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Our future looks hopeless, says leader of Irish Christian Brothers

By on Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The dining hall of the Artane Industrial School in Dublin, in an undated photo. The school was run by the Christian Brothers (CNS photo/Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse)

The dining hall of the Artane Industrial School in Dublin, in an undated photo. The school was run by the Christian Brothers (CNS photo/Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse)

The head of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers has said the order’s future is uncertain because of costly settlements in child abuse cases.

Brother Philip Pinto said that the congregation, which has 1,200 members, “just doesn’t have the money any longer”.

He said that the order’s decision to seek bankruptcy protection in New York was aimed at “trying to ensure that people who have been abused are the ones who get the money, not the lawyers”, he said during a break in a conference on religious life sponsored by the Conference of Religious of Ireland. [At the conference he gave an address entitled "Out of Darkness Colour Breaks" which can be read here.]

Forty per cent of the costs relating to abuse settlements were “going to the lawyers”, he said.

The North American province was especially vulnerable to disappearing, he said, explaining that it would take “something drastic” to save it.

“In most of the developed world, we are paying for the sins of the past,” he said. “Our brothers are aging, our reputation is in tatters, and the future looks bleak, even hopeless. So many of my brothers hide in their monasteries, afraid of drawing attention to themselves.”

The Indian-born brother who has been congregational leader since 2002 blamed a culture in which “religious in Ireland were abused by the system”.

Another conference speaker, Nuala O’Loan, former police ombudsman in Northern Ireland, told attendees that “it wasn’t just the religious congregations” who were responsible for abuse in institutions and schools operated by religious congregations. She suggested that the “congregations have been made the scapegoats for the failures of all”.

She criticised “successive Irish governments” who “allowed the children under their care to be deprived of their safety and security and permitted children to be held in institutions in which terrible things happened”.

The Christian Brothers Institute, the legal arm of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers, filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States amid mounting abuse claims. The majority of claims relate to the order’s schools in the Seattle area and Newfoundland in Canada.

  • Mark

    Good riddance if you ask me!
    “The head of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers has said the order’s future is uncertain because of costly settlements in child abuse cases.”Not because members of their order betrayed the Church, the Gospel, and all Catholics throughout the world then? Nothing to do with that?

  • Tim

    Very good riddance indeed – they are a stain on the honour of the Church. Has the man no shame?

  • Ratbag

    Nuala O’Loan is spot on. “It wasn’t just the religious congregations who were responsible for abuse in institutions and schools…congregations have been made the scapegoats for the failures of all…successive Irish governments who allowed under their care to be deprived of their safety and security and permitted children to be held in institutions in which terrible things happened.”

    Thank you, Nuala O’Loan, for making things crystal clear and on record.

    Irish society as a whole should hang its head in shame… and this is coming from an Irish person!

  • Ratbag

    I missed out ‘children’ when I wrote ‘… successive Irish governments who allowed CHILDREN under their care to be deprived of their safety and security…’

    Sorry about that.

  • Clipana

    By what I see from the comments, that this order has done nothing good at all. Then this order should be put down/disbanded because it seem that the sin of some is the sin of all. Yes, there is no forgiveness for them. They have betrayed the trust of the people and the faith, we never sinned at all, that’s why we should hurl rocks at them… Remember… Jesus came down, much for the sinner than for the just.

  • Shane

    David Quinn wrote a very good article a while back in (the Jesuit) Studies magazine about the Ryan Report. He attended most of the Inquiry’s hearings and felt compelled to give the report greater analysis, having realized that most media commentators had read no more than the summary. are a few of the facts: 1,090 former residents reported to the Ryan commission; they named 800 alleged abusers in over 200 institutions.Boys: 50% of the physical abuse reports and 64% of the sexual abuse reports came from 4 institutions.Girls: 40% of the physical abuse reports came from 3 institutions; 241 women religious were named as physical abusers, but 4 of these were named by 125 witnesses and 156 sisters were named by only one witness each.Of the 800 religious and others named as abusers, 400 were named by only one person. Sixteen institutions had more than 20 complaints made against them.

  • Irving_mary

    I am so sorry to learn about this! The Christian Brothers did a terrrific job in Brooklyn, New York, where my brother and his friends went to school 60+ years ago. The boys received a solid religious foundation along with strong academics. I believe that those boys (many of them now in heaven) will be praying that their beloved Brothers will survive to help more boys .

  • Shane

    Quinn’s point about the discipline is also echoed by Fr Michael Hughes, archivist for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation, and who had been involved with supervision at Daingean. According to the Irish Times ( ‘Living hell’ reformatory claim rejected; Wednesday, June 07, 2006): “He agreed there were gangs and a hierarchy among the boys with newcomers known as “fish”. He did not agree it was a situation which got out of control, though there were disturbances at times. “Discipline at the school was very severe for that very purpose, so staff could keep control. It was intended as protection for the children . . . these lads were not small boys.”

    He agreed the Brothers worked all year around, seven days a week with no day off until the 1970s, and that 20 of them were responsible for 150 boys.

  • Shane

    The left-liberal Professor of History at University College Dublin, Diarmaid Ferriter (who certainly cannot be accused of pro-Catholic bias) also notes something similar in his book ‘The Transformation of Ireland’ (page 517):

    “Though it was not fashionable to admit it towards the end of the century, many of the members of religious orders had worked hard under difficult conditions to educate and provide for vulnerable children…one can have some sympathy with the contention of Patrick Touher, an inmate of Artane Industrial School, that ‘on the whole the [Christian] Brothers were doing their best, within limited circumstances in hard times and with frightening numbers. They too shared in the hard rigid life. They had no luxuries, nothing to look forward to, except more of the same’.”

  • Shane

    On his blog, the ultra liberal Fr Joseph S O’Leary (alias ‘Spirit of Vatican II’) describes his experiences as a schoolboy with the Christian Brothers in the 50s and 60s:

    “My school, the North Monastery, Cork, was a well-run school, and the Brothers devoted their free time to organizing sports, excursions, pageants, debates, concerts, bands, summer schools in the Irish-speaking area of West Cork, even an ecumenical meeting with a Church of Ireland school. These men led Spartan lives and most of them conveyed a sense of idealism that they passed on to their pupils. This had a very wholesome impact on Irish life.

    As teachers the Brothers had the gift of making us study and actually acquire knowledge — something rare in contemporary education. We spent thousands of hours poring over classical English, Irish and Latin poetry and prose — a privilege more with-it curricula no longer accord — and the amount of maths, math-physics, physics and chemistry absorbed then — and now entirely lost — boggles the mind. It is true that students with learning disabilities or incapacity for Irish were sometimes badly handled. Corporal punishment allowed some loutish teachers to use the stick too freely.”

  • Shane

    7.224 He [Br Yves] remembered being reprimanded by the principal of the
    School for beating a boy too harshly, and toned down his severity

    7.66 Br Noonan was Superior General of the Congregation from 1930 to
    1949. He was anxious to reduce the reliance on corporal punishment and
    he admonished those who were intemperate in its use. There are some
    grounds for believing he did keep down its excessive use during his
    tenure of office.

    7.67 A Visitation Report in the early 1930s described an extraordinary
    penalty imposed on a Brother in the refectory: ‘Br Sebastien 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

  • Shane

    A letter to the Irish Times, May 25, 2009:

    Madam, – From the age of seven (1930) to 17 (1940) I was a boarder in a Christian Brothers-run Dublin orphanage after the death of my father in 1930. My mother died in 1938, having been left in poor circumstances after the death of my father.

    During the years I was a boarder I was not abused in any way by the Christian Brothers and knew of no abuse of the approximately 100 other boarders.

    I was given free board and lodgings; a good education to Leaving Cert standard. Facilities were made available for all who wished to avail of them to engage in Gaelic football and hurling; handball, outdoor parallel bars; outdoor tennis during summer months; table-tennis for indoor amusement, and every effort was made to occupy us during summer holidays (for those without a home to go to) including occasional day excursions in CIÉ buses to places of interest within reasonable distance of Dublin. As anyone will tell you, looking after 100 lively boys required discipline but, in my experience, any discipline (eg slaps with a leather) was administered without excessive severity. I speak from personal experience.

    The education given so generously was first class and some Brothers gave special classes in their own free time to bright children to help them sit for scholarships.

    When schooldays were over, the Brothers worked might-and-main to secure employment for school leavers. They even provided a hostel in the grounds of the orphanage where low-paid ex-boarders were accommodated until they found their feet.

    I will always be grateful to them for the help they gave me and my brother at an extremely difficult time, and the peace of mind they gave my mother in the last few years of her life. So please don’t tar all these fine men with the same brush. – Yours, etc,

    DONAL KAVANAGH, Dublin 12.

  • Shane

    David Quinn rightly points out:

    “[...] As mentioned, a total of 1,090 former residents of the institutions reported to the Ryan Commission. Between them, they named 800 alleged abusers in over 200 institutions. But there was very wide variation from institution to institution in terms of the amount of abuse taking place in each of them, something that the executive summary of the Ryan Report, which is what most journalists will have read, did not make clear. For example, fully 50 per cent of physical abuse reports and 64 per cent of the sex abuse reports heard by the Commission that involved boys, related to four of the boys institutions. The same applies to the girls’ institutions. Three schools account for almost 40 per cent of the physical abuse reports, or 48 reports each, while 19 schools had an average of 2.5 reports each.

    Sexual abuse was also far worse in the boys’ institution than in the girls’, which is probably to be expected. In the girls’ institutions, sex abuse was normally perpetrated by outside workmen, or by visiting priests or religious, or by foster families, with whom the girls occasionally stayed.

    A relative handful of individuals accounted for a disproportionate share of the complaints. For example: a total of 241 female religious were named as physical abusers. However, four of these were named by 125 witnesses, and 156 Sisters were named by one witness each. In total, of the 800 religious and others named as abusers, half were named by only one person.

    It is also worth noting that an institution only received a special chapter in the Ryan Report if it was the subject of more than 20 complaints of abuse. Sixteen institutions, out of the dozens run by the orders, had more than 20 complaints made against them.

    When I first reported the above figures in the Irish Catholic and the Irish Independent, I was accused by a handful of people (fewer than I had expected) of ‘playing the numbers game’. But surely numbers matter immensely? If they do not, then why did numbers feature so heavily in the Ryan Report and in the subsequent media coverage of it, and in the debates about it? In the North, for example, it is not immaterial whether 300 or 3,000 people died in the ‘Troubles’.

    If I were a member of an order that ran those institutions that were relatively better run than some of the others, I would want people to know this. I would regard it as particularly unfair and unjust if every institution was universally regarded as being as terrible as the very worst of the institutions. [...]“

  • Shane

    This article questions some of the Ryan Report’s assertions:

  • Uhogb

    Jesus said : Matthew 10 : 16
    Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simpleas doves. [17] But beware of men. For they will deliver you up in councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. [18] And you shall be brought before governors, and before kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles: [19] But when they shall deliver you up, take no thought how or what to speak: for it shall be given you in that hour what to speak. [20] For it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.

    The brother also shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the son: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and shall put them to death. [22] And you shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved.
    Why not many people talk today about satan influence even in Catholic Church ? Devil wants to distort everything that is why We have child abuse, bishop against bishop and so on. That is Your cross in Your life and you have to accept can say why is it happening ? submitting to the will of GOD is the only way remember If you love the world the love of the Father is not in You. All this child abuse is work of the Devil which is prince of this world, and because Catholic Church is preaching the truth the world hates it.Someone who doesn’t like the truth hates it.Sin is growing great in todays world you can see lust of the flesh everywhere on the TV, newspapers, internet, adverts, everywhere devil tries to distorts the truth because he hates it. That is why world crucified Jesus because world is after lust not the truth and it couldn’t stand the truth. I say to You Christian Brothers stand firm in the faith and don’t worry what tomorrow brings. Trust Jesus and pray that we all can meet one day in heaven.God Bless You All

  • Shane

    According to this UNICEF report, child maltreatment in Ireland is quite low by international standards:

    “At the top is a small group of countries – Spain, Greece, Italy, and Ireland – where the rate appears extremely low (fewer than 0.2 maltreatment deaths for every 100,000 children).Towards the bottom of the table are two countries – Hungary and New Zealand – where deaths from maltreatment are approximately six times higher. And at the very bottom are two more countries – Mexico and the United States – where the rate of child deaths from maltreatment is more than ten times higher.”

  • Marypettifor

    My father went to become an Irish Christian Brother in the late 1930s. It was only the intervention of an assertive relative that got him out. He then had a serious nervous breakdown and suffered poor mental health throughout his life, God love him. Fortunately for him he married a wonderful woman and had a happy life, despite his struggles. He never mentioned the Christian Brothers ever, except after a suicide attempt in his 60′s after which he had another severe breakdown.

  • Jamie MacNab

    I have known several people who were educated by the Christian Brothers in the 40s and 50s some complained of the severe discipline, but none complained of cruelty ; in fact, all were grateful for what they received. But the fact remains that grave charges have been made over the years, and people generally believe in the substance of them. It is regrettable that it now seems that the many must pay for the sins of the few ; but that is the way of the world.

    What is now needed is a period of reflection and reformation. Perhaps the Brothers must die in order that they may be re-born. I am sure that true hearts will pray for them.

  • Guest

    Isn’t that a picture of a De la Salle Brother (known as christian brothers in other parts of the world) rather than an Irish Christian Brother. The irish Christian Brothers are a totally different order and dont wear the characteristic ‘bib’ of the de La salle Brothers

  • The Catholic Herald

    Thank you for pointing that out. The picture has now been replaced.

  • Declan

    What this sadly shows, is that when evil acts are committed everyone is affected; the abused, the abuser, the church and society in general. There is no good in evil acts but we place our faith in the God of Love who has conquered evil. Let us pray to have courage to overcome evil.

  • Clipana

    This is their cross, a suffering that they must bear, as Jesus himself bore his. God never allows anything to happen without his permission, reflect on His Passion and you will know this. The Church is in God’s keeping, have trust in Him. It is only when we are weak that He is strong. Think of how we can help those suffering rather than being just a bystander, like those watching Christ on His way to His death. Now that God has shown us the Brother’s suffering, reflect as to St Paul’s first encounter with our Lord, and react as he did. Their cross is now upon us as because God has shown it to us. It is now up to us to act with love and compassion.

  • Peter Dowling

    A read of what Br Pinto actually said in his talk ( indicates to me that the headline used in this article is very misleading. If you read what he says, he is saying that there is hope in the very places where it may not appear present. I think the reporter missed the point, and unfortunately the result is disappointing. Peter Dowling

  • Dcruz

    Every ones future looks bleak if they are careless. Did one have an idea of what the consequenses would lead to because ot the abuse.Things can’t continue for long and unnoticed. The devil has indeed succeeded in destroying the order and the church.

  • Tessa, Australia

    The world over owes a great deal to the Irish Christian Brothers. Hundreds of thousands were educated well by the Brothers. As with the ‘abuse in the Church’, the accusations of sexual abuse etc. have been blown hugely out of proportion. Sadly the majority of cases of sexual abuse of boys were perpetrated by homosexuals – just as in the seminaries. This is well recorded if not actually spoken of (the usual P.C.control). The Brothers lived such an austere life, devoid of luxuries, a shoestring existence. Theirs was a true vocation. As a young schoolgirl, with no aptitude for mathematics, my parents arranged for tutoring from a Brother in my home town. A patient man, I managed to get through exams thanks to him. A little remuneration from my parents probably helped him to some little luxury, maybe a few cigarettes. In this day and age we see the P.C.’ers want to outlaw parents spanking their naughty little darlings so can one really judge fairly? As with other religious orders of the past, it is wonderful to see some of them reemerging with young vigorous and holy young people committed to their orders. The Irish Christian Brothers, like orders before them, have met hard times but they will rise again stronger than ever. Young Catholic boys need them now more than ever for a good level of education and so they can develop into decent Catholic men.

  • The Catholic Herald

    Thank you for pointing out that Brother Pinto gave an address. We have added a link to that in the article.

  • Tim

    I posted this comment in anger and without charity and I withdraw it.

  • AgingPapist

    The diocesan priesthood throughout the Roman Church is also a fetid swamp of perversion and moral rot, a refuge for drunks, psychological misfits, and child molesters. The secular clergy and their diocesan bishops are a continuing source of scandal and should be abolished along with the Christian Brothers and a large number of other orders.

    Then replaced by men and women elected by congregations for fixed terms of office. The same for bishops and the pope himself. Terms of 12 years with the possibility of one extension and no more.

  • Ed-words

     Good riddance to bad rubbish!

     Enjoy the fresh air of rationalism.

  • Ed-words

    How can any education be “first-class” that imposes its religious beliefs on trusting,

    gullible children? 

  • Ed-words

     Let’s get something straight!

     It is a form of child abuse to force one set of religious beliefs on a child,
     whether done by a parent or teacher.

     Indoctrination is NOT education!

  • Lefty048

     you weren’t to far off the mark.  their demise means God’s children will be safer around the world.  i think we can all agree that is a good thing.

  • Bert697

    I was educated by the Irish Christian brothers in America. I never saw anything bad as a High School student of theirs but apparently there were some bad apples amongst them in the rest of the world.  It is not nice to see they have all paid for the sins and the abuse that some of them commited. I hope they get rid of all the bad and focus on all the good workof the order.

  • FireTalk

    The amount they have done can not be fixed, paid for or forgiven. It must come down for the safety of the children.

  • R B

    Arn’t you the luck one. You and 100 others out of millions.

  • R B

    100,000 Native Children Raped, Murdered, and Tortured here in North America, Ireland is only the tip of the iceberg. They raped generations of children. Blown out of portion? Religion and it’s Gov’ts must face Justice, for their atrocities against

  • R B

    Let us be a civilized people who bring Rapist and Murders of Children to Justice, no matter if its an employee of the church is involved or not. There should be no statue of limitation on crimes against our Elders or our Children.

  • The second generation of abuse

    If the fucking pig called a “brother” of a man who tortured my dad was still alive I would kill him with my own hands. I am a Catholic but the Christian Brothers make me sick to my stomache. I want to see them all convicted and brought to death, for the pain they’ve caused and the thousands, if not more, of lives they’ve completely destroyed!! Declan Enda Cathal you bastard, you are lucky you are dead, you sick sick son of a bitch!!! One day your grave will burn, just like you are burning in hell right now.

  • The second generation of abuse

    You are one dumb bitch if you think they’ve ‘blown it out of proportions”. My dad was beaten every single day, and why?! Because he swallowed, because he breathed because he fuckin’ cried when he was scared. And you say you want those fuckers to raise more young Catholic boys, because “they need them now more than ever for a blablabla”. I’ll tell ya one thing for sure darling, why don’t you and I meet.. I’ll beat you up as much as I can, and hope you die. Okay? Because, hey, that’s what you need right.
    But still. I’d looooove to kick you, no mather how long it takes I’ll have patience untill you bleed, beg for mercy and nearly die, then maybe, you understand why you are being such a big fucking cunt!

  • Pprosney

    I can tell you that the Christain Brothers in Ireland teaching in Secondary Schools in the 70′s were nothing but THUGS . I witnessed beatings on a regular basis . They were only interested in helping the better kids in class and the weaker ones were beaten to make them learn .  Great men at Education ?? Most definately not … How or why would a Christain Brother pull an 14 year old out of his desk by the hair and beat him across the face up against a wall ??  Wakey Wakey people , these guys were SCUMBAGS .

  • Jfitz1844

    I was in Artane from 63 to 67. I came straight from an orphanage in Wicklow. The place was hell. The brothers were demon possessed. They loved violence, and they were sexually frustrated. Not a single one of them left a good impression on me. I used to Barbour hate for them, but not it’s pity for they will have to one day stand before Christ as judge, and explain why they abused the little ones that were placed in their care. There will be no sin hidden in that investigation. The saddest thing of all will be that they will meet again many of their victims, and hear from their lips these words, ” you wore your crucifixes like a badge of honor and abused and violated us. You ruined our lives. It’s your fault we are sharing the same fate as you. But we are sure that your time in the flames will be much longer than ours. Where is your crucifix now you vampires of hell itself.”

  • Dr Mark Fulton

    Good riddance. Bye…and please don’t ever ever come back

  • Shame Of Ireland

    Christian Brothers as with ALL the Religious Orders where paid by the Irish Government to “Care” for “Children” instead they chose to treat the Homes as “Profit Centres” to assert that they have no money and that the Irish Government is responsible for the “Cruelty” and “Abuse” that the Religious Orders is simply abdicating their responsibility!

    Money Earned of the “Abuse” of these Children must have filtered its way into the Vatican, Bankruptcy is a Legal Ploy to protect the Finances of the Brothers and the Vatican; Money is also hidden in Trust Funds.

    The 2002 Indemnity Deal was Unconstitutional and Conferred the Imunity for Prosecution on Child Abusers! It also Limited the Financial Liability of the Religious Orders!

    The Redress Board was the Protector of the Public Purse and an Abusive and Aggressive, means of limiting Compensation.

    The Irish Government now have gone back to the 2002 Indemnity Deal and are asking for more money; NOT for Survivors but for the Government.

    The Government are now imposing the Statutory Fund Bill on Survivors which even T.D.’s have publicly Stated will be of little or No Benefit to Survivors.

    You can  Read what T.D.’s have said so Far by Clicking the Link Bellow

    Residential Institutions Statutory…: 8 May 2012: Dáil debates (

    There are more waiting to Speak on this?

    If you are a Survivor of the Irish Industrial Schools you will be welcome @

  • Jazz_jeff

    Any police force is only as good as the crimes that they are informed about!
    The Brothers informed them of very little and hid and lied a lot more!

    Stop trying to pass the blame – ye are fooling no one.

    As for the bankruptcy protection ye are trying to claim, thats to stop the Vatican being dragged into the matter through legal connection and to stop the coffers left (BILLIONS) in the Vatican bank, being seized and/or demanded.
    (Thats the short version)

  • Bredinjames

    What is the outcome of all this?
    What secrets are hidden in the secret documents?
    Will we be allowed to know or will they remain hidden?

  • Peter Clare

    I went to a Brothers’ school in England. In my eight years there, I never saw any abuse, nor did I hear of any. It was an enlightened place which produced many good people. I’m grateful for the start that St. Anselm’s gave me

  • Traceymorris61

    i have just finished a book by sean hogan he was put in the artane school and he suffered terrible abuse, he was starved beaten and sexualy mollested, by the very people who gave there life to god, well if thats religion it is no wonder the churches are almost empty,  

  • Martinminky456

    they and there like were and are sick nasty mentally ill people hiding behind a cloak of respectability no one needs an education that bad to placed in their evil sick hands

  • Robbie Mcgrath

    I was educated by the Christian brothers in Ireland (late 50′s early 60′s) and I was never sexually abused. I was put through some unnecessary fisacal pain because I was a slow learner, but fuck it, I’m a very successful man now and I have everything I need in life. I feel sorry for those young men that had to go through there life’s with out the natural joy of sex because of the teachings of there religious leaders, its a wonder they didn’t kill us all. It’s time the Catholic Church lightened up and started to believe in the real teachings of Jesus Christ and what he really had to say and try and put aside there world domination attitudes. Christianity is about freedom of the sole and not about suppression, damnation & retribution……. If Jesus ever bothers to come back it wont be the man on the street hell be after, it will be the boys in the Vatican, the lads that have abused his words & teachings to benefit themselves in trying to develop a world order…. God help them all……..

  • Robbie Mcgrath

    why did you take my comment of ?