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Chapter 2 — Upton

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Sexual abuse


This is another Brother who was discovered by Br Alfonso to have been sexually abusing children in Upton. The matter is referred to in a letter in the late 1950s from the Provincial, Fr Placido, to the Superior General, Fr Lucca, without mentioning Br Alfonso’s involvement: Bro Mateo here has recently been indiscreet cum puero41 or perhaps cum pueris42 so Fr R deems it advisable that he should be changed to avoid danger or talk especially in view of the big influx. We thought first of sending him to Kilmurry but the Rector put forward good reasons against that apart from the fact that the place would be unsuitable for the brother’s health in view of the insomnia from which he suffers. We are of the opinion that Omeath would be the better place where he had been previously ... and there was no complaint about him as regards conduct ... Bro Mateo should be satisfactory ... and I think his slip will be a lesson to him to be careful and watchful ...


Fr Placido wrote again, expressing his relief at having received a reply to his previous letter, which he feared had gone astray, a matter which would have concerned him greatly as it contained references to matters about Br Mateo which he did not wish to become widely known. In the same letter he stated: I don’t think we need worry about Bro Mateo at Omeath as he has got a warning and the Rector will be vigilant. There wasn’t much of a serious nature against him si dice.43


A complainant from the late 1950s gave evidence that corroborated Br Alfonso. He alleged he was sexually assaulted by Br Mateo in his early days in the School. He recalled he was playing ball one evening and the ball went into the hall. Br Mateo found the ball and called the complainant over and sat him on his knee and fondled his privates and kissed him. This abuse went on over a period of time until it was eventually reported to Br Alfonso. He did not officially report it to Br Alfonso. What actually happened was that Br Alfonso found him coming out of the hall one night when he had been missing from the games room. He was initially frightened to tell Br Alfonso what was happening but eventually he did, and he was told to go and wait for Br Alfonso in the office. Some time later, Br Alfonso came back and questioned him further, and he gave all the details and was told not to worry any more as Br Mateo would be transferred. During the hearing into this evidence, counsel for the Rosminians intervened and said that they accepted that it had happened as described.


No steps were taken to dismiss this Brother, but he was transferred to another school where it was believed that he would be less of a danger. The Provincial was complacent and did not regard what the Brother had been doing as being extremely serious, referring to it as a ‘slip’. The Rome file: Br Mario44


Br Mario’s parents died when he was young, and he was raised by the Rosminians at Upton. He took his perpetual vows three years later. In the mid-1950s, he was transferred to Upton and appointed to an administrative role. In the early 1960s, he was sent to Ferryhouse where he was appointed as an assistant to the Rector.


He was discovered by Br Alfonso to have been sexually abusing boys during his posting in Ferryhouse, where he had been transferred following his term in Upton. A letter from the Provincial to the Superior General in the mid-1960s reported the discovery, and stated that the Brother had been transferred to Kilmurry for the time being. The letter said: that there were two members of his community who had been rather indiscreet with the boys and owing to some talk there and admiratio45 he wished to have the two changed sine mora.46 One was Br Mario47 ... and went to Clonmel [Ferryhouse] at the request of Fr Alanzo ... He admitted his faults and went to Kilmurry on 19th pro tem and about the middle of January Fr Pietro48 will find suitable work for him in the office there – at Drumcondra and so will accept him with the debite cautele49 ... You will fully appreciate in such circumstances how instant action is often necessary and the changes made are a cover up in some respects.


He wrote again, a month later, stating that: I hope you got two previous letters I sent ... the second one was about the changes of the brothers I was compelled to make owing to two who failed in fidelity to the sacredness of their work amongst the boys.


Fr Lucca replied a few days later. He wrote: The distressing news ... shows that the Rector is very attentive and decisive. I approve the changes you had to make and I hope that the guilty ones are convinced of the serious wrong they have done and are repentant. All this causes me great sadness especially [when I consider] the elder of the two. We really must work out our salvation ‘in fear and trembling.’ I am well aware of the Brothers whom you have had to change in these painful circumstances and I pray that the Lord will help them in their new positions ... I am sorry for you too who have had to make all these urgent and painful changes. Let us pray the Lord that nothing else of the like will occur.


Br Mario was transferred to a Rosminian School for the Blind, where he remained until his death over 10 years later.


Transferring a Brother with this history of sexual abuse to a school for blind children was reckless and inexplicable.


A complainant, who was in Upton from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, made a complaint about Br Mario. He alleged that Br Mario pinned him up against a table in the kitchen, and the complainant said he was conscious of Br Mario’s arousal. This happened on a number of occasions and only ceased when the complainant threatened to tell Fr Eduardo, the Resident Manager: That man annoyed me week in week out for four or five weeks, commencing when I was working in the kitchen. Now, he knew I wanted to go on holidays, that man used to have me in tears. He would come up behind my back when I would be scrubbing pots, and I mean scrubbing pots now, and he would put his arms around me and he would be saying to me “I don’t know will I let you go on holidays or not”. He used to force me up against the sink. Believe me he used to have an erection on him. This was going on for weeks ... He used to annoy me every day of the week for weeks until I threatened to tell Fr Eduardo on him. I told him to do what he wanted. I got the holidays anyway. When I threatened him with Fr Eduardo he didn’t come near me any more.


The question arises why this Brother was not removed, or even given a formal Canonical Warning. The Provincial expressly acknowledged the main purpose of transferring Brothers who had been abusing when he said ‘the changes made are a cover up in some respects’. The Rome file: Br Gilberto50


Br Gilberto joined the Rosminian Order in the early 1940s, and he took his perpetual vows in the mid-1940s. He was in Ferryhouse in the mid-1940s for 10 months and again in the early 1950s. He was sent to Upton in the mid-1950s in an administrative role.


His personnel card recorded that he was moved from Upton to Kilmurry before the end of the year in which he moved to Upton. The words ‘during year’ follow but are crossed out, and the words ‘left on this date: and later was dispensed from vows’ inserted. His service in Upton, accordingly, was very short, extending from his transfer there, which in the normal way would have happened in September. This Brother was another alleged sexual abuser who was reported by Br Alfonso.


The actual reason for his sudden removal from Upton and his quitting the Order was made perfectly clear by the evidence of Br Alfonso to the Investigation Committee. The reasons for his departure can be further deduced from a letter by the Superior General, Fr Montes to Fr Orsino, the Provincial in Ireland, although the details are obscured by circumlocutions: As regards the latest painful news of Gilberto, keeping precedents in mind and his own spontaneous remark dating from last Spring about leaving the Institute, I now think that the best advice to offer him is to ask for a dispensation. He must realise that, after what has happened at Upton, he can no longer enjoy the confidence of Superiors and could not be happy in the Institute. If he agrees to what is suggested, tell him to write his petition on a large size sheet, as big at least as the one I am writing on, and to say that he is asking for a dispensation because he feels himself unequal to the obligations of a religious.

  1. Quoted in Bríd Fahey Bates, The Institute of Charity: Rosminians. Their Irish Story 1860–2003 (Dublin: Ashfield Publishing Press, 2003), p 74.
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  5. 1933 Rules and Regulations for the Certified Industrial Schools in Saorstát Éireann, Rule 12.
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  28. Latin for curiosity, astonishment, surprise.
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  39. Latin for in a class of its own.
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  41. Latin for with a boy.
  42. Latin for with boys.
  43. Latin for As spoken.
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  45. Latin for curiosity, astonishment, surprise.
  46. Latin for without delay.
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  49. Latin for due caution.
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  54. Dr Anna McCabe was the Department of Education Inspector for most of the relevant period.
  55. Records exist for only 19 of the 23 years.
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