The second recorded account of sexual abuse by a Brother who served in Artane concerns Br Herve, who was sent there in the late 1930s with a history of sexual abuse in a previous school in the south of the country, and who worked there on administrative duties until his retirement some seven years later. He came to Artane following a short stay in an institution to which he had been moved as a matter of urgency. In the school in which he was a teacher, Br Herve was accused of having ‘kissed, fondled, embraced and meddled with boys in his class’ and he admitted that the charges were ‘substantially true’. Br Herve’s Superior was aware of his activities for at least four years. The Superior was not alone in his knowledge, because, as the correspondence discloses, boys in the School, some parents, the Dean of the diocese, local clergy and even visiting priests conducting Missions were aware of the Brother’s behaviour, in addition to some members of the public.
The problem presented by Br Herve’s conduct in his school came to a head in early 1938, when the Superior expelled two boys for immorality, following an investigation that he said he carried out reluctantly. ‘Why I moved in the case of the boys ... at all was because two mothers – Doctors’ wives asked me to investigate certain bad conduct and of course language going on in a certain class’.
The boy’s mother had more success in enlisting the support of the Dean of the Parish than with the solicitor. In February 1938, the Dean called on the Superior of the School and asked that Br Herve be ‘removed at once on grounds of immorality’. The Dean stated that Br Herve ‘kisses, fondles, embraces and indeed fiddles or meddles with the boys’ and that this ‘has been going on for the past five years’. The Dean said that Br Herve’s activities had been brought up at the last Mission in the parish, when a number of parents asked the Missioner for advice as to what to do. He had recommended that they report the matter to the Superior of the College, but the parents refused, ‘not wishing to get the Brother concerned into trouble’. The Dean was reluctant to get involved; indeed, he specifically asked the Superior not to ‘drag him into it’ but was just asking him to transfer Br Herve from the School.
The Superior had known about Br Herve for years, as he informed the Provincial: During the past few years I spoke to Br Herve about these matters, while last September I called him into the Office and abused him and rated him roundly for his kissing of the boys and his fondling of them. On that occasion he promised to give it up for good.
The Superior did not tell the Dean that Br Herve had a history of misconduct with boys: ‘In speaking to the Dean I did not pretend to know such a thing existed at all’.
The Superior told the Provincial that in his view the matter had come to light out of ‘a woman’s revenge’, but he accepted that ‘Quite apart from this it appears that Br Herve is guilty’. He suggested that, if the Provincial investigated the matter, he should do so discreetly and not come to the School during school hours. The Provincial dispatched one of his Consultors who stayed in a hotel so that ‘the investigation could be carried out quietly’. This Brother recorded that Br Herve: admitted that the charges were substantially true. He did kiss and fondle boys, but always (a) openly, (b) when others were present, and never in a gross manner. It was not alleged by anyone that there was gross immorality at any time.
Because he had admitted his guilt, the Br Consultor did not feel that it was necessary to investigate the matter further, which saved him the ‘disagreeable duty’ of seeing those who had made the charges, and saved Br Herve and the School ’from talk that would arise if an investigation were to be made by me’. He recommended Br Herve’s immediate removal because: His actions are a constant source of talk and criticism among the boys and their parents. It may be taken for granted that he is much talked of [in the area] and being one who is loose in morals, and one who should not have charge of boys.
The Provincial took immediate action and ordered that Br Herve be transferred. He wrote to Br Herve notifying him and also referring to the impact of his abusive activities on the Congregation and on the boys who were abused: By indulging in such improprieties you have scandalised your pupils, given rise to a good deal of unsavoury gossip among them and their parents, done grave injury to the reputation of the College, brought discredit on yourself, and, I greatly fear lowered the Brothers in the estimation of a big section of the public. May God grant that the consequences are not worse. Every Christian Brother is bound by his Rule as well as by the laws of charity and justice to do all in his power to safeguard the virtue of his pupils and to assist them as far as he can to preserve their innocence if they have not already lost it. You[r] conduct was well calculated to rob them of this precious treasure of innocence. What greater wrong could you do them? You cannot reasonably make the plea that you did not realise the gravity of your offence.
The Provincial gave Br Herve a Canonical Warning pursuant to Constitution 218 and a ‘serious warning that a repetition of any of the faults with which you are now charged will render you liable to expulsion from the Congregation’. He told Br Herve to make a determined effort to combat his ‘immoderate tendency to softness in dealing with your pupils and to think seriously over the grave spiritual harm your actions inflict on both them and yourself’. He also stated that, ‘May God grant that the consequences are not worse’. He transferred Br Herve as soon as possible pursuant to the rules of the Congregation.
On the same day that he wrote to Br Herve, the Provincial also wrote to the Superior of the School sympathising in ‘the amount of worry and humiliation that has been inflicted on you by the deplorable conduct’ of Br Herve. He stated that: The unfortunate man is really more to be pitied than to be censured, but to make him realise the gravity of his offence I am giving him the canonical warning provided for in the Constitution, and in doing so I think I am adopting the most charitable course that can be pursued in a case of this kind.
The Superior replied, thanking the Provincial for his comments and agreeing that Br Herve was more to be pitied than to be censured and concluding ‘He just has no control over his hands ...’.
The crisis was resolved with the boy’s return to the School and Br Herve’s transfer. The Superior was more than a little relieved: For the past four years I always feared that when the inevitable would come in his case that it would be much more serious.
Similarly, the Superior noted that the complaining parent was not sure whether Br Herve had ‘meddled with the boys in their privy parts’ but thought not. He then commented. ‘Knowing Br Herve as we do I thank God he did not do worse’.
During the Phase III hearing into Artane, Br Reynolds, referring to the nature of Br Herve’s meddling, commented as follows: But I mean, what the Provincial believed or didn’t believe I am not sure is of any consequence. What I was saying in the submission is that the lady thought it didn’t happen, the Dean thought it did. And, obviously, that’s the view that I am taking, that if the Dean thought it did well then it did happen.
This observation is scarcely correct, as the correspondence shows that the Superior had brought Br Herve into his office in September 1937 ‘and abused him and rated him roundly for his kissing of the boys and his fondling of them. On that occasion he promised to give it up for good’. However, Br Reynolds persisted in his view that they had no evidence prior to 1938.