A child rape at St. Mary’s school in Tokyo, then a 50-year wait for closure

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Victim reveals details of ordeal at the hands of teachers at St. Mary’s school in Tokyo, and of meeting his abuser half a century later

The Japan Times

29 April 2015

by Simon Scott

Figures of authority: Brothers Lawrence Lambert (right) and Benoit Lessard, who have both been implicated in child sexual abuse, appear in the 1970 St. Mary’s International School yearbook.

My dear children, whom Jesus, our Saviour, has loved so much, whom he bends down to embrace and bless, come to us, stay with us. We will be the guardian angels of your innocence.

Father Jean-Marie De La Mennais, founder of The Brothers of Christian Instruction (Sermon VII)


In late 1964, after his family moved to Japan from Australia, Jacob Bernstein was enrolled at St. Mary’s International School in Tokyo. His father, Robert, a diplomat, had been sent to the Australian Embassy in the city — his first overseas posting.

One lunchtime late in 1965, Jacob says he was searching for a good spot to eat lunch when he passed the school chapel.

Being Jewish, the 11-year-old Grade 6 student didn’t eat the school lunches served in the dining room as most of the boys did. St. Mary’s, a Catholic boys’ school run by the Brothers of Christian Instruction, aka the Mennaisians, was unable to prepare food that was kosher, so he had to eat a prepared lunch from home instead.

That day, his mother had prepared his favorite food, rollmops — pickled herring fillets rolled around a savory filling and held together with wooden skewers —so he was eager to tuck in.

“I saw the chapel door open and went in and started eating my lunch alone,” says Bernstein. “I did not have my feet on the seats, nor was I making a mess. I didn’t think it was not permitted.”

Suddenly, says Bernstein, Lawrence Lambert and another Catholic Brother at the school entered the chapel, did the sign of the cross and then approached him.

“Brother Lawrence said I was to be punished for eating in the chapel,” he recalls. “I was taken to a table near the door and made to face it and drop my pants and bend over. I thought I was to be spanked, although I can’t recall there was any physical punishment at the school.

“One of them pulled my pants right off.” Then, he says, “Brother Lawrence started to sodomize me. I had no idea of what he was doing, only that it hurt.”

Bernstein says he was then also raped by the other Brother.

“He put his hands under my T-shirt and pulled it up over my head, so covering my face. Then he sodomized me,” he says. “I did not make a noise. I was too frightened.”

After both men had left the chapel, Bernstein noticed the skewer from the rollmop he had been eating was embedded in his palm.

“I had the skewer in my hand — I squeezed it so hard the skewer stabbed the palm of my hand and I later had to pull it out,” he says.

The Japan Times printed portions of some of these letters in an earlier article on this scandal, but it is only now that Bernstein himself has felt ready to reveal details of the rape.

After the ordeal, Bernstein says that one of the Brothers — he is not sure which — told him to keep silent, and that if he spoke out, his brother, Tom, a Grade 2 student at St. Mary’s at the time, would be similarly “punished.”

The threat worked, and at first Bernstein told no one.

It wasn’t until a few days later that his mother began to suspect something was wrong.

In a signed affidavit — written in 2013 after her son told her of his need to obtain closure about what happened — Mrs. Bernstein explains the circumstances that led up to her discovering that her son had been sexually abused.

To quote from the document:

In 1965, I cannot recall the date, but it was at least mid-year, our maid Mutsuko-san brought me a pair of Jacob’s underpants that were covered in blood. I immediately took him to see Dr. Fair, who was a New Zealander and Tokyo-based. He was the official Embassy doctor. Jacob would not say what was wrong, earlier that day he did not want to go to school and said he had a tummy bug which I interpreted as gastro. He was walking hunched over on the way to the car.

After examining Jacob, the doctor prescribed him some medicines and then sent them on their way, telling Mrs. Bernstein that he was not sure what was wrong with her son. It wasn’t until later, when her husband returned home, that she discovered the shocking truth.

Robert came home suddenly and told me Dr. Fair had telephoned . . . to say Jacob had been sexually assaulted. We immediately thought of perhaps one of the drivers or the gardener. We spoke to Jacob, who would not initially say what happened but indicated it was at school, and that if he told us if he said anything that Brother Lawrence would do it to Tom. We then knew who the culprit was.

The name Jacob Bernstein is a pseudonym and has been used to protect the identity of a victim of sexual abuse. The names of all of all his immediate family members are also pseudonyms, as revealing their real identities would also expose the victim. All other names used are real.

According to Bernstein’s mother, rather than involving the police, the whole affair was dealt with between the Australian Embassy and St. Mary’s school. Bernstein and his mother maintain that the school made a promise to the embassy and the boy’s father that Lambert would be sent back to Canada and not be allowed near kids again.

The family returned to Australia shortly after, where Bernstein eventually attended boarding school. His father continued to work for the Australian diplomatic service until retirement.

The following year, in 1966, Lambert was sent back to Canada, yet records from both the school and the Mennaisians indicate that this was only a temporary measure. School yearbooks from the time, and also newsletters issued by both the school and the Mennaisians, reveal that by 1968 Lambert had returned to Japan. Soon, he would be back teaching at St. Mary’s and in regular contact with boys again.

Photographs of Lambert appear in both the 1969 and 1970 yearbooks, and he was teaching English to elementary school students at the school at that time. Brother Benoit Lessard, another Canadian Brother who has also been accused of sexually abusing students at the school (as revealed on these pages on Sept. 2 and Oct. 28, 2014) was working at the elementary school together with Lambert at this time.

By early 1971 Lambert had been transferred to Seiko Gakuin, a junior and senior high school in Shizuoka, where he taught English and about the Catholic faith. Seiko Gakuin is a sister school of St. Mary’s, but mainly caters to Japanese rather than international students. It is also owned and run by the same Catholic order, The Brothers of Christian Instruction.

In 1982, Lambert returned to St. Mary’s, this time as elementary school principal as well as teacher. The same year, he was promoted by the Brothers to the post of vice-provincial of Japan. He remained as elementary school principal at St. Mary’s for around three decades, until he retired in 2011. He also worked in the role of assistant headmaster during that time.

After retiring, Lambert continued to live at the Brothers’ residence located on the St. Mary’s campus, although it is unclear how much contact he had with students during that time.

The trauma was so severe that it took 48 years before he was able to find the courage to break his silence and confront the past.

In May 2013 Bernstein contacted Brother Michel Jutras, the headmaster of St. Mary’s at the time, and told him about what had happened to him in 1965. Jutras put him in touch with Brother Raymond Ducharme, the vice-provincial for the Brothers of Christian Instruction for Japan and the Philippines.

According to emails sent from Ducharme to the victim, of which The Japan Times has obtained copies, around this time Lambert, by then in his early 80s, was moved to the Brothers’ residence on the Seiko Gakuin campus in Shizuoka. Sometime around the middle of 2014 he left Japan and returned to his home country of Canada. It is believed he is now living in the Mother House — the Brothers’ worldwide HQ — in La Prairie, Quebec. Requests to the Mennaisians for comment about these and other matters surrounding Lambert went unanswered.

After having been put in contact by the school, there was a protracted email exchange between Bernstein and Ducharme. In one email, Bernstein tells Ducharme about how the abuse affected his life:

Child abuse has devastating effects, as you should know, and all child abuse has catastrophic consequences. For me, Brother Lawrence Lambert’s abuse has meant I have had a life which is severely compromised from what it might otherwise have been. To give you an example of this effect upon me, I attempted suicide at age 12. The abuse has robbed me of not just my childhood, but also much of the adult who grew from that abuse.

One of Bernstein’s demands, which he negotiated with Ducharme by email, was that he wanted written letters of apology from four people: Lambert, his abuser; John Paradis, who was headmaster at the school in 1965; Ducharme himself, as the current head of the Mennaisians in Japan; and Jutras, the school headmaster until recently.

All of these apologies were eventually forthcoming, except for from Paradis. Excerpts from the Lambert and Ducharme letters were published in The Japan Times in October last year.

Bernstein was determined to also get an apology from Paradis because he believes he, and most likely other Brothers at the school as well, knew about the abuse Lambert perpetrated, covered up for him and allowed him to return to the school a few years later. In one email, Ducharme matter-of-factly lays out what he believed happened to Lambert in the years after he raped Bernstein:

As far as I can gather now, Brother Lawrence was removed from the school and sent to study in the States, I guess, then he went on to study Japanese, probably for a couple of years, and then was assigned to a Japanese school.

Another quote from an email written by Ducharme in November 2013 implies that Paradis may be ready to accept some responsibility for what happened on his watch at St. Mary’s in the 1960s:

Personally, I think that, if he can, Br. Paradis would be ready to apologize concerning the fact that it happens under the time he was principal of St. Mary’s, and I am sure that he has been suffering because a teacher, and at that a Brother, did that to you. I believe that he is very sorry of that it all happened; however, he is 87 now, does not hear very well and he is practically blind.

Yet despite these reassurances, the apology from Paradis never arrived.

At the synagogue, the two Catholic Brothers read out loud letters of apology to the victim in the presence of the rabbi, who was there to witness proceedings.

“The simple truth is that still today I cannot understand the fact I raped you,” said Lambert. “It was the first time I did that in my life, and I did not do that again. . . . Somehow passion suddenly took over and I did what I should never have done and selfishly and violently hurt your body and hurt your heart for the rest of your life.”

The letters were then signed and presented to Bernstein. He was also handed a letter of apology written and signed by Jutras, who was not present.

A number of requests for comment, including written questions, have been sent to St. Mary’s International School in relation to this story.

In response, the school says that as a matter of policy, it will not comment beyond the statements that it has made to the St. Mary’s community.

Request for comment from the Catholic order that runs St. Mary’s, The Brothers of Christian Instruction, went unanswered, as did those sent to the office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Tokyo.

Still here: Lawrence Lambert, then elementary school principal, waves in a screen grab from a video uploaded to YouTube by St. Mary’s International School in 2010. 
Still here: Lawrence Lambert, then elementary school principal, waves in a screen grab from a video uploaded to YouTube by St. Mary’s International School in 2010. 

In St. Mary’s inquiry, risk management firm plays a major role

As reported in previous stories in The Japan Times, St. Mary’s International School has acknowledged what they refer to as historical “allegations” of sexual abuse at the school in Tokyo through a series of letters they have sent to wider school community. To date, five letters have been issued, all authored by the school’s principal, Saburo Kagei.

In the fourth letter, dated Nov. 18 last year, the school announced the establishment of a panel of four experts who are currently carrying out an investigation into the issue of abuse at the school. The letter stresses that the inquiry is separate and independent from St. Mary’s.

“We are very grateful that these distinguished experts have agreed to conduct an independent inquiry and are confident that, given their outstanding credentials, we will receive an unbiased report,” the letter says.

Yet concerns have been raised about the true independence of this inquiry. Canadian writer and researcher Sylvia MacEachern, an expert on the issue of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, says she was flabbergasted to learn the school itself had actually appointed all the panel members.

“This is oxymoronic. It truly defies both common sense and logic,” says MacEachern. “After all, the experts were, to put it simply, hand-picked by those who, in the midst of this crisis, have a vested interest in making the scandal disappear, while simultaneously presenting the school, staff and Brothers in a positive light.”

According to MacEachern, the suitability of some of the panel members to carry out an unbiased, independent investigation into the abuse is also questionable. In particular, concerns have been raised about panel member Jack Byrd, described in the school’s letter as “an investigator with more than 20 years’ experience in a broad range of complex cross-border crimes including allegations of sexual misconduct.”

Although it is not mentioned in Kagei’s letter, Byrd is managing partner of 360 Risk Management Group, an international risk-management firm with offices in Hong Kong, Tokyo, London and Los Angeles.

According to the company’s website, 360 specializes in “guiding clients in high-risk business environments.”

In a 2010 interview with Japan Today, Byrd talked about the main service his company provides: “What clients are really interested in is making a problem go away after they have encountered it,” he said. “Once the crisis hits, they call us.”

MacEachern questions the real motives of the school in appointing a business risk management consultant to the panel and wonders how the kind of sentiment expressed in Bryd’s comment above could possibly be helpful to a victim of sexual abuse wanting to come forward.

“How, pray tell, will does that sentiment help a victim?” she asks. “I can see it helping the school, but, how will it help the victims?” she asks. “Not only that: How . . . does that sentiment help those who wish to report cover-up?”

In addition to the company’s managing partner being on the panel of inquiry, the mailing address for 360 Management Group is provided in a letter issued by the school to its community as the contact address for people, such as victims, wanting to report information related to the sexual abuse at the school.

In response to requests for comment, Byrd said he was unable to speak about the investigation. Panel chair and lawyer Keiko Ohara said the panel is not in a position to discuss the work they are doing with those outside the inquiry.

Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp

12 Responses to A child rape at St. Mary’s school in Tokyo, then a 50-year wait for closure

  1. Sylvia says:

    Yes, young Jacob was sodomised by not one, but two, Brothers of Christian Instruction. For a variety of reasons he initially focused exclusively on the abuse he suffered at the hands of Brother Lawrence. I will eventually explain and identify the other Brother, but not now – not until I can spend the time writing that dimension of the abuse which this child suffered.

    Also, there is a typo in the article. The Mother House in La Prairie Quebec is NOT the worldwide headquarters of the Brothers of Christian Instruction. The Mother House in Quebec is the Mother House for the the Province of Jean de La Mennais – that is the province which is responsible for SMIS and the the brothers in Japan.

  2. Exported Predators in Canada says:

    Living at the Mother House in Quebec means living amongst children. Isn’t the Mother House in the grounds of a leading Montreal school ?

    Are the parents aware of monsters living in the midst of children ?

  3. Panel must interview Sylvia says:

    What attempt has the panel made to interview victims, contact past students and of course Sylvia ?

    The alumni sites are silent. The school Facebook is blank. The panel if it is genuine must publish its Terms of Reference and advertise?

    Where is the Archbishop ?

  4. Sylvia says:

    You are right EPiC. The Collège Jean de la Mennais, once operated by the brothers, is in the same general area as the mother house. I’m not certain if is exactly on the same grounds, but it is close by. It is a large French co-ed private school school for both elementary and high school students. And, it is close enough to the mother house that the cemetery for deceased brothers is on the school grounds.

    I highly doubt that parents or neighbours have been told that Brother Larence Lambert and other suspect child molesters are living in that residence. I am quite certain that he brothers would not have told.


    The quote from the Japan Times:

    Ducharme matter-of-factly lays out what he believed happened to Lambert in the years after he raped Bernstein: “Brother Lawrence was removed from the school and sent to study in the States”.

    REMOVED FROM THE SCHOOL. This says it all REMOVED, not transferred or moved but REMOVED. REMOVED in the sense of disposing of refuse.

    In October the Japan Times revealed the apology letters. No this damning statement from Ducharme is clearly proof that Lambert was in fact known to be a predator and hidden away in the States. I wonder if he was at another school ? Yes the Superiors of the day clearly knew and enabled this evil man to continue his career of preying on boys for another half century.

    No we have Headmaster Kagei having his chosen people (the Panel) have an inquiry so SMIS can have the results the school requires, not results for the victims.

    Will the Archbishops of Tokyo and Montreal remain silent ? Yes no doubt they will following the pattern of many enablers.

  6. Bro Isidore knew all along. says:

    I think this is not Lambert’s first. It seems so coincidental that it happened. He may have been doing it numerous times to make that ‘business’ carry smoothly. And then comes to mind the statistics of 2 Brothers doing the same. It seems like something organizational is there. There should be more victims that are quiet. I would say 5 tries like that occurred previously with Lambert to make that whole ‘business’ that smoothly executed.

  7. Petition Montreal Schools and Churches says:

    Does anyone have email addresses for any media and schools in Montreal (any school). We need to avalanche then with emails as to the vermin living amongst chilren. Emails can also be sent to Churches (Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Islamic, all). The three enablers need to be out of the Mother House and exiled from children.

    Do the Shizuoka newspapers know that a pedophile was dumped amongst their chilren. Don’t Japanese boys matter? Clearly not to the Brothers of Christian Instruction

  8. Jen Yatz says:

    One has to wonder if this is the source of the both Saburo Kagei and his wife Ann’s rise to power. He was a student when all of this was going on and was either a victim or knew of these tragedies because students talk. He worked in the classroom for a couple of years, and has consistently risen through the ranks at St. Mary’s by essentially keeping a low profile and protecting the school. His wife works at St. Mary’s sister school Seisen, and mysteriously rose quickly through ranks in a short 5 years to be a middle school principal…with no experience or qualifications! Prior to 2009 she could not gain employment at a proper international school. Much like her husband, once she was hired she put a quick stint in the classroom and was suddenly promoted to management and is currently helping to destroy a school with good reputation built on a history of success. I hope Simon continues to dig and clear up even more of these mysteries. Further kudos to shining light in the dark corners where children are being violated in trusted communities.

  9. The school council says:

    Why we must wonder haven’t the school council removed Kagei. What knowledge does he have that scars them ?

    I suggest that this is bigger than a few dozen victims.

    • The school Council says:

      After Brother Michel Jutras handed over the boys to Kagei, he took the reigns of the School Council.

      Isn’t it peculiar how the School Council have not been issuing public notices, but only their servant boy has been. And he has not been doing well. It is hard to get good hired help these days.

  10. Had un-comforting men too as Brothers says:

    In my case, Lessard/Lambert/etc. did not pursue me but they heavily influenced an upper-classman who went through the Lessard system. This upper-classman made me masturbate him at school for 3 years starting at my 5th grade.

    This guy’s younger brother was my classmate, and latter did secretly witness our smelly sessions. I found this out later but it alleviated my possible latter day negative effects.

    • Had un-comforting men too as Brothers says:

      Seeking for help at the school office or with the Brothers at the time could have led to a very compromised situation, judging from how the culture is there. I am glad I did not seek ‘professional’ help there then.

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