Four’s Ms Gaynor said: “In both content and tone, the statement will cause further deep hurt to the men and women who experienced widespread sexual, physical and emotional abuse in institutions and day schools run by the Christian Brothers.

“Those who will find the Christian Brothers statement most offensive are the many victims seeking support from One In Four who experienced significant levels of all forms of abuse. For these vulnerable men and women, there is no public forum, no redress and no acknowledgement of abuse.

“The reason for this statement by the Christian Brothers to exonerate 95% of their members, accused of sexual abuse, is not yet clear.

"Such attempts at rewriting the history of widespread abuse perpetrated by members of the Christian Brothers should only serve to further strengthen political resolve for the early reinstatement of the Laffoy Commission investigation,” Ms Gaynor said.

Former inmate Christine Buckley, who exposed the abuse in the Goldenbridge Industrial School, said: “It’s sad the Christian Brothers have persistently failed to address the pain caused to victims in their institutions and the pain caused by their efforts to delay the investigation into the truth.”

Mrs Buckley, who runs the Aislinn Centre, said: “Their approach to the problem over the last few weeks underlines the urgency of ensuring that a full public enquiry is held to disclose the extent of the abuse.”

Support for the religious order came from Let Our Voices Emerge (LOVE), an organisation of people who were raised in Christian Brothers’ establishments throughout Ireland.

A spokeswoman said the newly-formed group wanted to show the positive side of being raised by the Brothers and denied abuse had been as widespread as alleged.

“The religious carers have been getting the raw end of the deal. These people have already been convicted by society, and had their lives ruined.”

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence