Christian Brothers saw sexual abuse as moral failing, not crime

Moral failing not crime

The Christian Brothers who ran children's homes in Western Australia in the 1940s, 50s and 60s did not consider the abuse of students a crime, the Royal Commission has heard, reports the ABC.

Brother Anthony Shanahan, a former province leader of the Christian Brothers in WA, yesterday gave evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Perth.

The inquiry is examining alleged sexual and physical abuse in four homes run by the Brothers in Perth, Tardun and Bindoon between 1947 and 1968.

Brother Anthony told the hearing that the mindset at the time meant abuse was not thought of as a crime, but as a moral fault or failing. 'I think they saw it as something that was abhorrent, harmful - although I don't think they understood it as harmful in the way we would now, in terms of consequences for the victim, but something that was abhorrent and harmful and that was the way they dealt with it,' he said.

The chair of the Commission, Justice Peter McClellan, described the comments as extraordinary.

Brother Anthony said brothers who had been accused of abusing students at boarding houses were often sent to day schools. Brother Anthony also told the hearing one of the rules laid out in the Brothers' Constitution from 1962 stated that they were prevented from developing particular friendships with their students or fondling them.

He said a brother accused of fondling a boy might receive a warning and be transferred from a boarding house to a day school where it was thought there might be 'less opportunity for misconduct.'

When asked by Justice McLellan whether it was wise for brothers who abused children to be moved to another facility where children were present, Brother Anthony answered 'no.'

Brother Anthony told the hearing that between 1947 and 1968 there were no written policies relating to child protection, the handling of abuse complaints or the disciplining of alleged offenders.


Christian Brothers 'didn't consider sexual abuse of students a crime' (ABC)

More shocking evidence at abuse Royal Commission (SBS)


Paedophile victim tells of 'insensitive' interview (The Newcastle Herald)

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