The Provincial Report of June 1955 referred to the fact that Br Garcia18 had complained that discipline under the current Manager was somewhat lax. This report also made reference to immorality among the boys.
A witness who was in Greenmount in the 1940s and early 1950s told the Committee about unnecessary punishments administered during class by Br Garcia: If you can imagine that being a desk and out here is the seating, it comes out about six or seven inches from that, you knelt up on that and it is on the backs of the legs you got the stick. You might say did he hit you four times, did he hit you six times, I couldn’t honestly and on oath say exactly how many times he struck me at any one time, but that was his modus operandi of trying to teach. Now, he had a saying like when we would fall in from school, he knew his class by the way they walked, a horrible thing for a human being to say ... We were all limping, that’s what he meant.
A Visitation Report to the General Council in the mid-1950s recorded that: Br Garcia reported that he considered that discipline was somewhat relaxed since the present Superior took up office. The Superior assured me that all care is taken to have the boys superintended and supervised at all times.
His colleague, Mr Olivero, who gave evidence to the Committee, insisted Br Garcia had a great rapport with the boys and ‘... wasn’t severe or anything like that. He would be a disciplinarian, as I would have been myself, I presume’.
A major crisis in the affairs of the Industrial School came to a head in late 1955, when the Resident Manager, Br Carlito24 and a senior Brother on the teaching staff, Br Garcia, were the subjects of serious allegations of sexual abuse of boys in the School, resulting in the transfer of the Resident Manager and the resignation from the Congregation of the other Brother. The latter protested his innocence at the time, and subsequently maintained that his voluntary departure by way of dispensation from vows came about because of his dismay at the way the matter was handled. The Resident Manager remained in the Congregation and later was the focus of further complaints of sexual impropriety.
Some five months after this Visitation, Br Blanco, a member of the General Council, carried out an unusually long Visitation to Greenmount. It lasted 12 days rather than the usual two to three days. Allegations of sexual abuse of boys were made against two respected members of the Community, Br Carlito, the Resident Manager, and Br Garcia, either before or during this Visitation.
The following day, Br Gomez collected Canon David and recorded in the diary: Asked Canon David when boys and Bros. had been interviewed if he wanted to see Bros. Carlito & Garcia & he said yes. Phoned them at Passage W. & they came along within half an hour. Returning from Greenmount with Canon David he asked if a Brother had been holding visitation there. I said yes but he had not yet delivered his report on visitation. In that case he said he would say nothing.
On 8th December, the bishop told Br Gomez, during the course of a telephone conversation, that he would see Brs Carlito and Garcia, who were back at Greenmount following the Canon’s visit, if they wished to see him. Br Gomez made an appointment for the Brothers to see the bishop the following day.
Br Garcia furnished medical evidence that he was incapable of testifying before the Committee, but he did provide a statement dealing with these events: I learned of these allegations in circumstances when I was walking along the corridor in Greenmount Industrial School and Br Allente approached me and told me that I and another Brother were to go to the Bishop’s Palace to speak to Bishop Cornelius Lucey who was then the Bishop of Cork ... At this remove in time I have difficulty recalling the precise allegations as related to me by Bishop Lucey. In general terms the allegations were to the effect that children were being abused in the school and that I was being blamed. I immediately denied those allegations to the Bishop and I inquired as to who had made these allegations against me. Bishop Lucey would not provide these names. I also inquired as to what individual had made the complaint and I did not get that name either. I was then told to leave. Some time later I was invited again to the Bishop’s Palace and had a discussion again with the Bishop about alleged sexual abuse in which I was allegedly involved. I immediately denied any such involvement in this type of activity. I was invited back again on a third separate occasion and I inquired of the Bishop as to when all of this was going to end and I was told by the Bishop “that there was no smoke without fire”. I became extremely upset about the way in which this matter was being handled and took the view that if this was the way that matters were being dealt with that I would be better off out of the Presentation Brothers.
It is not clear that the investigation in 1955 established that the Brothers were guilty of the charges made against them. The two Brothers protested their innocence, and surviving documents do not reveal the results of the investigations. What is clear is that the bishop and his senior clerical investigator believed that Brs Carlito and Garcia had engaged in sexual abuse of boys. Nevertheless, the two men were permitted to move on to new positions dealing with children. There was no question of reporting them to the Gardaí. While it is impossible to be sure from the documents, the probability is that these complaints about sexual abuse came to light because boys felt able to confide in the young volunteer priest who visited the School. This would conform with a pattern that was seen in other institutions, whereby children were able to report abuse to a sympathetic adult when a suitable opportunity presented. The involvement of the Bishop ensured that the complaints were taken seriously and investigated. Further allegations of sexual abuse dogged Br Carlito’s subsequent career. When the Gardaí were investigating one set of complaints of sexual abuse in the mid-1990s, the information supplied by a senior member of the Congregation was seriously misleading.
One complainant, Michael,33 gave evidence of being abused by Br Garcia. He had been in Greenmount in the late 1940s and was discharged in the early 1950s. Michael said that he was about 12 when the abuse started, and that Br Garcia anally raped him about four or five times. He said that he ran away from the School and went with a friend to the local Chief Superintendent in Cork, Superintendent Caffrey,34 because his father worked for him and he knew him. Michael told the superintendent about the abuse.
He brought Michael and his friend to see the bishop: ... he brought me in a police car ... he was in the front and myself and [my friend] were in the back and ... he drove up there anyway. The bishop was there anyway and Superintendent Caffrey went in. He said "there is two lads here from Greenmount". That’s what I presume he said to the bishop ... He went in first and he left us to wait. Then whatever conversation they had he called me and [my friend] in. He said "tell the bishop what’s happening?" So we told him that we can’t go to sleep at night, that this man is tormenting us, we can’t go to the toilets or anything. Because Br. Garcia was in charge of the dormitory, right. That was his – he was in charge. So, Bishop Cohalan said "the Christian Brothers (sic) don’t do these things at all". He said "you are two devils". He said "I am going to get ye excommunicated". We were more frightened than anything. So we came back out with Superintendent Caffrey ... and the sergeant drove us up to the School ... the next morning then we got a flogging.
In their statement in response to Michael’s allegations against Br Garcia, the Presentation Brothers made no mention of the canonical inquiry of the mid-1950s. Br Minehane who, in his direct evidence to the Investigation Committee, acknowledged that he was aware of the canonical inquiry, signed the statement on behalf of the Presentation Brothers and stated: The Complainant makes the most appalling allegations against Br. Garcia ... It seems likely that the Complainant was taught by Br. Garcia. Br. Garcia is now [real name]. He strongly denies all of the Complainant’s allegations.
Br Garcia was represented at the hearing and denied the allegations made against him.
Another witness recalled events surrounding Br Garcia’s departure. He told the Committee: Some of the boys were getting taken out of bed and they would go to the Brother’s room at night ... I was in a very good position to see it happening ... My bed was right opposite the door ... [The Brothers] had a room annexed to the dormitory itself ... [He] used to come in, tap the bed, walk up the dormitory, walk back down and he’d walk out first.