Sexual abuse cases in the Congregation of Christian Brothers

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The sexual abuse scandal in the Congregation of Christian Brothers is a major chapter in the series of Catholic sex abuse cases in various Western jurisdictions.

Abuse by country[edit]


In Australia, there were allegations that during the 1970s sexual abuses took place at the junior campus of St Patrick's College and St Alipius Primary School in Ballarat, Victoria. After investigation, Brothers Robert Best, Edward Dowlan and Stephen Francis Farrell were all convicted of sex crimes. Dowlan and Best were later transferred to the senior campus, and continued to offend.[1] "Four of the school's brothers and their chaplain, Gerald Ridsdale, were accused of sexually assaulting children — all but one, who died before charges could be laid, have been convicted."[2][3]

Robert Best taught at Catholic primary and secondary schools in Ballarat, Box Hill, and Geelong (all in Victoria, Australia) between the 1960s and 1980s. He was convicted by a jury after pleading guilty to more than 40 child sex offences against dozens of students, some as young as eight years old.[4] Robert Best was sentenced to fourteen years and nine months jail on August 8, 2011.

The Commissioners found that in one instance a complaint was made to a Brother Nangle about Brother Dowlan's putting his hands down students’ pants; a student was required to apologize to the school assembly for “spreading lies”.[5] (Dowlan was later jailed for multiple instances of sexual abuse.[6]) Dowlan (Ted Bales) pleaded guilty to 33 counts of indecently assaulting boys under the age of 16 and one count of gross indecency between 1971 and 1986.[7] The judge found that he had preyed on vulnerable boys as young as eight years old over a 14-year period at six different schools from the first year he became a Christian Brother in 1971. Dowlan has been jailed twice, first in 1996 for six-and-a-half years and then again in 2015.[6]Blair Smith had been one of the first detectives to properly investigate Christian Brother abuse in Victoria, his work in the early 1990s leading to the conviction of Edward Dowlan.[8] The Royal Commission also found that the Christian Brothers spent almost $1.5 Million defending Best, Dowlan, and Farrell.[9]

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that Gerald Leo Fitzgerald, a Christian Brother, was moved to new locations with continued access to children after abuse allegations had been made.[10] One victim described the type of behavior of Fitzgerald to the Commission: "...Brother Fitzgerald was his grade 3 teacher in 1974. He said that at the end of school every Friday Brother Fitzgerald would line up his students and kiss them goodbye. He kissed some with his tongue." He died in 1987 before any charges were laid against him.

Minutes of the meeting of the Christian Brothers Provincials with their lawyers on December 7, 1993, showed that the meeting was not focused on settling the proceedings: the concern was the cost, and there was no sentiment of recognizing the suffering of the survivors.[11] In May 2013, the Christian Brothers admitted to Victoria's parliamentary inquiry into child abuse that they did what they could to defend order members accused of sexual assault against children.[12]

During the 2016 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Ballarat it was found that 853 children were sexually abused by one or more Christian Brothers with the average age of 13.[13] 281 Christian Brothers have had abuse complaints substantiated, and the Christian Brothers have paid $37.3 million in compensation.[14] During the Ballarat Case Study of the Royal Commission it was found that Glynis McNeight, a private investigator, was paid by the Christian Brothers (through a retained law firm) to investigate two individuals who had alleged having been sexually abused by Brother Edward Dowlan.[15][16] McNeight's report was tabled[17] that contained a strategy to manipulate witnesses such as a victim could "easily be torn down in the witness box" and "the person himself is a very nervous, excitable type who will reduce to tears and bad language easily".[18] It was also shown that the Christian Brothers knew of abuse at the hands of Brothers but did not tell police[19] and spent almost $1.5 million defending pedophile Brothers Robert Best, Edward Dowlan and Stephen Farrell.[20]


The Christian Brothers in Canada more than 300 former pupils alleged physical and sexual abuse at the Mount Cashel Orphanage in Newfoundland. When allegations of physical and sexual abuse started to surface in the late 1980s, the government, police and local church leaders conspired in an unsuccessful cover-up. In Ontario in January 1993 the Christian Brothers reached a financial settlement totaling $23 million with 700 former students who alleged abuse.[21]

Allegations of sexual abuse at Mount Cashel Boys Home orphanage in Newfoundland (Canada) led to a royal commission, (The Hughes Inquiry) and further investigations followed into allegations at other institutions across Canada.


In Ireland, during the latter part of the 20th century, corporal punishment was casual, frequent and brutal in Artane Industrial School, which was run by Christian Brothers.[22] Artane's staff included a number of Brothers who had been warned for “embracing and fondling” boys. Accused Brothers were excused, lightly admonished or, typically, moved to other institutions.

In Ireland in March 1998, the Congregation of the Christian Brothers published half-page advertisements in newspapers apologizing to former pupils who had been ill-treated whilst in their care. The advertising campaign expressed "deep regret" on behalf of the Christian Brothers and listed telephone lines which former pupils could ring if they needed help.[23]

Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

In the Irish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse's five-volume report of its investigation of systemic abuse of children in Ireland, the Congregation of Christian Brothers, which was the largest provider of residential care for boys in the country, received more allegations of abuse than all of the other male religious orders combined.[24] Artane was the largest industrial school. The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse found that Artane was under-staffed by a small number of largely inexperienced and untrained Brothers.[25]

In 2003, the order took legal action against the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, to prevent the Commission from naming deceased brothers and brothers who were too old to competently defend themselves. The High Court rejected the challenge, but did stipulate that the Commission must take into account the corroboration of accusations and the testing of witness evidence, and to allow the representatives of deceased brothers to cross-examine witnesses.[26] However, Justice Seán Ryan later overruled this when he took over the commission, and declared that individual perpetrators of abuse would not be named unless they had already been convicted [27]

The congregation issued a statement saying ""The Christian Brothers accept, with shame, the findings of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse ... The congregation is deeply sorry for the hurt we have caused - not just for the mistakes of the past, but for the inadequacy of our responses over recent years." [28]

Financial settlements

In late November 2009 the organization announced they would supply a €161 million (£145 million sterling) package as part of reparations for child abuse in Ireland.[29] This includes a donation of €30 million to a government trust and €4 million donated to provide counselling services.[30] Playing fields owned by the organisation and valued at €127 million would be transferred to joint ownership of the government and the trust that runs former Christian Brothers schools.[29]

United States[edit]

In 1998, a member of the Congregation of Christian Brothers was arrested for indecent solicitation of a minor.[31] Robert Brouillette was convicted in March 2000 of 10 charges related to child pornography.[32]

In 2011, the North American chapter of the Congregation of Christian Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to the financial burden caused by sex abuse lawsuits. The North American Province includes brothers in the United States and Canada. The majority of the claims were regarding the now-defunct Briscoe Memorial School, an orphanage and boarding school in Kent, Washington jointly run by the Archdiocese of Seattle and the Christian Brothers.[33]

In 2013, the North American chapter agreed to pay approximately $16.5 million in damages to more than 400 men and women who were sexually or physically abused as children by members of the order. Between 2006 and 2011, the order had already paid approximately 25.6 million to victims in 50 abuse cases.[34]

United Kingdom[edit]

In December 2012, the Christian Brothers school St Ambrose College, Altrincham, Greater Manchester, was implicated in a child sex abuse case. A former lay teacher was convicted of nineteen counts of sexual assault occurring between 1972 and 1991.[35]

In 2016, an ex-pupil of St Aidan's Christian Brothers school in Sunderland was paid £17,000 compensation after claiming two members of the Christian Brothers abused him at school in 1960s.[36]


In 2016, two former Christian Brothers were sent to prison for the both sexual and physical abuse. John Farrell the former Headmaster of St Ninian's Falkland received 5 years and Paul Kelly ten years.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ellingsen, Peter. Ballarat's good men of the cloth. The Age Newspaper, June 14, 2002.
  2. ^ "Catholic Church's 'failure' in Ballarat led to 'suffering, irreparable harm'". ABC News. 2017-12-06. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  3. ^ "Ballarat Christian Brothers 'misled police' over abuse, royal commission lawyers say". ABC News. 2016-10-31. Retrieved 2017-12-24.
  4. ^ "Christian brother found guilty of child sex offences". Australian Broadcasting Commission. 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2011-07-25.
  5. ^ "Diocese of Ballarat failed to act in the interests of abused children for decades, Royal Commission reports says | The Catholic Leader". 2017-12-06. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  6. ^ a b "Paedophile Christian Brother's 'inadequate' jail term increased after appeal". ABC News. 2015-09-18. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  7. ^ Russell, Mark (2015-03-27). "Former Christian Brother jailed for abusing 20 boys at six schools over 14 years". The Age. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  8. ^ "Violent and sexually 'defective': A long history of abuse at the hands of the Christian Brothers". ABC News. 2017-12-21. Retrieved 2017-12-24.
  9. ^ HENDERSON, FIONA (2013-05-03). "Abuse inquiry: Christian Brothers paid $1 million to defend Best". The Courier. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  10. ^ Wrigley, Brendan (2017-12-06). "We failed and we are sorry: church responds to scathing report". The Courier. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
  11. ^ Report of Case Study no. 11 - Congregation of Christian Brothers in Western Australia response to child sexual abuse at Castledare Junior Orphanage, St Vincent’s Orphanage Clontarf, St Mary’s Agricultural School Tardun and Bindoon Farm School PDF at official web site, 19 December 2014
  12. ^ Morris, Madeleine. "Christian Brothers spent $1m defending paedophile", ABC News (Australia), Australia, 3 May 2013. Retrieved on 3 May 2013.
  13. ^ Johnston, Chris (February 22, 2016). "Christian Brother 'gyrated' against me: Catholic sexual abuse victim". The Age.
  14. ^ "Christian Brothers 'abused 850 children'". Sky News. 22 February 2016. Archived from the original on 23 February 2016.
  15. ^ Johnston, Chris (2016-02-25). "Christian Brothers hired private investigator to 'dig dirt' on abuse victims". The Age. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  16. ^ "Christian Brother 'authorised funding for investigator to track abuse victims'". ABC News. 2016-02-24. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  17. ^ Glynis McNeight, Glynis. "Report from Glynis McNeight to Doyle Considine Lawyers re Brother Dowlan" (PDF). Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
  18. ^ Cunningham, Melissa (2016-02-24). "Investigator tracked down Dowlan sex abuse victims". The Courier. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  19. ^ "Brothers' handling of abuse 'indefensible'". 2013-05-03. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  20. ^ HENDERSON, FIONA (2013-05-03). "Abuse inquiry: Christian Brothers paid $1 million to defend Best". The Courier. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  21. ^ "Child and youth sexual abuse by clergy: The Canadian Situation". 2001-02-28. Retrieved 2009-04-08.
  22. ^ "Casual brutality marked life in Artane". Sunday Business Post. 2003-09-07. Archived from the original on 2009-05-30.
  23. ^ "Catholic order apologises publicly for abuse". BBC News. 1998-03-30. Retrieved 2009-04-08.
  24. ^ Jordan, Mary. "Irish inquiry indicts church-run schools".
  25. ^ Ryan Report, §7.32.
  26. ^ "Christian Brothers granted €1m in legal costs". RTÉ News. 2004-01-16.
  27. ^ "New information about abuse is divulged". RTÉ News. 2004-06-16.
  28. ^ "Victims make abusers' names call". May 27, 2009 – via
  29. ^ a b Catholic order pays out for abuse, BBC News, 25 November 2009
  30. ^ "Christian Brothers donate €34m in reparation". RTÉ News. 2009-11-25. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  31. ^ "Christian Brother caught in Net sex sting". Chicago Sun Times. 1998-04-21. Archived from the original on 2012-11-03. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
  32. ^ "CATHOLIC BROTHER WHO LIVED IN JOLIET SENTENCED". =The Joliet Daily News. 14 March 2000. Archived from the original on 11 September 2016. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  33. ^ "Catholic Christian Brothers order files for bankruptcy". April 29, 2011 – via
  34. ^ Winter, Michael (May 23, 2013). "Christian Brothers to pay $16M for abuse of children". USA TODAY. Archived from the original on May 24, 2013.
  35. ^ "Deacon Alan Morris jailed for school sex abuse", BBC News, 28 August 2014
  36. ^ Kleeman, Jenny. "Catholic church pays compensation over alleged abuse at UK school | The Guardian". Retrieved 2016-02-03.

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