British Victim of Christian Brothers Speaks Out

News: Crisis in the Church
by Christine Niles  •  •  February 4, 2016   

The religious order has been dogged by sex scandals worldwide

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A victim of sex abuse at the hands of the Christian Brothers religious order is going public.

Leslie Turner, a teacher in the United Kingdom, is breaking his silence in a new film released by The Guardian. As a result of sex abuse he claims to have suffered at the hands of two members of the Christian Brothers at St. Aidan's Roman Catholic Grammar School in northeast England, Turner was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and has since been paid £17,000 (about $25,000).

The Congregation of Christian Brothers settled the lawsuit just before the case was to go to trial, where the order would've been forced to disclose whether other students had also been abused, and how the Congregation handled those complaints.

The Congregation is refusing to admit liability, stating it's unable to admit or deny the allegations, and that it would be "quite impossible" to investigate the charges long after the the alleged abusers' death.

The Christian Brothers have been dogged by multiple sex abuse scandals worldwide, suffering a sharp drop in members over the last few decades. In addition to the United Kingdom, lawsuits have been filed against the Congregation in Ireland, Australia, Canada and the United States.

In Australia, at least three Christian Brothers were convicted of sex crimes that took place in the 1970s at two schools in Ballarat, Victoria. In spite of the convictions, two of the brothers were transferred to another campus, where they continued to abuse boys.

Hundreds of former students of Mt. Cashel Orphanage in Newfoundland, Canada claim to have been abused by members of the Congregation, which ended up paying $23 million in 1993 in a legal settlement.

Among the American cases of abuse includes that of Br. Edward Chrysostom Courtney at Brother Rice High School in Chicago, whose sexual abuse of students led to a payout of $16.5 million.

Allegations of abuse in Ireland against the Christian Brothers have been the most severe, including charges of rape, torture and bribing of thousands of victims to keep them silent. A commission tasked with investigating the claims found that the Christian Brothers had been charged with more cases of abuse than all other male religious orders combined. The Congregation has since paid about £145 million ($211 million) in reparations in Ireland alone.

Turner, now 66, claims the abuse at St. Aidan's in Sunderland began at age 12. The abuse was "so common," he said, students thought of it as normal.

According to Turner, one of his teachers, Br. Norman Williams, would frequently call students to his desk to read aloud, and while they did so, he would run his hand up their legs and fondle them.

Students would sit in dread of being the next one called by the teacher. "Ironically, you'd be sitting there saying a 'Hail Mary' hoping that the prayer would mean that you weren't the next one to be called up."

At least one other witness has corroborated Turner's claims. Ray Stewart, a student in his class, claims to have been abused by Williams in 1961, and saw him "feeling up other boys in my class in exactly the same way."

The headmaster of St. Aidan's, Br. Dennis O'Brien, was allegedly also involved in the abuse. Turner recounts one time being called into O'Brien's office, who said to him, "I need to check that you are still a good boy." O'Brien then asked him to take down his trousers, and proceeded to molest him. This reportedly took place four times, before the headmaster was transferred to another school.

After six years of abuse, Turner left the school and tried to shut it out from his mind, but lost his Catholic faith in the process. "I stopped going to Church," he said. "I lost my faith."

Even so, Turner went on to become a teacher at a Catholic school, hoping to set a different example. "I wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to teach in Catholic schools," he explained, "but I wanted to be a teacher who did things differently, who treated their pupils with respect."

Watch the full documentary here.


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