Br Sergio was convicted of sexual assault in 2002. The offences were committed at locations in Clonmel and Dublin in the early 1990s. Br Sergio received a sentence of three and a half years’ imprisonment.
The victim of one assault was a former resident of Ferryhouse, who was living in the Rosminian aftercare centre in Dublin at the time the assaults took place. He was aged 18 at the time of the first assault. The accused, Br Sergio, worked in the aftercare centre. The victim complained to the Rosminian authorities, and the Provincial confronted Br Sergio with the allegations. Br Sergio admitted his guilt and was immediately removed from the centre. He was admitted for treatment at Our Lady of Victory in Stroud in the mid-1990s, and he was treated there for a number months, although he remained in follow-up care for a number of years. He applied for and was granted a dispensation from the Order. In the late 1990s, the victim of the sexual assault contacted the Rosminians, to tell them that he was reporting the matter to the Gardaí. The Rosminians informed the Department of this, and told them that they would co-operate fully with any Garda inquiry.
Br Sergio had previously worked in Ferryhouse from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s. In his evidence to the Committee, he said that he had been appointed Prefect in the late 1970s, when he was given charge of ‘B’ Group, which was composed of about 37 boys aged between 10 and 12. He took over from Fr Antonio, who had been transferred to ‘A’ Group to replace Br Bruno who had left the School suddenly, as a result of the discovery of his activities as a sexual abuser. He became aware of the reason for Br Bruno’s departure ‘a week or two’ after his departure. Given the age of the boys in his group, and the length of time he was in charge, his group would have contained many of the children who were sexually abused by Br Bruno or who were aware of his activities.
One complainant who was present in Ferryhouse in the late 1980s alleged that Br Sergio sexually abused him. He told the Committee that he was taking a shower after he had been brought back to the School after attempting to abscond. Br Sergio was supervising him and molested him in the shower.
He also described other less serious instances of improper behaviour, when Br Sergio ‘put his hands on me’. He alleged that Br Sergio would rub his knee while driving him down to see his relatives.
Br Sergio denied these allegations, both through his counsel during the cross-examination of the witness and directly during his own evidence, when he described them as ‘totally untrue’.
Br Sergio denied abusing children in Ferryhouse or even being attracted to them. When asked if he had ‘inappropriate sexual feelings towards the young boys under your care,’ he replied, ‘It would be very wrong to say that, it would be very wrong to say that’.
Br Sergio vigorously denied any abuse during the time when he was in Ferryhouse. His subsequent conviction cannot be regarded as evidence that he committed abuse at an earlier time and in different circumstances.
It is enlightening that, at the meeting with the Superintendent on 29th November 1995 and in the course of his contact with Mr Grey on 30th December 1995, Fr Stefano did not also refer to the other complaint of abuse that had been made against a third Brother (Br Sergio). The decision to help with ongoing inquiries had not yet become a broader inquiry into sexual abuse. It was as if each case was seen as a separate problem, rather than as a single issue about child protection and crime prevention within St Joseph’s, Ferryhouse.
According to the Department file, Mr Grey was first informed of a boy’s allegation against Br Sergio on 12th February 1997. In his notes dated 13th February 1997, Mr Grey recorded being told by Fr Stefano that the previous weekend a former pupil had called to Ferryhouse and indicated that he now intended reporting the incident to the Gardai, and that the Clonmel authorities had indicated that they would co-operate fully in any inquiry which might arise.
Though this information only came to the Department in 1997, the incident had occurred three years previously in 1994. The former resident had been working in Dublin and staying in a house maintained by the Rosminian Fathers as part of their aftercare programme. He went on a prolonged drinking spree and returned to the house. That night, he awoke to find Br Sergio ‘on top of him’. The young man became distressed and left the house, and the next day he went to a relative of Br Sergio’s to tell them about it. He did not take the matter further at that time, but moved to work in Clonmel. Mr Grey noted that the relative in turn told Fr Stefano, the Provincial, who immediately had Br Sergio removed ‘to a facility in ... the U.K. which caters for the rehabilitation of members of religious orders’. Two years after this incident, Br Sergio applied for dispensation from his vows and he left the Order at the end of that year.