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Chapter 8 — Letterfrack

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Sexual abuse in Letterfrack


Br Telfour cited an incident he witnessed soon after his arrival in the school and which involved Br Algrenon, a member of staff during the mid-1960s. He wanted to speak to Br Algrenon so he went up to his [Br Algrenon’s] room. However, instead of finding Br Algrenon he found a boy washing his penis at Br Algrenon’s wash basin. Br Telfour did not ask the boy why he was doing it. He told the Committee: ‘I presumed he was injured and maybe too embarrassed to go into the nurse or whatever’. The boy told him he was washing it on Br Algrenon’s instruction. Br Telfour acted as if nothing strange had happened and did not enquire any further into the matter.


It is hard to understand how the sight that met Br Telfour when he opened the door of a fellow Brother’s private bedroom did not make him suspicious. It is, of course, possible that this incident may not be related to sexual activity between the Brother and the boy but it should have undoubtedly raised a concern. He testified to the Committee that he did not check with Br Algrenon, as it was his first year in the place and he did not know how to handle the situation: ‘No, I didn’t. I didn’t know how to handle this. It was my first year there. I wasn’t long into the place‘.


Br Telfour told the Committee that he should have brought the complaints he got from the two boys about Br Curtis, and the incident in Br Algrenon’s room, to the Superior’s attention. He said that at that time he knew nothing about such activity, although he did acknowledge that he had encountered an allegation of sexual abuse whilst he was a student in Marino.


In Letterfrack, he was able to deal with the allegation against the lay worker by sending the complaining boys to the Superior but he failed, to his later regret, to deal with the complaints that were reported to him about one Brother and the incident in the other Brother’s bedroom.


Br Telfour’s explanation for his failure to act appropriately in any of the instances of sexual abuse reported to him was his inexperience and lack of knowledge in how to deal with such a situation. However, it points to a moral and ethical ambivalence about this issue. An adult encountering sexual abuse of a child, even in the 1960s, should have had no hesitation in acting to stop it. This Brother was wracked with indecision when a fellow Brother was involved although he did make some effort, albeit indirect, in the case of the lay worker. Responses to sexual abuse were influenced by loyalty to the Congregation and to the individual Brother rather than the need to protect children in care. The preceding four incidents all occurred during Br Dax’s time there, and indicate ignorance and incompetence in relation to this issue. These Brothers recalled complaints about sexual abuse that were not recorded anywhere in the documentation, which reveals the difficulty of measuring the full extent of sexual abuse in Letterfrack.


Br Anatole, a former Christian Brother who worked in Letterfrack during the late 1960s and early 1970s, was convicted of abusing three boys in Letterfrack. None of the victims gave evidence.


The Congregation files show that he was accused of sexual abuse in another school in which he worked after his period in Letterfrack. In 1977 a boy in a Christian Brothers day school alleged that Br Anatole had asked him to rub oil on his back and brought him to a room where he exposed himself and gave the boy 20 pence. The boy told his mother who told a Brother in the School. He promised to look into the matter. Time passed and, when the mother enquired as to the position, she discovered that nothing had been done. She was very angry and called to see the Superior, who interviewed the boy in the presence of his mother and, having elicited the details, he contacted his own authorities immediately.


The allegations were investigated in early September 1977. Br Anatole flatly denied the charge, and even wrote to the parents of the boy setting out details of how it could not have been him. The investigating Brother, however, did not believe him. He stated: ‘To me the evidence seems convincing’.


In August 1977, Br Anatole was transferred to a different secondary school in Dublin where he taught for one academic year. He had previously requested a dispensation in 1977 and was granted exclaustration in May 1978.


After exclaustration, he taught for one academic in a rural secondary school year run by a Congregation of nuns before commencing studies for the priesthood. It should be noted that in 1978 the Provincial of St Mary’s Province told the President of Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, that he could not ‘unreservedly recommend Br Anatole as a suitable candidate for the priesthood’. He was accordingly not accepted as a candidate.


Br Anatole joined the Servite Community in September 1980. He was granted transitus to the Servites of Mary in February 1981 and a dispensation in June 1982, processed by the Servites of Mary. This was done at his request after counselling.


In August 1982, he joined the staff of a Dublin secondary school where he taught for 10 years. This was in two stages, with a two-year break in the middle to work on an academic text. He was convicted in 2002 in respect of abuse perpetrated in Letterfrack.


Br Anatole told the Committee how his abusive activities began: I suppose it arose out of need for intimacy, my sexuality was very very juvenile, very immature and I had no experience of women of any kind, no experience of contact with women. Out of my need for intimacy and of sexual experience, it gradually developed ...


He said that the abuse generally took place in his bedroom or the wash hall, as he was careful to avoid detection and generally abused children when the other Brothers were away or unlikely to discover him in the act. He regularly used the guise of wrestling with the boys in order to disguise the actual nature of what he was engaged in. He said that he would often initiate the abuse by asking the boys whether they wanted to wrestle. He said that boys would often come to him and ask to wrestle because they wanted the treats he would give them after he had abused them. During these wrestling matches, both he and the boy would be in swimming togs and he would press up against the boy until he, Br Anatole, ejaculated. He felt that the pretence of a wrestling match ‘was an innocuous way of getting some kind of physical contact with another human being’, which would result in an ejaculation.


He told the Committee that he believed that if anyone had discovered him they would not have thought anything untoward was going on: the sight of a Brother and a boy dressed only in their swimming togs wrestling together in a room on their own would not, he thought, have raised any particular concern.

  1. Letterfrack Industrial School, Report on archival material held at Cluain Mhuire, by Bernard Dunleavy BL (2001).
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  6. Prior Park was a residential school run by the Christian Brothers near Bath, England.
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  19. This document is undated, although the date ‘6th November 1964’ is crossed out.
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  32. See table at paragraph 3.20 .
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  36. This information is taken from a report compiled for the Christian Brothers by Michael Bruton in relation to Letterfrack in 2001.
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  58. Electricity Supply Board.
  59. See table at paragraph 8.21 .
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  61. Cross-reference to CB General Chapter where notes that this arrangement was with the agreement of the Department of Education.
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  65. Gateways Chapter 3 goes into this in detail.