The Brothers working in the Institution were not instructed in childcare. Their tuition was the teacher training for national schools which was provided by the Congregation at its own Marino training college. Brothers attended teacher training in Marino for one year and were then sent out to a Christian Brothers’ school for experience for a number of years, before returning to complete their second and final years. Many young Brothers were sent to Artane as their first posting in this interim period, when they were wholly unqualified to care for children and had completed only half of their course as teachers. The Investigation Committee heard evidence from former members of staff of Artane that they were shocked by their first experience and overwhelmed by the scale of the task imposed on them.
An unusual feature about Artane was that there was independent evidence as to conditions there. The evidence was firstly that of Fr Henry Moore, who was chaplain to Artane by appointment of the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr J.C. McQuaid, from 1960 to 1967. Fr Moore was the author of a confidential report on conditions in Artane, which he wrote in 1962 at the request of the Archbishop. He also gave evidence about the Institution to an Inter-Departmental Committee on juvenile crime in the same year, as a result of which controversy arose between officials of the Department of Justice and the Department of Education. Fr Moore was exceptionally qualified to comment on residential schools and the Christian Brothers, because he had spent nearly 10 years as a resident of St Vincent’s Glasnevin, an orphanage operated by the Christian Brothers. Fr Moore’s evidence is discussed in detail later in this chapter.
Br Jules previously worked in Tralee in the 1930s, where his behaviour had also come to the attention of the Provincial and a Visitor. Whilst in Tralee, he was accused of beating a boy severely. When he was asked for an explanation of this severe corporal punishment, Br Jules wrote to the Provincial claiming that the Industrial School Inspector had advised him to give the boy special physical training to remedy a physical defect. The boy failed to perform an exercise on this occasion, though formerly he had been capable of doing so, and he had therefore been punished. Br Jules acknowledged that this punishment was excessive in the circumstances.
Br Beaufort8 was on the staff of Artane throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, having previously worked in Tralee,9 where he received a letter from Br Noonan, Superior General of the Congregation, warning him about his temper and the risk he posed of causing serious bodily harm to the boys: A still more dangerous weakness in you was mentioned in the suffrages. You are passionate in your dealings with the boys. In fact at times you show so little control of your temper that you are in danger of inflicting serious bodily harm on the boys by your manner of correcting them. Watch yourself and pray to God to give you some of His meekness and forbearance. Never punish a boy in any way except what is permitted by the Rule. Forgive easily the small failings of your pupils and in this way more good will be done than by harsh treatment.
Br Eriq worked in Artane for less than a year in the late 1940s. He left in April, not August, which was the usual time for Brothers to be moved. Br Eriq had previously worked in Tralee in the late 1930s, where three consecutive Visitation Reports were critical of his severity towards the boys. A full account is contained in the Tralee chapter.
Br Olivier served in Artane in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He said that all Brothers were issued with a leather strap to maintain discipline, and commented: The danger with that is this; that it could be used excessively ... depending on the type of person you were. You could be somebody with a short fuse like myself, I have to admit I had the short fuse, and there would be times perhaps when ... you would be inclined to use it. You see it was the only armoury you had ... In fairness I would say though that the Rules of the Congregation laid down, I am just thinking back and I want to be fair to the Brothers as well, rules are there maybe to be broke, but it was specified that corporal punishment should never be used for failure in lessons, that type of thing. ... I could go a week, a month, without ever giving a slap to a fella, it could happen. I am not trying to make myself out that I am a saint or that I wouldn’t use it, I certainly would indeed, and I’m awfully sorry ...
The Congregation referred to this incident in its Opening Statement. They commented: Although there are differences of opinion concerning precisely how the injury was caused and when the mother was allowed to see the boy, it is quite clear that the boy was injured and that his arm was broken. The Brother in question was transferred out of Artane.
At the first public hearing on 15th September 2005, Br Reynolds, speaking for the Christian Brothers, was asked if he found it appropriate for the Congregation to effect such a transfer under the circumstances, and he replied: It wasn’t appropriate. I would say it wouldn’t have been uncommon in various places at the time. Certainly that one is the most serious incident we have and it was handled badly I would say from all aspects of it. The other thing that gives some sort of indicator or is indicative of society at the time and what surprised me when I read it that even Peader Cowan, the TD who alerted the Dáil to it at the end of it said, “this is an isolated incident and it won’t happen again” and so on. That came as a surprise to me, but I am taking that as indicative of the times as well. It’s probably indicative of the attitude that somebody who did something of that nature could be transferred elsewhere.25
This document also revealed that Br Cyrano was transferred out of Artane at his own request, because he felt he could never settle down there again. The assertion that his transfer was the result of action taken by the Congregation, to remove him from his position in Artane, misrepresents what actually happened.
Br Vailant, who had two spells in Artane in the 1950s and early 1960s, stated that he felt the boys were angry against the State that committed them, against their parents who did not care, and angry against the Brothers as the ones who were keeping them there. ‘In their eyes’, he explained, ‘we were seen as types of jailers’. He admitted he used the leather strap for misbehaviour and then added: ... I think I would have to put my hand up and say that I also used it for failure in lessons, even though I knew that that was discouraged. If you ask me why I would use it for failure in lessons I would say to encourage people to get on and to learn something.
In February 1963, Mrs McCarthy brought her grandson to Artane to discuss with the Superior his difficulty in keeping jobs and to see if he could help in finding employment. What happened in the course of this meeting is in dispute. The grandmother gave her version of what happened in a letter written later that month (26th February) to the Minister for Education: I could not believe my eyes, without word or warning the Superior, closed his fist + struck the boy a most brutal blow on the side of the jaw, saying to him why wont you work. He then said in the most deliberate tone to him, you are mental the boy said I am not. He said you are suffering from a mental dicease, this he repeated about five times; every drop of blood had left the boys face from the blow, which had sent him staggering to the other side of the Office, all the unfortunate boy could say was wh... and his voice went. I was so shocked and dazed from the scene. I was not much better than the boy. I could not think straight. However Bro Colbert34 happened to come in just then and the Superior said look who we have here. He then left the Office. I followed him outside the door and told him it was the yrs of ill treatment of that Kind had the boy the way he was, and told him to get the boy medical and mental treatment ... He was removed to St Brendan’s on The Sat evg 9th February.
Br Burcet,46 who had two spells in Artane, in the mid 1950s and then throughout the 1960s, told the Investigation Committee how one witness had moved him to recall an incident. The former resident gave evidence that the first time he received the strap was from Br Burcet when he was one of the youngest boys in Artane, aged eight or nine: The first experience I have with a strap or a leather as they are called, it was from Br. Burcet. again there is a lot after that but because it was the first one it stuck with me ... I remember retracting my hand ... and then receiving ... the strap around that area (indicating) and then on the buttocks area. That was for retracting my hand ... All I remember, and that’s why it stuck with me, was the stings, the stings in the actual body areas. It was more than two or three [strokes].
When Br Burcet was asked if he punished more in Artane than in other schools, he replied: Yes, I did punish more. I would say that it was more true of when I went there first than when I started to find my feet there ... In the latter part I probably punished less, until I was made disciplinarian ... it did change me, because when I left Artane ... I didn’t use corporal punishment at all.
These details show that the only actual dismissal was in the case of a Brother of temporary profession. The most common sanction was to permit the Brother to apply for a dispensation from his vows, a procedure which required the endorsement of a Bishop. Taking this course spared the Congregation the trouble of proceeding with a formal Canonical trial and it was of immense advantage to the abuser. He was able to leave the Congregation of his own volition, to all appearances in good standing. He was in the same position as a person who had lost his vocation to be a Brother and who had been permitted to rejoin the outside lay world. The records acknowledged this sharp distinction, and detailed comments made by the Congregation also recognised it. For example, in relation to one case, information was given that the Brother: applied to the Apostolic Visitor who advised him to seek a Dispensation from Vows. His application was granted and he left the Congregation ...
In another case, a decision was made that the Brother ‘should be dismissed from the Congregation but he was given the opportunity to apply for a Dispensation from Vows’. In a subsequent general comment on the six cases of Brothers recorded as having been guilty of sexual abuse in Artane, the Opening Statement confusingly appeared to equate these two quite different means of exiting the Community of the Christian Brothers: The sanction applied was either dismissal or a canonical warning. In cases where it was decided to dismiss a Brother, the normal procedure was to instruct him to apply for a dispensation from vows.