Explore the Ryan Report

Chapter 2 — Upton

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Sexual abuse


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.


It seems that the Brother was induced to apply for his dispensation, and the request was in fact granted, but the Superior General was unhappy about the form of the request from Br Gilberto, and he gave advice to the Provincial about how to deal with cases like these: He [Br Gilberto] included a petition for dispensation that is worthless because he concludes saying that he is seeking it “because I have been requested to do so”. His complaint is: “I have been condemned without being informed of the nature of the charge against me. Nor have I been called upon to state my case”.


Fr Montes went on to give advice about procedure ‘in cases like these’: Even though the situation was difficult and dangerous, Fr Fabiano should have spoken with Gilberto before sending him to Kilmurry. He could have told him it was in his best interests to be sent away from Upton for the time being in order to put an end to gossip. I feel for Fr Fabiano because he was in a delicate situation, but experience has taught me in cases like these one has to let the person accused have his say. Otherwise, he will always be able to argue that he was condemned without being given the opportunity to defend himself.


There is a lack of explicit detail in the correspondence. Because the issue of sexual abuse was a sensitive one, the Rosminians developed a means of discussing it that obscured the facts in vague and coded language. The reason why an abuser left one institution and went to another was concealed. Such secrecy not only lessened the likelihood of the reporting and discovery of any further abuse in the new setting, but also reduced the awareness of sexual abuse as a major issue among the Community as a whole. The safety of boys in Upton, where this Brother had so recently served prior to his being discovered, were entirely ignored. Even though the petition for dispensation in this case was considered ‘worthless’, the authorities were nevertheless in a position to achieve the desired outcome of the quiet departure of the offender from the Order. It would appear that no investigation took place as to how many children might have been abused or how they might have been affected.


The contents of the Rome files illustrates the importance of good archives. Not merely did the files help to establish, through contemporary documents, the extent of sexual abuse, they also afforded corroboration of many of the allegations made by complainants. From the Rome files, the Committee also learned about attitudes to the sexual abuse of children at that time, and how known abusers were dealt with by the Order. They proved invaluable sources of information. An institution without good records is one without a memory. It cannot learn from the past, so the management has to deal with each case of abuse as a new problem. Failure to keep records increases the risk of more children being abused, and of the discovery of abuse being mismanaged.


Three members of the Order gave evidence. Two of these denied any knowledge of sexual abuse as an issue in Upton. The remaining individual, Br Alfonso, gave detailed information about sexual abuse that he had discovered and the action he had taken on foot of those discoveries while he was Prefect in Upton and Ferryhouse between the early 1950s and early 1970s.


Br Alfonso said that, when he was Prefect, he was responsible for identifying to his Superiors seven sexual abusers operating in Upton. He confirmed they were as follows: Br Fausto; Br Constantin; A named night watchman; An unnamed lay teacher; Br Mateo; Br Mario, Br Gilberto.


He said that all of these individuals were removed from the School.


Br Alfonso said he reported these individuals to his then Superiors, Fr Fabiano and Fr Alanzo. Fr Orsino, Provincial of the Order, was also involved in the reporting of one of these individuals. He said that, when he reported these people, he was never given any indication about whether they had any previous history of abuse: These things were not tossed around among the Superiors nor were they ever mentioned at a table at any time, they were always kept secret.


Despite the number of individuals who were found to be sexually abusing children in Upton, Br Alfonso told the Committee that there was never any instruction given to watch out for possible abuse and abusers, nor were there guidelines on how to deal with such activities.


What seems clear is that, following his discovery of some sexual abusers in Upton, Br Alfonso went on a crusade to purge ‘immorality’ amongst the boys themselves. His evidence suggests that, once he revealed the identity of the abusers amongst staff members, the opportunity was afforded to boys to come forward and to tell him if they were being abused by fellow pupils. This version of events is in stark contrast with the evidence from witnesses, some of whom describe being falsely accused of ‘scamping’, a term used in the School to describe masturbation.

  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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