UPDATE: Victims’ group denounces apology by Christian Brothers

Barb Sweet bsweet@thetelegram.com
Published on March 7, 2014
— Submitted letter

A U.S. group representing victims is denouncing the apology that the Christian Brothers order issued to victims there and in Canada.

“Church abuse apologies are virtually meaningless. Whether long or short, clear or vague, prompt or delayed, they don't protect a single child, expose a single predator or uncover a single cover up,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis, director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

The comments came in a news release issued after The Telegram reported today online that officials of the order in New Jersey had sent apology letters to some 420 victims, including former residents of the Mount Cashel orphanage in St. John’s.

“Apologies like this are smart public relations and legal defense maneuvers. And it's tragic that they often come only after Catholic institutions are sued and Catholic officials are forced to act,” Clohessy said.

“Virtually every step the Christian Brothers have taken about abuse have been forced on them by wounded victims, aggressive journalists, determined police, skilled prosecutors or outraged donors and Catholics. We are not impressed by the Christian Brothers' ‘promise to ensure it never happens again.’ If they were sincere, we'd see tangible, proven preventative steps taken voluntarily, not lip service and empty 'policies' that are ignored or violated.”

Clohessy called on the Catholic lay order to permanently post on its websites the names, photos, whereabouts and work histories of “every proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting cleric.”

“And they should immediately demote and publicly denounce every single cleric or lay employee who ignored or concealed child sex crimes, while putting every offending cleric or lay employee in remote, secure, independently run treatment centers so they'll be away from kids,” Clohessy said.

“When these steps and others are taken, then we'll believe in the alleged sincerity of Christian Brothers officials.”

••••

(Earlier story)

Christian Brothers apologize with 'shame and revulsion'

Victims of sexual and physical abuse at the former Mount Cashel orphanage are among those receiving a long-owed apology from the Christian Brothers that takes direct and unequivocal blame.

“Words cannot capture the depth of our regret and sorry for the abuse inflicted on children entrusted to our care by members of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers in the United States and Canada,” reads the apology obtained by The Telegram.

“We understand that in place of safety, security, and well-being, many children were instead subjected to physical and/or sexual abuse at the hands of some of our Brothers.”

“We are genuinely sorry and offer a sincere apology to all those who have been directly or indirectly caused to suffer as a result of the deplorable actions of these Brothers. Similarily, we are gravely disappointed in the actions taken by some in past leadership in failing to respond appropriately to allegations against our Brothers. Children should have always been treated as our highest priority, and it is with heavy hearts that we express shame and revulsion for the abuse and ill-treatment suffered by those who, as children in our care, should have been protected.”

The full content of the one-page letter — signed by the New Jersey-based order’s province leader Brother Hugh O’Neill and deputy province leader Brother Kevin Griffith is included here.

The letters have gone out to some 420 victims in Canada and the U.S. who were involved in the recently concluded winding up of assets of the The Christian Brothers Institute and The Christian Brothers of Ireland, Inc.

Some may not have gotten the letters yet as they are still arriving in the mail.

The Mount Cashel victims include claimants from residents of the orphanage as late as the early 80s and as early as the 1940s.

“The wording of this is not an evasive apology,” said Mount Pearl lawyer Geoff Budden, who represents about 90 clients.

Past apologies may have acknowledged regret for what victims feel they suffered, but this one acknowledges the Catholic lay order was complicit, he said.

Budden said the reaction of clients has been mixed with some expressing anger and others taking solace in the acknowledgment and the promise to ensure it never happens again. Though it doesn’t run orphanages, members of the order still teach.

“There are guys here who are not really prepared to forgive. They are still very angry. No apology is going to make them feel very different,” Budden said.

“Others have taken this as an acknowledgement by the Brothers.”

He also said he believes in the sincerity of O’Neill and Griffith, who have met with a number of the survivors.

In February, compensation amounts were decided in a settlement reached last year for individual victims of abuse that include former residents of the Mount Cashel orphanage. The settlement affected some 160 local victims of sexual abuse, mostly residents of the former Mount Cashel orphanage in St. John’s. Some 10 per cent of the victims were other school children.

The settlement includes a $16.5-million cash payment from Catholic lay order the Irish Christian Brothers and one of its insurers and affects more than 420 men and women in the U.S. and Canada who say they were molested as children by members of the Christian Brothers.

The boys orphanage was closed in 1990 and the building demolished in 1992.

bsweet@thetelegram.com