The Western Australian
When a senior Marist Brother emailed a lawyer about complaints of child sexual abuse in 2001, he started the message with a tagline from Jaws 2.
“As the famous movie line said: just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…!,” Brother Michael Hill said in an email shown to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Wednesday.
“After a fairly mild couple of months all hell has broken loose over the past couple of weeks on the abuse front.”
The message from Brother Hill, who was the then-provincial for parts of the country’s east, was sent after a Brisbane student made a complaint about a man known as Brother Patrick touching his groin.
A public hearing has heard boys were groped in classrooms, abused in the chapel and raped in an office of the Newcastle Marist Brothers High School where Brother Patrick taught alongside fellow pedophiles Brother Romuald and Brother Dominic in the 1970s.
Former principal Brother Christopher testified he only ever received one complaint about Brother Romuald, whose real name is Francis Cable.
He said he confronted the brother who replied: “I thought I’d been good in that area recently.”
“Who’d you tell about that admission?” counsel assisting the commission Stephen Free asked.
“Nobody,” Brother Christopher replied.
A 1970s student of the school, known as CQS, said brother Romuald rubbed his erection on him during bronze medallion practice at the Merewether baths and fondled his genitals after making him strip naked so he could demonstrate where the femoral artery was to other boys.
The commission heard CQS and his father met with Brother Christopher about the abuse.
But the brother told the royal commission he has no recollection of meeting with the pair or with numerous other victims who have said they told him about Brother Romuald’s violations.
Brother Christopher also said he couldn’t remember going to the house of 13-year-old Marist Brothers student Andrew Nash, after the boy killed himself in 1974.
Andrew’s mother and brother have testified they believe Andrew was abused and that Brother Romuald, Brother Christopher and a man known as Brother John visited the house looking for damning evidence.
Brother Christopher denied talking to any other brothers about a potential suicide note or why Andrew might have killed himself.
He says he is grief-stricken that his inaction towards Romuald led to more boys being abused and says he took the brother’s “recently” comment as a denial of the specific complaint put to him.
“Is it the case that all you wanted to hear, in effect, was the denial and that way you could put an end to the matter?” Mr Free asked.
“I’m sure that’s true,” Brother Christopher replied.
Romuald was moved from the school at the end of the 1974 teaching year, weeks after Andrew’s death.
The hearing in Newcastle is expected to finish on Thursday.
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.