Marist Brothers Head Admits Inaction by Leaders to Blame for Child Abuse
July 2, 2014
|Former Marist brother Gregory Sutton (left) with his lawyer, Greg Walsh, leaves the royal commission on Tuesday. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP|
The national head of the Marist Brothers says the failings of its leadership are to blame for the crimes of two paedophile brothers across three decades.
In a public letter to all members of the Catholic order, the provincial head in Australia, Jeffrey Crowe, has again apologised to child abuse victims.
Crowe said that after listening to recent royal commission hearings into how the crimes of brothers John Kosta Chute and Gregory Sutton were dealt with in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, it was clear leadership inaction at the time was responsible.
Both men were jailed for abusing children in NSW, Queensland and ACT schools.
“On behalf of all Marist brothers I acknowledge and apologise to their victims for the abuse and very real damage done to young people by their criminal actions,” he said on Friday.
It was clear some were victims of the men because of “ineffective responses” and “inaction” by leaders.
“This is unacceptable and we acknowledge and deeply regret this failing.”
Crowe also said the order was willing to review past settlements to ensure “they are fair, reasonable and compassionate” and would continue supporting victims.
He reaffirmed an earlier apology to “the brave men and women who have given evidence during this public hearing, to all victims of sexual abuse by brothers and former brothers, and to the families of victims”.
Crowe said he looked forward to the inquiry's recommendations in the hope they would promote justice and healing, and ensure greater safety for young people.
The commission has already handed down findings in two case studies and is expected to release its findings on the Marist brothers well before its extended final reporting date which could be December 2017.
Crowe said he knew a commission hearing held in Canberra and Sydney in mid-June had been a traumatic experience for everyone involved.
“It has significantly shaken our province,” he said. “It has brought to light very real failings in past understanding, systems and approaches to dealing with child sexual abuse in our schools.”
He said that while it may be little comfort to those abused by Chute and Sutton, he was confident the order's approach to child sexual abuse and all its complications “is now very different”.
The Marist Brothers have 50 schools in Australia which are now mostly staffed by lay teachers; the number of men applying to the brotherhood has fallen in the past 20 years.