Congregation of Christian Brothers
The Congregation of Christian Brothers (officially, in Latin: Congregatio Fratrum Christianorum; members of the order use the post-nominal "CFC") is a worldwide religious community within the Catholic Church, founded by Blessed Edmund Rice. The Christian Brothers, as they are commonly known, chiefly work for the evangelisation and education of youth, but are involved in many ministries, especially with the poor. Their first school was opened in Waterford, Ireland, in 1802. Br Philip Pinto is the current Congregation Leader of the Christian Brothers, and head of its Congregational Leadership Team that is based in Rome. At the time of its foundation, though much relieved from the harshest of the Penal Laws by the Irish Parliament's Relief Acts, some discrimination against Catholics remained throughout the newly created United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland pending full Catholic Emancipation in 1829.
This congregation is sometimes confused with the Brothers of the Christian Schools, or "De La Salle Christian Brothers," founded by Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle in France. This is a completely separate religious institute. Rice's congregation is sometimes called the Irish Christian Brothers.
At the turn of the seventeenth century, Waterford merchant Edmund Rice considered travelling to Rome to join a religious institute, possibly the Augustinians. Instead, with the support of Dr. Thomas Hussey, Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore, he decided to found a religious community dedicated to teaching disadvantaged youth.
The first school, on Waterford's New Street, was a converted stable and opened in 1802, with a second school opening in Stephen Street soon after to cater for increasing enrolments. Two men from his hometown of Callan, Thomas Grosvenor and Patrick Finn, soon arrived to aid Rice in his makeshift schools, with the intention of living the life of lay brothers. In the same year, Rice used proceeds from the sale of his victualling business to begin building a community house and school on land provided by the diocese. Bishop Hussey opened the new complex, christened “Mount Sion” on June 7, 1803, and pupils were transferred to the new school building the following year. The reputation of the school spread and across the next few years several men sought to become “Michaels”.
On 15 August 1808, seven men, including Edmund Rice, took religious promises under Bishop John Power of Waterford. Following the example of Nano Nagle's Presentation Sisters, they were called "Presentation Brothers". This was one of the first congregations of men to be founded in Ireland and one of the few founded in the Church by a layman.
Houses were soon opened in Carrick-on-Suir, Dungarvan, and in 1811, in Cork. In 1812 the Archbishop of Dublin established a community in the nation's capital and by 1907 there were ten communities in Dublin, with in excess of 6,000 pupils. The schools included primary, secondary and technical schools, along with orphanages and a school for the deaf. A community was founded in Limerick in 1816, followed by establishments in several of Ireland's principal towns.
Some brothers in Cork chose to remain under the original Presentation rule and continued to be known as Presentation Brothers, a separate congregation but also recognising Edmund Rice as its Founder.
The congregation of Irish Christian Brothers spread to Liverpool and other parts of England. Brother Ambrose Treacy established a strong presence in Melbourne, Australia in 1868, and in 1875 in Brisbane, Australia and in 1876 a school was commenced in Dunedin, New Zealand. In 1875 a school was opened in St. John’s, Newfoundland. In 1878 the Brothers were introduced to the then Crown colony of Gibraltar. In 1886 the Pope requested that they consider setting up in India and a province of the congregation was established there. In 1900 came the invitation to establish houses in Rome and in 1906 schools were established in New York City.
These new ventures were not always immediately successful. Two brothers had been sent to Gibraltar to establish an institute in 1835. However, despite initial successes they left in August 1837 on account of disagreements with the local priests. However the school eventually flourished supplying education to the twentieth century. The "Line Wall College" was noted in 1930 for the education that it supplied to "well to do" children. Similarly, a mission to Sydney, Australia in 1842 failed within a couple of years.
In 1955 Stella Maris College (Montevideo) in Uruguay was established, which became one of the leading schools in the country, but also became known for the accidental fame for the Andes Flight Disaster involving its alumni rugby team.
The Christian Brothers teacher training center has become the Marino Institute for Education which has trained lay teachers since 1972 and has offered degrees validated by the University of Dublin since 1974. In 2012 Trinity College Dublin became a co-trustee with the Brothers of the Institute.
The Brothers' schools continue to be of many types, including primary, secondary and technical schools, orphanages and for the deaf. A number of these technical schools originally taught poor children trades such as carpentry and building skills for which they could progress to gain apprenticeships and employment. As the National School system and vocational schools developed in the Irish Republic, the Irish Christian Brothers became more concentrated on secondary education.
The Irish Christian Brothers were strong supporters of Irish nationalism, the Irish Language revival and Irish sports. In most of their schools in Ireland Gaelic football and hurling were encouraged as opposed to other sports and there were even examples of boys being punished for playing soccer. Conor Cruise O'Brien called them "the most indefatigable and explicit carriers" of the Catholic nation idea.
Publications by the Christian Brothers
In the absence of government devised text books that were inexpensive, the Christian brothers composed and published a number of text books which were used by their schools. Many of these were in the Irish language but also dealt with Mathematics and other subjects.
- Irish History Reader, Christian Brothers, M.H. Gill & Son, 1905.
- Graiméar na Gaeidhilge, Na Bráithre Críostaí, 1907.
- Matamaitic na hArdteistiméireachta Na Bráithre Críostaí, 1967.
- Leaving Certificate Chemistry, Christian Brothers Congregation, Folens, Dublin.
- Leaving Certificate Physics[translated from the Irish], Christian Brothers Congregation, Folens, Dublin, 1973.
Our Boys was a magazine format publication for boys by Christian Brothers and the Educational Company of Ireland. It was first published in September 1914, based on British Boys Own adventure comics, its content was cartoons and adventure stories in English and Irish. It had an overt Catholic and Irish Nationalist outlook, featuring Irish Legends, GAA figures, the Missions and Catholic juvenile organisations. The illustrator Gerrit van Gelderen contributed to the magazine. It was published up until the 1990s.
Organisational structure of the Christian Brothers
Geographically, the Christian Brothers are divided into several provinces that encompass every inhabited continent. The brothers within each province work under the direction of a Province Leadership Team. In turn, the entire Congregation operates under the leadership of a Congregation Leadership Team that is based in Rome (and led by the Congregation Leader). These provincial and congregational teams are elected on a 6-year basis at Congregation chapters.
Restructuring has taken place in the congregation to account for the changing needs, in particular the declining number of brothers in the developed world. The three provinces of North America (Canada, Eastern American, and Western American Province) restructured into the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers North America on 1 July 2005. The provinces that cover Ireland, England and the Congregational Leadership Team in Rome combined into a single European province on May 5, 2007, while the five provinces covering Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea combined into one Oceania province on October 1, 2007, The English Province is a registered charity. The Dublin Headquarters are in the grounds of Marino Institute of Education, Claremont, Griffith Avenue, Dublin 9, Ireland.
A special community within this new European province will be based in Geneva, Switzerland, working to establish an NGO known as Edmund Rice International. The purpose of such an organisation is to gain what is known as a "general consultative status" with the United Nations. "This position allows groups the opportunity to challenge systemic injustice and to engage in advocacy work with policy makers on behalf of people who are made poor." As well as including Christian Brothers from provinces all over the world, members of the Presentation Brothers will also have a presence within this community.
Edmund Rice Development is a faith-based Non-governmental Organisation with charity status in Ireland. Based in Dublin, Edmund Rice Development was established in 2009, to formalise the fundraising efforts of the developing world projects for the Christian Brothers globally and received its charitable status in 2009. Funding raised by the charity is directed mainly to 9 countries in Africa, where The Christian Brothers work on mission in development: Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Additional funds are also raised for similar work in South America (Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay) and India.
In the late 20th and early 21st century the reputation of the congregation suffered from the exposure of a series of scandals involving emotional, physical and sexual abuse of Irish children in the congregation's care, stretching back over a long period of time. Similar abuse emerged also in other countries where the congregation had had a presence, including Canada, the United States and Australia.
In 1987, men came forward to say that when they were being raised in Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John's Newfoundland, from the 1950s until 1970s, they had suffered physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, and that when the Archdiocese became aware of the abuse, had quietly removed brothers who were guilty of these acts, but took no further action.
In Ireland the Congregation of the Christian Brothers published full-page advertisements in newspapers in March 1998, apologizing to former pupils who had been ill-treated whilst in their care. This advertising campaign expressed "deep regret" on behalf of the Christian Brothers and listed telephone lines which former pupils could ring if they needed help. In 2003 the Congregation brought a case against the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse seeking to prevent the Commission from naming brothers acccused of child abuse. This case was lost in the High Court, but the congregation appealed to the Supreme Court. This appeal was later dropped, when the Commission agreed not to name brothers. In May 2009 a report was issued by an independent government commission on child abuse committed on thousands of children in residential care institutions run by various religious institutes for the Irish state. This report found that sexual abuse of boys in institutions run by the Brothers was common. In response, the Irish province issued a pledge to pay 161 million euros toward a fund set up to compensate victims of such abuse in both their institutions and those run by other religious institutes, both male and female.
Such abuse was not limited to Ireland. According to the Chicago-Sun Times, in 1998 Brother Robert Brouillette was arrested in Joliet, Illinois, for indecent solicitation of a child. In 2002, a civil lawsuit was filed in Cook County, Illinois, against Brother Brouillette for sexual assault against a 21 year old man.
Australia has also seen such abuse. Convicted sex-offenders in Australia include Brother Robert Best, who taught at Catholic primary and secondary schools in Ballarat, Box Hill and Geelong (all in Victoria, Australia) between the 1960s and 1980s. He has been convicted by a jury and has pleaded guilty to more than 40 child sex offences against dozens of students, some as young as eight years old. Robert Best was sentenced to fourteen years and nine months jail on August 8, 2011. Many of his victims were in court for the sentencing and shouted at him as he was led away.
In May 2013, the Christian Brothers admitted to Victoria's parliamentary inquiry into child abuse they did what they could to defend members accused of sexual assault against children. They admitted to hiring a private investigator to follow one of the Brother Robert Bests's victims. They spent nearly $1 million Australian dollars defending Best, as well as hundreds of thousands to defend other members also accused of rape.
In December 2012, the Christian Brothers school St Ambrose college, Altrincham, Greater Manchester, was implicated in a child sex abuse case involving teaching staff carrying out alleged acts of abuse both on and off school grounds.
Notable Christian Brothers
- Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice, founder of the Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers
- John Philip Holland, inventor of the motor powered submarine, who had been a Christian Brother as a young man
- Paul Francis Keaney
- Paul Nunan
- Michael Paul Riordan, second Superior-General of the congregation
- Patrick Ambrose Treacy, leader of the first Australian community of Christian Brothers
The Christian Brothers have taught many notable persons.
- Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse
- List of Christian Brothers schools
- Roman Catholic sex abuse cases
- Congregation of Christian Brothers in New Zealand
- Margaret Humphreys, and The Child Migrant's Trust
- "Christian Brother Terms".
- "Edmund Rice - The Man".
- "Congregation Letter".
- Normoyle, M.C. (1976). A Tree is Planted: The Life and Times of Edmund Rice. Congregation of Christian Brothers. pp. 45–50.
- Normoyle, M.C. (1976). A Tree is Planted: The Life and Times of Edmund Rice. Congregation of Christian Brothers. p. 71.
- Normoyle, M.C. (1976). A Tree is Planted: The Life and Times of Edmund Rice. Congregation of Christian Brothers. pp. 289–296.
- Gibraltar Directory for 1930, accessed 8 May 2013
- Normoyle, M.C. (1976). A Tree is Planted: The Life and Times of Edmund Rice. Congregation of Christian Brothers. pp. 405–406.
- About Iona College Iona College Website.
- Trinity College Dublin Enters into a Co-Trusteeship of the Marino Institute of Education Communications Office TCD, January 30 2012.
- Portrait of a Christian crusader - Reviewed by Dermot Bolger, Sunday Business Post, August 31, 2008.
- [True Sons of Erin:Catholic/Nationalist Ideology and the Politics of Adventure in Our Boys 1914-32] by Michael Flannagan, Phd Thesis, DIT.
- Embracing a Common Future
- edmundrice.org.au - New European Province
- Shaping Our Future
- Trust property held in connection with the English Province of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, Registered Charity no. 254312 at the Charity Commission
- Presence, Compassion, Liberation
- "Catholic order apologises publicly for abuse". BBC News. 1998-03-30. Retrieved 2009-04-08.
- Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (Ireland), 2009. Chapter 6 of Volume 1 covers the Christian Brothers
- "Christian Brother caught in Net sex sting". Chicago Sun Times. 1998-04-21. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- "Statement Regarding Judge's Ruling on Parole Violation of St. Louis Sex Offender". The Joliet Daily News. 2004-03-26. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- "Christian brother found guilty of child sex offences". Australian Broadcasting Commission. 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2011-07-25.
- "Christian Brother jailed for sex abuse". Australian Broadcasting Commission. 2011-08-08. Retrieved 2011-08-08.
- Morris, Madeleine. "Christian Brothers spent $1m defending paedophile", ABC_News_(Australia), Australia, 3 May 2013. Retrieved on 3 May 2013.
- Scheerhout, John (5 December 2012). "Police launch child sex abuse probe at top all-boys school near Altrincham | Manchester Evening News". menmedia.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-12-08.
- Davies, K. (1994) When Innocence Trembles: The Christian Brothers Orphanage Tragedy. (Angus & Robertson: Sydney) ISBN 0-207-18419-4
- Normoyle, M. C. A Tree is Planted: The Life and Times of Edmund Rice (Congregation of Christian Brothers: n.l., 1976)
- Humphreys, Margaret. Empty Cradles. Corgi, 1996. ISBN 0-552-14164-X