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] It was found that St Alipius School was staffed almost entirely by paedophiles.[2]

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.[3] 281 Christian Brothers have had abuse complaints substantiated, and the Christian Brothers have paid $37.3 million in compensation.[4] 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) and pursued victims and their families who were sexually abused by Brother Edward Dowlan.[5][6] McNeight's report was tabled[7] which 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".[8] It was also shown that the Christian Brothers knew of abuse at the hands of Brothers but did not tell police[9] and spent almost $1.5 million defending paedophile Brothers Robert Best, Edward Dowlan and Stephen Farrell.[10]


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.[11]

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, Christian brothers schools were noted for brutal and frequent use of corporal punishment.[12]

Sexual abuse was also common. Artane Industrial school's staff hosted a number of Brothers who had repeatedly been warned for “embracing and fondling” boys. Others accused of rape, beat or bribed their victims into silence. Accused Brothers were invariably excused, lightly admonished or, typically, moved to other institutions where they were free to continue abusing children for decades.

1998 apologies

In Ireland in March 1998, the Congregation of the Christian Brothers published full-page advertisements in newspapers apologizing to former pupils who had been ill-treated whilst in their care. The unprecedented advertising campaign expressed "deep regret" on behalf of the Christian Brothers and listed telephone lines which former pupils could ring if they needed help.[13]

Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

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.[14] 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 [15]

The Commission found that thousands of Irish children at Christian Brothers institutions were abused and that more allegations were made against the Irish Christian Brothers than against all other male religious orders combined.[16][17]

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.[18]

They have accepted the allegations were correct, 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." [19]

Financial settlements

On the 5 November 2009 the organization announced they would be paying €34 million in reparations, following the publication of the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse the previous May. Up to €30m is to be given to a Government trust, in addition to €4m for counselling services. The donations reflect the "Christian Brothers' acceptance, shame and sorrow at the findings of the Ryan Report".[20]

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.[21] This includes a donation of €30 million to a government trust and €4 million donated to provide counselling services.[21] 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.[21]

United States[edit]

According to the John Jay Report, there were 4,392 sexual abuse allegations in the US against priests from 1950 to 2002.[22] During that period at least one member of the Congregation of Christian Brothers was arrested for child sex offences, in this case for indecent solicitation of a minor.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25] Between 2006 and 2011, the order had also paid approximately 25.6 million to victims in 50 abuse cases[25]

United Kingdom[edit]

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.[26]

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.[27] Other ex-pupils are coming forward and making similar claims [28]


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. ^ Johnston, Chris (February 22, 2016). "Christian Brother 'gyrated' against me: Catholic sexual abuse victim". The Age.
  4. ^ "Christian Brothers 'abused 850 children'". Sky News. 22 February 2016. Archived from the original on 23 February 2016.
  5. ^ Johnston, Chris (2016-02-25). "Christian Brothers hired private investigator to 'dig dirt' on abuse victims". The Age. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  6. ^ "Christian Brother 'authorised funding for investigator to track abuse victims'". ABC News. 2016-02-24. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  7. ^ Glynis McNeight, Glynis. "Report from Glynis McNeight to Doyle Considine Lawyers re Brother Dowlan" (PDF). Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
  8. ^ Cunningham, Melissa (2016-02-24). "Investigator tracked down Dowlan sex abuse victims". The Courier. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  9. ^ "Brothers' handling of abuse 'indefensible'". 2013-05-03. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  10. ^ HENDERSON, FIONA (2013-05-03). "Abuse inquiry: Christian Brothers paid $1 million to defend Best". The Courier. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  11. ^ "Child and youth sexual abuse by clergy: The Canadian Situation". 2001-02-28. Retrieved 2009-04-08.
  12. ^ "Casual brutality marked life in Artane". Sunday Business Post. 2003-09-07. Archived from the original on 2009-05-30.
  13. ^ "Catholic order apologises publicly for abuse". BBC News. 1998-03-30. Retrieved 2009-04-08.
  14. ^ "Christian Brothers granted €1m in legal costs". RTÉ News. 2004-01-16.
  15. ^ "New information about abuse is divulged". RTÉ News. 2004-06-16.
  16. ^ Jordan, Mary. "Irish inquiry indicts church-run schools".
  17. ^ Sharrock, David (2009-05-21). "Irish State colluded with religious authorities to hide child abuse report says". The Times. London. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
  18. ^ CNN, "Report reveals decades of child abuse in Irish institutions", 20 May 2009. Accessed 20 May 2009.
  19. ^ "Victims make abusers' names call". May 27, 2009 – via
  20. ^ "Christian Brothers donate €34m in reparation". RTÉ News. 2009-11-25. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
  21. ^ a b c Catholic order pays out for abuse, BBC News, 25 November 2009
  22. ^ John Jay College of Criminal Justice (2004), The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States 1950–2002 (PDF), United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, ISBN 978-1-57455-627-8, retrieved February 7, 2012
  23. ^ "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.
  24. ^ "Catholic Christian Brothers order files for bankruptcy". April 29, 2011 – via
  25. ^ a b Winter, Michael (May 23, 2013). "Christian Brothers to pay $16M for abuse of children". USA TODAY. Archived from the original on May 24, 2013.
  26. ^ Scheerhout, John. "Police launch child sex abuse probe at top all-boys school near Altrincham | Manchester Evening News". Retrieved 2012-12-08.
  27. ^ Kleeman, Jenny. "Catholic church pays compensation over alleged abuse at UK school | The Guardian". Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  28. ^ Victims, Abuse. "Support site for victims of abuse at St Aidan's | Wordpress". Retrieved 2016-12-16.

External links[edit]