Horrific catalogue of child sexual abuse by Christian Brothers in Australia

Pixabay / Pete Linforth

More than 850 people have complained of child sexual abuse by one or more Christian Brothers in Australia. Three-quarters of the victims were under the age of 13, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard.

One Christian Brother, Stephen Farrel, who has already been convicted, was even hugged by a superior as his way of helping him after a child complained.

"He just put his arms around me and gave me a long cuddle. No words were said. He then just walked out," Sky News Australia reported.

Another student, Timothy Barlow,  at St Patrick's College in Ballarat, suffered a beating at the hands of Christian brother Edward Dowlan, who has also been convicted. His offence was to report Dowlan to the school for putting his hands down the pants of students.

ABC highlighted Barlow's case as he told the inquiry it was common knowledge that boys were being abused at the school, with widespread rumours of boys being assaulted in dormitories.

"It was survival of the fittest. I think we were in a dysfunctional closed environment where the abnormal was normal," said Barlow, who at the time was on the student representative body and was beaten up after he asked the principal to intervene at the request of the younger students.

As he was beaten up by two Christian Brothers, he heard one say: "You'll regret this you lying prick, who do you think you are?" The student representative body was then disbanded. 

In 1974, parents asked for Dowlan's "inappropriate behaviour" to be looked into.

The commission is looking at how abuse claims were handled in the Diocese of Ballarat. The Christian Brothers have already paid out more than $37 million in compensation after the claims from 853 victims against 281 Christian Brothers.

The most claims, 46 in total, were against Christian Brother referred to as "CCK". The average age of his victims was 11.

Australia's most senior Catholic and financial head of the Vatican, Cardinal George Pell, is due give evidence to the commission next week February relating to his time serving as an assistant priest at Ballarat East.