There are Department of Education General and Medical Inspection Reports for most of the period of the investigation. Files from the headquarters of the Christian Brothers in Rome yielded evidence of cases of sexual abuse considered by the Congregation to have been admitted or proven against individual Brothers. Visitation Reports of the Christian Brothers were another valuable source of information. Infirmary records were scant and were shown to be misleading in some cases. There was a statutory requirement to maintain a punishment book, which was to be examined by the Department of Education Inspector, but no such book was maintained.
A Visitation Report in the early 1930s described an extraordinary penalty imposed on a Brother in the refectory: Br Sebastien5 erred on two occasions in punishing boys severely. The Superior reproved him publicly and ordered him to make a public apology, on his knees in the Refectory ... Br Sebastien was honestly penitent and determined to amend. Indeed he is on the whole a good young Brother.
A Visitation Report in the late 1930s was critical of a Brother for his free use of the ‘slapper’, which was a shorter and thinner strap than the leather. The Visitor noted that the boys were: well disciplined and I am happy to be able to say that there was no evidence of undue or severe corporal punishment. I was assured by practically all the Brothers that there is very little corporal punishment indulged in. I did come across one case of the free use of the slapper. This was in the class room of Br Maurice. He gave about 16 slaps one after the other. I walked in just at the end. The slaps were not severe and the effect could only help towards demoralising the poor lads. I had a word with Br Wiatt14 and asked him to help Br Maurice to establish his control without having recourse to the useless method of indiscriminate slapping. But it is indeed satisfactory to find that there is very little corporal punishment and that in recent times there has not occurred any instance of undue severity. Br Eliot15 is Master of Discipline and is doing very well in this position. He is very anxious to do his best and he is succeeding very well in his exacting duties. There is still too much reliance on the slapper and not enough on personal influence. The only member of the staff who has succeeded in getting along with the boys without having recourse to corporal punishment is Br Dennet.16 His personal influence is very great, and his single-mindedness and truly Christ-like attitude in his dealing with his boys is having a marked effect for good on them.
Notwithstanding these complaints, Br Verrill was later commended in a Visitation Report for his work as a Disciplinarian: Tribute was paid by many to the success of Br. Verrill as Disciplinarian. The elimination of the tougher element has resulted in a much more manageable type prevailing. The strict rigidity of previous years has disappeared. The boys appear quite orderly and are obviously friendly towards the Brothers.
Br Vailant was asked about the reference to him in the Visitation Report quoted above, which noted that he was ‘exceeding the permitted limits of punishment’. When asked if could remember the rebuke, he replied: I think I could say that I was never aware that that was written about me in a Visitation Report ... I don’t actually remember that [the Visitor speaking to me]. He said that I was too severe. Well, I would say now that I probably was, or at least that I was too strict, or maybe too demanding.
Shortly before this Visitation, the Provincial wrote a letter to all Brothers to express his concern about levels of corporal punishment. He wrote: In a Circular issued in January 1957 I asked the Brothers of the Province to avoid as much as possible the use of corporal punishment in the schools. For some time after the issuing of that Circular there appeared to be good reason to believe that the request was being carried out. More recently, however, the leather has come back into frequent use in at least some schools. This is a matter for sincere regret. As I have already stated frequent recourse to the use of the leather indicates a bad tone in the classroom. It may make the lives of the children unhappy and nullifies much of the benefit of their Education. It is to be hoped that, in time, wiser counsels will prevail and that the use of the leather will be reserved for cases in which it is really necessary for the purpose of correction.
He did not say how he knew ‘the leather had come back into frequent use in at least some schools’, but the Visitation Reports and the complaints referred to above may have played a part in informing him. What is clear is that, by the standards of this senior Christian Brother, the leather was being used too often and in circumstances where it was not really necessary.
The Visitation Report dated 30th October 1944 referred to the dismissal of these Brothers who were ‘accused of irregularities’. No direct reference was made to the fact that they had sexually abused boys in the School, it merely referred to ‘irregularities’ being ‘discovered some weeks ago in the Institution’. The Visitor who wrote this report took the view that ‘there was nothing to be alarmed at’ and went on to state that: In our Institutions it should be considered a very grave offence for a Br. to take a boy to his room on any pretext, or to be seen alone with a boy on any occasion.
The Visitation Report, having acknowledged inappropriate conduct on the part of four Brothers, made a number of recommendations to prevent such events in the future. These recommendations provide some clue as to circumstances of the discovery of the abuse. One recommendation made by the Visitor was that: Brothers should not prevent or discourage boys to come to the Superior even with complaints. Boys should have free access to the Superior at all times. If that were the practice the disturbing conduct experienced lately would have been avoided.
Some years later, in a letter dated 19th November 1958 to the Superior following a Visitation, the author strongly recommended the establishment of a sodality or the introduction of the Legion of Mary for the boys: I understand there was a sodality in the past but that it was abused in some way. Therefore in introducing such a sodality again it would have to be done with discretion and I think it would be better for a member of the staff to introduce and look after it rather than the Superior.
Br Karel maintained that his transfer from Artane was made almost a year after these allegations were made, and a Visitation Report would appear to bear that out. He said that he had already requested a transfer within a year of being sent to Artane, and that the Provincial had also suggested that it would be ‘the wisest thing’ in light of the allegations. In any event, he was not transferred immediately after the allegations were made.
Some two years later, a letter to the Resident Manager following a Visitation referred to Br Adrien as follows: I am sorry about Br Adrien and I only hope that we will hear no more about such cases. Rather there will be no such case to hear about.
No further information was provided, and it is unclear what type of ‘case’ was being referred to. The Visitation Report does not give any clearer indication as to what was being alluded to in respect of this Brother and, in fact, the Visitor commended him on his excellent cooking and his improvement of the food for the boys.
The statement went on to deal with the specific allegations made by this complainant. It said, in relation to the particular campaign of physical abuse following Br Adrien’s departure, that ‘Whilst there was corporal punishment in Artane at that time, I do not believe that it amounted to the type of violent behaviour that is alleged by the complainant’. In support of this contention, the Congregation quoted the Visitation Report filed by the Congregation after a 1962 visit to the Institution. The Visitor stated: The discipline generally is good and the Superior as well as the Brothers in general are pleased with it. It is not harsh or severe by any means, but effective nevertheless.
They went on to concede that at times there were shortcomings, such as the condition of the classrooms and toilets that were criticised in the Visitation Reports, but added, ‘these shortcomings were addressed after the criticism’.