A complainant resident in Artane during the late 1960s alleged sexual abuse by Br Etienne, which he said took place in the classroom and in the attic. He described an occasion when Br Etienne told him to stay behind in the classroom when the other boys left to go to the yard. The Brother closed the door and locked it. He went on to describe what happened: An item of furniture, to me it was either a cupboard with books or a piano or some sort of wooden structure was pulled from the wall, Br Etienne started kissing the back of my neck and ... My memories are just, well being put down, lying on my stomach; Br Etienne lying on top of me with my face sideways, kissing my neck, kissing the side of my face. I remember pain in my buttocks area, it was the pain of, like, somebody trying to enter. It ended with hot splashes on my back area, my bottom area. Then I was allowed to join the other boys in the yard.
The witness went on to say that his trousers were pulled down and his shirt lifted during this encounter. He said that Br Etienne was dressed in the usual long cassock and cummerbund and that, during the assault, he had his cassock open and his trousers down. He said that this happened a number of times in the classroom.
The complainant said that this had occurred on more than one occasion. As to other memories of Br Etienne, he said: he was kind, I don’t ever remember being hit by him in class or anything like that ... He was my teacher. I don’t ever remember being actually physically smacked by him.
The witness remembered Br Etienne making contact with him when he was leaving Artane at nine years of age: I remember there was ten boys, about ten, could be more could be less, waiting in a waiting room for a minibus that was going to take us to [another Industrial School]. I remember him being sat in the waiting room and I remember him giving me a white prayer book which I took at the time, but eventually found out that on the inside it said ‘always keep our secret’.
The statement of the Congregation and a statement delivered by Br Etienne to the Investigation Committee denied that the complainant had been abused.
In a letter to Br Gibson dated October 2003, Br Etienne admitted to certain acts of sexual abuse of the complainant but denied that this happened in the classroom or in the attic. The admission by Br Etienne was sent to Br Gibson in the context of the complainant’s application to the Residential Institutions Redress Board. It was forwarded to the Commission by Br Gibson when he received it.
Counsel for the Christian Brothers said that the Congregation did not consider it appropriate to test the credibility of a complainant in circumstances where the fact of abuse had been admitted. The Investigation Committee noted that the Christian Brothers made a statement some months before Br Etienne’s letter, saying: The Complainant makes allegations of abuse of a sexual nature on a number of occasions against [Br Etienne] ... For my own part I find the allegations difficult to accept. In particular where the Complainant alleges that on one occasion the abuse allegedly occurred in a classroom. The classrooms were very public places and I cannot accept that abuse of this nature was conducted in such a location.
Counsel reiterated that a decision was made by the Congregation to send Brothers accused of criminal offences to their own solicitors to be separately represented, that the Congregation did not question these Brothers in relation to the allegations, and that they did not have access to Br Etienne’s statement as prepared through his own solicitors, when the Congregational statement was being prepared. It was a policy decision to have a dividing line in respect of those Brothers who were subject to the possibility of criminal prosecution.