Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools

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For a different Roman Catholic religious institute also commonly known as "Christian Brothers", see Congregation of Christian Brothers.
Brothers of the Christian Schools
John baptist de la salle 1.jpg
St. John Baptist de la Salle (also: Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle), (1651–1719), Founder
Abbreviation F.S.C.
Motto "Signum fidei" Latin, ("Sign of faith")[1]
Type religious teaching congregation
Headquarters Generalate of the Brothers of the Christian Schools
Superior General
Bro. Robert Schieler, F.S.C.[2]
Key people
St. John Baptist de La Salle – founder

"The Brothers of the Christian Schools" (also known as the "Christian Brothers", the "Lasallian Brothers", the "French Christian Brothers", or the "De La Salle Brothers"; French: "Frères des écoles chrétiennes"; Latin: "Fratres Scholarum Christianarum") is a Roman Catholic religious teaching congregation, founded in France by Jean-Baptiste de La Salle (1651–1719), and now based in Rome, Italy. The Brothers use the post-nominal abbreviation of "F.S.C." to denote their membership of the order, and use the honorific title of "Brother", abbreviated "Br.". The Lasallian Christian Brothers (who follow the teachings of their founder, Jean Baptiste de La Salle) are not the same order as the "Irish Christian Brothers" based in Ireland.

There is a global community of Lasallian educational institutions that are assisted by more than 73,000 lay colleagues they teach over 900,000 students in over 80 countries and vary from teaching in impoverished nations such as Nigeria to post-secondary institutions such as Bethlehem University, and the La Salle Universities in Philadelphia and Manila.[3] The central administration of the Brothers operates out of the Generalate in Rome and is made up of the Superior General and his councillors. There are 560 Lasallian schools around the world, a number that has diminished with time. Several LaSallian institutions have been accused of, and have admitted and apologised for, long-standing and serious physical and sexual abuse against their charges.

The order[edit]

Mission statement[edit]

De La Salle said: "The spirit of this Institute is first, a spirit of faith, which should induce those who compose it not to look upon anything but with the eyes of faith, not to do anything but in view of God, and to attribute all to God." (Rule 1718). He also said that "To touch the hearts of your students and to inspire them with the Christian spirit is the greatest miracle you could perform, and the one that God asks of you, since this is the purpose of your work."

The Brothers' Rule states that the mission of the Institute is "to provide a human and Christian education to the young, especially the poor, according to the ministry entrusted to them by the church."

Requirements on members[edit]

Members of the order take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and are required to give their services without any remuneration and to wear a special habit of coarse black material, consisting of a cassock, a hooded cloak with hanging sleeves and a broad-brimmed hat. A clause in its rules forbids the admission of priests with a theological education, which gave rise to the nickname "Ignorantines" ("Frères Ignorantins").


The order was founded by Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, a French priest from a wealthy family. Jean Baptiste De La Salle was born in 1651 in Reims, France to Louis De La Salle (1625 - 1672) and Nicole Moet de Brouillet (1633 - 1671). In April, 1679, Jean Baptiste de La Salle met Adrian Nyel in a chance encounter at the Convent of the Sisters of the Child Jesus. Nyel asked for De La Salle's help in opening free schools for the poor boys in Reims. He spent his life teaching poor children in parish charity schools, and was canonized as a saint on 15 May 1900. In 1950 Pope Pius XII declared him to be the "Special Patron of All Teachers of Youth in the Catholic Church".

Informal names that have been used for the order, in addition to "Ignorantines", are "Frères de Saint-Yon", from the house at Rouen in France, which was their headquarters from 1705 until 1770, "Frères a quatre bras", from their hanging sleeves, and "Frères Fouetteurs", from their former use of the whip (fouet) in punishments.

The order, approved by Pope Benedict XIII in 1724, rapidly spread over France. It was dissolved by a decree of the National Assembly set up after the French revolution in February 1790, but recalled by Napoleon I in 1804 and formally recognized by the French government in 1808. Since then its members penetrated into nearly every country of Europe, America, Asia and Africa. They numbered about 14,000 members at the beginning of the 20th century running over 2000 schools. The De La Salle Christian Brothers are the largest Roman Catholic lay religious order of men exclusively devoted to education.[citation needed]



In accordance with their mission statement "to provide a human and Christian education ... especially [to] the poor" the Brothers' principal activity is education, especially of the poor.

As of 2014 the Institute conducted educational work in 80 different countries, in both developed and developing nations, with more than 800,000 students enrolled in its educational works.

Sexual abuse of boys[edit]

In the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, the largest inquiry of its type in UK legal history into institutional sexual and physical abuse in Northern Ireland institutions that were in charge of children from 1922 to 1995,[4] the De La Salle Brothers admitted in 2014 to the abuse of boys at the former De La Salle Boys' Home, Rubane House, in Kircubbin, County Down, Northern Ireland, and St Patrick's Training School in west Belfast, and apologised[5] to its victims.[6][7]

The Inquiry's first public hearings were held from January to May 2014, and continued from 1 September 2014 at Banbridge courthouse,[8] with open oral testimony to finish in June 2015[dated info], and with the inquiry team reporting to the Executive by the start of 2016.[4] Module 3: De La Salle Boys Home at Rubane House, Kircubbin, started on 29 September 2014 and was completed on 17 December,[9] when the chairman paid tribute to the victims who testified. Evidence called and transcripts were posted on the NIHIAI Web site.[10] Billy McConville, orphaned when his mother Jean McConville was abducted and shot by the IRA in 1972, waived anonymity and described repeated sexual and physical abuse, and starvation, at Rubane House, saying "Christians looking after young boys – maybe they were Christians, but to me they were devils disguised in that uniform."[11]

In 2014 pupils who were beaten and raped at St Gilbert's approved school (for young minor offenders) in Hartlebury, Worcestershire, England run by brothers from the De La Salle order, revealed "a 30-year campaign of sadistic and degrading abuse". [12] The headmaster, deputy headmaster, and Brothers were reported to have been among those responsible. Police launched an investigation into allegations of abuse at the school between the 1940s and 1970s after former pupils were interviewed by BBC Hereford and Worcester, and documents intended to be unavailable until 2044 were released under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Arrests of two former staff members on suspicion of offences including assault occasioning actual bodily harm and sexual activity with a boy aged 13 to 15 were made in 2015.[13][14] Other, named, abusers were reported to have died.[12]

There were other cases with many victims in countries including Scotland (St Ninian's in Gartmore, Stirlingshire; St Joseph's in Tranent; St Mary's in Bishopbriggs),[15] Australia,[16][17] and Ireland[18] Serious and detailed allegations about decades-old abuse have been reported in the US, with lawsuits ensuing[19][20][21]

Initially the attitude of the de La Salle Brothers to abuse was that incidents that came to their attention were best forgotten. Before the abuse issue had become public a Brother wrote in a letter to an alleged abuser “It is best forgotten and I have told some brothers that no reference is to be made to it among themselves or the boys. The whole affair is best dropped with the prayer that all will learn that lesson that our holy rule is very wise in its prescriptions”. The order conducted dozens of internal interviews in this case, but did not report the matter to police.[22]

After the scandal became widely known, branches of the Order apologised, publicly or to individual victims, for several of these cases.[12][16][18]

Other activities[edit]

In 1882 the Brothers started a winery in Martinez California on the edge of the Carquinez Straits, part of the greater San Francisco Bay. In 1932 they relocated the winery to the Napa Valley. In the 1950s they acquired Greystone Cellars near St. Helena, California and operated there until it was sold to Heublein, Inc. in 1989.[23]

In 1981, the Institute started Christian Brothers Investment Services, which says it is a responsible investing service exclusively for Catholic organisations, and that it "encourage[s] companies to improve policies and practices through active ownership".[24]

Lasallian saints[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Home". Manhattan College. 
  2. ^ "Br. Robert Schieler elected Superior General ", 21 May 2014. Retrieved on 11 June 2014.
  3. ^ G. Morgan, F.S.C., Lasallian Education - 150 Years in Toronto, 2001
  4. ^ a b BBC News: Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry - the background, 13 January 2014
  5. ^ The Irish News: De La Salle brothers apologise for abuse, 15 January 2014 Details of apology
  6. ^ The Guardian newspaper, 14 January 2014
  7. ^ Belfast Telegraph: Rubane House 'like Hell upon Earth' for 69-year-old branded a liar for reporting his abuse as boy, 9 October 2014
  8. ^ BBC News: Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry examines Australian migration, 12 August 2014
  9. ^ BBC:Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry tribute to witnesses, 17 December 2014
  10. ^ NIHIAI Web site - Module 3 timetable
  11. ^ UTV:Jean McConville's child 'abused at Rubane', 6 November 2014
  12. ^ a b c BBC News:Hymns and screams: Abuse at St Gilbert's approved school revealed, 1 December 2014
  13. ^ BBC News: St Gilbert's school abuse inquiry suspect arrested, 29 April 2015
  14. ^ BBC News:Ex-St Gilbert's school worker in abuse arrest, 12 June 2015
  15. ^ The Scotsman ,Executive fights to halt £8.5m claim from abused former pupils, 17 January 2006
  16. ^ a b Broken Rites helped two female victims to gain an apology
  17. ^ National Catholic Reporter: Catholic church appears before Australian Royal Commission into sexual abuse, 13 December 2013
  18. ^ a b Government of Ireland:Establishment of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA):The De La Salle Brothers, 1.129-1.131
  19. ^ La Salle alumnus alleges sex abuse, 22 September 2014 Troy, New York]
  20. ^ Mercury News: Former De La Salle teacher faces new sexual abuse allegations in Minnesota, 26 June 2009 Minnesota
  21. ^ Huffington Post (from AP): Top Catholic School Program Concealed Sexual Abuse Knowledge, 12/07/2010
  22. ^ Catholic Universe: Abuse cases ‘best forgotten’, De La Salle brother decreed, 3rd October 2014
  23. ^
  24. ^ CBIS: Overview

External links[edit]