A former Christian Brother spoke recently on the radio of how, at 14, he was put in charge of much older boys in an industrial school. They dressed him up in a miniature Christian Brothers soutane and armed him with their universal instrument of pain — a leather.
This child was sent out to patrol the school grounds accompanied by an adult Christian Brother for protection, and he was expected to beat the older boys in the yard to teach them manners. This 14-year-old boy was instructed to terrorise other boys in the name of Christianity but he didn’t. For four years, he resisted the pressure, until he could take no more, and finally laid into one of the young prisoners with his leather, venting all his rage and frustration on the hapless boy who could never dare fight back.
When he came into the common-room in the monastery, all the waiting Brothers rose and gave him a standing ovation.
He left the order soon afterwards.
This is how the Christian Brothers formed the characters of the children they induced to join their dysfunctional band of sexually disturbed men. They passed on to the boys the same furtive feelings of shame about their sexuality that they felt themselves. They taught them to become drunken brutes. They taught them violence in the name of religion. These young boys who entered a monastery were deprived of normal human affection and normal adolescent development. Instead, they learned fear and guilt. They learned a warped and stunted understanding of sexuality and, once fully formed, they went out to abuse the children of this land.
It didn’t happen in a vacuum. The entire country under the malign influence of an authoritarian and puritanical Catholic church was gripped in a century-long spasm of self-loathing and hatred of the natural flesh. It was a backlash from the catastrophic famine and a conscious decision by the church authorities to stamp out the carefree, pagan, bacchanalian tendencies of the Irish. The joy of sex would be replaced by the self-hating misery of the Irish clergy and no organisation bought into this warped and impoverished view of life more enthusiastically than the Christian Brothers.
I remember a Christian Brother instructing us in school about sexual matters. Kelly was his name and he was clearly demented. He was a youngish man, possibly no more than thirty, but he had obviously never been laid in his life and it was driving him crazy. His understanding of sex was more primitive than our 13-year-old bicycle-shed knowledge and it showed in his rage, his quiet, hissing anger.
Today we’re going to talk about SEX he spat, and you could see he’d been up all night worrying about the big speech. He made sex seem dirty, shameful, ugly. He worked himself up into a rage and it was apparent to anyone with eyes — even to children like us — that he struggled with monstrous emotional demons.
Other guys of his age were out having fun while this unfortunate jerk was barking life-hating nonsense at children. The poor guy was not stable. His entire life was concerned with controlling his boiling frustration towards himself, towards the family that had shoved him into the Brothers and towards the cult itself, an organisation he plainly hated.
He was neither an abusive nor a violent man. Nor was he ignorant. Brother Kelly taught us mathematics and Latin with equal proficiency, but he was very, very angry, and even then, as children, we knew why.
He was fizzing.
Seán Drummond was 14 when the Christian Brothers recruited him. Fourteen. A child. He went through the same brutal, ignorant, emotionally-stunted induction process as all the others and when he emerged, he knew nothing of human emotions, normal friendships or the warmth of family. Like all the Christian Brothers, his only experience of sex was with other youths in the monastery, or at the hands of the older men.
And when Drummond emerged at the age of 18, he was both a fully-formed Christian Brother and a fully-formed sexual abuser.
When he was 18, he taught in a Limerick primary school at Creagh Lane for a year and in that year he inappropriately touched 19 boys.
Drummond left the order when he was 21 and went on to marry and have five children.
The indecent assaults came to light when two former pupils met in 1999 and compared notes after which Gardai brought a prosecution. Drummond, now 61, pleaded guilty to 36 charges of indecent assault in Limerick Circuit Court. He now must wait while a judge considers what sentence to impose.
If you’ve been a regular reader of this site, you’ll know what I think of child abusers, and my reaction when I read the first few paragraphs of the report was to dismiss Drummond out of hand as just another evil pervert. But as I read on, I began to realise that he was, as an 18-year-old, acting out the behaviours imprinted on him by the heartless, warped and amoral Christian Brothers machine, a system that introduced him, at the age of 16, to self flagellation, and that suppressed all normal adolescent sexual impulses.
In my opinion, Seán Drummond believed at the time that the kind of touching for which he has been convicted was perfectly normal. None of the Christian Brothers boys his age knew anything else. Coming from such a vile system as the one that abducted him at 14 years of age, is it any surprise that he behaved as he did?
He didn’t last long in the system, and he soon did what many others lacked the strength to do. He walked away from the all-controlling criminal organisation of which he had been a part. He formed a relationship and had a family, all of whom attended the court. For forty years he lived with the knowledge of what he had done between the ages of 18 and 19. Now, as a 61-year-old father, he faces the possibility of imprisonment for crimes comitted by a brainwashed and emotionally damaged teenager.
There’s another aspect of this case that I find distasteful and disturbing.
The judge heard that some of the victims experienced problems with alcohol, drugs, and relationship troubles as well as learning difficulties resulting from the assaults.
Look. These kids were groped, as were many others in the schools I attended. We all had creepy teachers. It was horrible, and as a parent I would have wanted to kill someone who did that to a child of mine, but to say that it caused drug addiction is pushing it a bit. In my opinion, this devalues the experience of the children who really were raped and beaten, and not just groped.
Call me suspicious-minded if you want, but I don’t like it.
Update: 10th December.
Seán Drummond was yesterday sentenced to two years in prison based on vidctim impact statements in which people said that they had suffered marital difficulties, alcoholism, learning difficulties and drug abuse as a result of his touching them.
Without wishing to justify what he did, I have to say I find this evidence difficult to accept and I think nothing is served by imprisoning a man for wrongs committed by a damaged youth.
Previously on Bock: