Former Mount Cashel Resident Says He Went to Priests about Abuse

By Barb Sweet
The Telegram
April 14, 2016

Barb Sweet/The?Telegram - Lawyers Mark Frederick and Susan Adam Metzler represent the Episcopal Corp. of St. Johnís.

A man told the Mount Cashel civil trial at Newfoundland Supreme Court Wednesday he was taken in the 1950s by a Christian Brother to the orphanage boiler room where he was kissed and fondled, beginning a pattern of being sexually "stalked" by that Brother and abused numerous times.

And during that period, he said, he asked priests for help.

The man also talked about another Brother who beat him, leaving his eye swollen for two weeks.

"Sexual stalking, it was persistent," the man, now in his early 70s, said of the Brother who sexually abused him. "The two years, the 2 1/2 years, were probably the worst period of my life ever, under any circumstances, when (the two Brothers) were in the orphanage. It was awful."

The man said he told some Roman Catholic priests about the incidents in and out of confession, and his once-serious interest in pursuing a career in the priesthood or as a Christian Brother ended because they did not help him.

"I was really involved in the church up until the point where I lost all interest in the church. They pushed me too far. I couldn't get anything done. I had told the priest about these things, both inside and outside the confessional, and I felt there was something wrong. ... I wasn't getting anywhere," he said.

The man said he doesn't have animosity for either Mount Cashel or the church as institutions.

"But I have a lot of animosity towards some of the people who were in there who didn't do anything to help me," he said.

None of the abuse allegations were ever dealt with in a criminal court, he testified. (There were criminal cases in the era following the 1989-90 Hughes Inquiry.)

The man is not represented by lawyers Budden and Associates as part of the case before Justice Alphonsus Faour. But he said he reached out after he read of the church's stand in newspaper coverage of the civil trial. He was a claimant with another St. John's law firm on the bankruptcy of the lay order Irish Christian Brothers.

"What troubled me about some of the people's impression of what Mount Cashel was, was it was some kind of an isolated situation where these Christian Brothers had absolute control," the man told the court. "They did not. ... It was a Catholic institution. It was a parish first.

"We looked to the church ... at least I did ... for the ultimate authority."

The man cannot be identified because of a publication ban. The names of deceased priests are also banned from publication.

The lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp. of St. John's seeks compensation and involves four test cases that claim the church should be held liable for the physical and sexual abuse of boys at the orphanage by certain Christian Brothers during the late 1940s to early 1960s. The test cases represent about 60 claimants represented by Geoff Budden's firm.

The church contends it did not run the orphanage, and therefore is not responsible for actions of the Christian Brothers there.

The witness told Budden that the Brother who sexually abused him on one occasion took his penis in his mouth, and on another beat his bare bottom while the Brother had his hand under his garment.

The man said his admission to the orphanage was arranged by the priest from his community, but conceded to Susan Adam Metzler, who represents the church, he was a child and may have been unaware of who organized it, but said that's what he was told years later.

His father died in 1943, months before the witness was born to a family with several children. His mother remarried, but later died. His stepfather left with his own kids - the man's half-siblings. He was cared for by a sister for a time, but she could not take him when she moved to the mainland to marry. The man, one of three brothers placed in the orphanage, said the early years at the orphanage were good, as things were bad at home, with little food and sickness. He was about six when he went in.

Later years were also OK, once the two Brothers who abused him left the orphanage, he said.

The witness conceded to Adam Metzler that he is unaware of what further conversation the priests he spoke to had with the orphanage principal.

He also conceded the Brothers were responsible for the boys' education, and daily routines at the orphanage.

"They were our teachers and parents, basically," he said.

While the former orphanage resident was adamant about the church's role at Mount Cashel, Thursday's other witness stated the opposite.

"I would have to say (the archdiocese) played no long-term role as I saw in the documentation. There was no long-term management, direction, control, operation of the orphanage. This matter of the orphanage was left to the Irish Christian Brothers," said Newfoundland historian John FitzGerald.

His testimony is a temporary shift to the church's case because of scheduling. FitzGerald, an expert witness called by lawyers defending the archdiocese, said the Christian Brothers had their own hierarchy of superiors and did not answer to bishops and the Catholic line of authority.

He began presenting a lengthy history of how the Irish Christian Brothers came to the province in the 1870s to establish schools, as they built an international reputation as educators.

He said while the archdiocese was a liaison, helped to fundraise for the orphanage and had lobbied the government at the request of the Irish Christian Brothers, it did not run the facility.

"The management and control of the orphanage were in the hands of the Christian Brothers, FitzGerald said.

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