THE audit on the Christian Brothers by the National Board for Safeguarding Children found allegations of abuse against a staggering 325 brothers relating to 870 incidences of abuse.
All of these incidences the NBSCCCI found had been reported to the gardai and HSE.
But the files read by the reviewers left them in no doubt that a great number of children were seriously abused by Brothers.
And according to the NBSCCCI the historical evidence makes it clear that a substantial safeguarding deficit existed within the Province prior to the early 1990s.
The years 1995 –2008 marked a period of acute and fundamental change for the Province evidenced by a dramatic rise in complaints, against deceased, former and living Brothers.
These related to abuse having taken place in the 1960s to 1990s. There was a surge of litigation, public inquiries and adverse media and public comment.
The Province reached its apex in Ireland in the early 1960s when it had a membership of some 1,300 Brothers.
The Christian Brothers point out that the number of child sexual abuse complaints received by the Province prior to the 1990s was relatively small. The broadcasting of two documentaries on Irish television (Dear Daughter in 1996 and States of Fear in 1998), led to a new emphasis on the experience of victims of abuse at the hands of religious congregations.
Responding to the findings, the Christian Brothers welcomed the NBSCCCI’s conclusion.
It insisted the order has developed ‘a robust safeguarding ethos and culture at its remaining operations in Ireland’ and that ‘it has become a safe organisation for children and young adults’.
The NBSCCCI found that in reaching this point as a safe organisation to work with children and young people, the safeguarding practices of the Province of the Christian Brothers "have evolved considerably."
In its review the NBSCCCI pointed out that these changes reflect, in part, the dramatic transformation occurring in Irish society over the past 50 years such as a reduced requirement to supplement State education and welfare services, the decline in the influence of religious organizations and heightened awareness of the need to safeguard children
A declining and aging congregation has seen a major strategic shift whereby the Province provides no more than a residual service to children and young people at present. The reviewers were informed that the Christian Brothers’ membership in Ireland now stands at some 267 Brothers, with an average age of 74 years.