A matter concerning Br Gautier was brought to the Provincial Council’s attention in the early 1950s. The Superior wrote to the Provincial setting out the matter. He explained that there were occasions when Br Gautier had stripped small boys who were in care in Salthill in order to apply a medical lotion. This was not an uncommon practice, in that boys suffering from various ailments, such as scabies, were usually treated with a medical lotion. The Superior questioned Br Gautier, who denied emphatically that anything improper had occurred and volunteered to attend at the Provincialate in Booterstown to defend his actions.
The Superior wrote that Br Gautier had acted ‘indiscreetly’ and should have brought to his attention the fact that the boys required treatment so that he could deal with it as he thought appropriate. He warned that there were ‘boys in our midst who have told lies about their companions with a view to having such punished’. The Superior remarked that he had intended to warn Br Gautier to be careful but that the matter lapsed from his memory. He added that Br Gautier ‘is severe – I mean stern’. He accepted Br Gautier’s explanation of the matter.
Br Gautier also wrote to the Provincial and explained what had led him to strip boys. It had been reported to him that two boys were suffering from a disease. He said that he had sought the advice of a priest on the matter. The priest gave him permission to strip the boys, to see whether they were in fact suffering from a disease. Br Gautier swore that nothing improper had taken place.
A Visitation Report later that year noted that Br Gautier was an untiring worker with no difficulty handling the large number of boys in the School. However, the Report noted that ’he resents direction or interference in his work. He has had difficulties with his Superiors, both in Glin and in Galway on this point’. The writer also noted that Br Gautier was below average intelligence.
Br Ryan of the General Council wrote to Br Rice of the Provincial Council six months later: I think it would be well to give Br Gautier a transfer from there on the first opportunity. I got a hint of that some time ago. I do not imply great urgency, but merely for the young Brother’s own sake.
Br Gautier was duly transferred to Limerick three months later. He never taught in an industrial school again.
Br Ryan clearly had previous suspicions regarding Br Gautier and, in the light of these suspicions, his behaviour with the boys in Salthill should have given rise to urgent action. The issue that should have been investigated was whether there was a sexual motive to what the Brother did. Relevant matters included whether it was his function to examine boys, what records he had kept of his inspections, where and when the examinations took place and in whose presence, why the Brother consulted the priest, and how many boys were involved. Before the topic was closed and suspicion dispelled, the boys should have been interviewed. In the result, no clear decision was made, but the Superior thought that the Brother acted ‘indiscreetly’ and he was transferred subsequently ‘for his own sake’.