Christian Brothers ‘will disappear from Australia’ because of ageing membership


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The Catholic order’s youngest brother is in his 50s, royal commission told, as leader defends legal action

A Christian Brothers’ leader has said the Catholic order will disappear from Australia in the coming decades.

Oceania provincial leader Peter Clinch said on Wednesday that the country’s youngest Christian brother was in his 50s and the order no longer sought applicants for its novitiate.

He was asked whether he thought the Christian Brothers would become nothing more than a “brand” on schools run by lay people in 30 to 40 years.

“I don’t think even the brand will be there,” he told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney.

“I think the brand Christian Brothers will be no more.”

Peter Carroll, Marist Brothers provincial, said his order was also aging and receiving few candidates.

But the Christian Brothers, despite declining membership, spent $1.5m defending convicted abuser, brother Robert Best.

The commission on Wednesday heard the order was forced to fork out $14m to top up payments to 165 victims.

The additional payments were made after a 2014 royal commission hearing prompted a review of around 200 settlements.

Victims of Christian Brothers’ abuse were paid a total of $48.5m between 1980 and 2015 – the highest compensation of all the Australian Catholic authorities.

Clinch was asked why he thought so many settlements had been inadequate.

“We thought we were going to be taken to the cleaners, which we could still,” he said on Wednesday. “It was kind of a defensiveness, a reluctance to come and speak with legal people.”

Data released at the start of the present royal commission hearing indicated 22% of Christian Brother members between 1950 and 2010 were alleged sexual abusers.

The royal commission heard protocols about what to do with a member found to be a sexual abuser differed among the male Catholic religious orders.

Carroll said known abusers among the Marist Brothers were subject to ministry restrictions and supervision, while Clinch said his order would ask a member to leave or recommend him for dismissal if the public perception of him was too strong.

Carroll and Clinch were among a panel of religious leaders giving evidence at the royal commission on Wednesday.

The hearing will continue on Thursday with the country’s metropolitan archbishops expected to be called in the afternoon.

Online Source: The Guardian

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