'I'm appalled at what happened': former headmaster's regrets at child abuse inquiry

FAILED TO ACT: Former St Patrick's headmaster Paul Nangle (right) leaves the sex abuse inquiry at the Ballarat Magistrates Court on Tuesday with Truth Justice Healing CEO Frank Sullivan. Photo: SIMON O'DWYER
FAILED TO ACT: Former St Patrick's headmaster Paul Nangle (right) leaves the sex abuse inquiry at the Ballarat Magistrates Court on Tuesday with Truth Justice Healing CEO Frank Sullivan. Photo: SIMON O'DWYER

A RELIGIOUS superior has admitted to a woefully inadequate culture of protecting children and told an inquiry the Christian Brothers could have not comprehended the enormity of the trauma caused by their brutality and sexual abuse. 

Superior of the Christian Brother’s Ballarat community and former headmaster of St Patrick’s College Brother Paul Nangle said the psychosexual formation of brothers was “defective” and while the rape of children could never be justified, he believed society was more relaxed about matters of sexuality during the sexual revolution in the 1970s.

"In my regret I profoundly wish I had of been better informed and had better knowledge of what was occurring," Br Nangle said.

"I'm appalled at what happened and I'm deeply sorry for pain people have suffered as a result of that."

"I think that my understanding of the enormous trauma caused to children by abusive adults was at that time not fully appreciated by me.”

He also told the inquiry at that time it would have been "totally inconceivable" to him that a religious brother could have behaved in such a “deplorable manner."

However, the inquiry heard during his time as Superior of the Christian Brother's community in the 1970s at least three complaints of sexual misconduct were made directly to Br Nangle including allegations against Christian Brothers Stephen Farrell, Leo Fitzgerald and another brother BWX. All three brothers worked at the St Alipius Christian Brothers Boys School.

The inquiry heard in one incident, a father, who was also a police detective, made a complaint to Br Nangle about Br Fitzgerald kissing every grade three pupil at St Alipius Christian Brothers Boys School as they left school at the end of the day. In another incident, a teacher at St Alipius complained to Br Nangle after seeing Br BWX behaving sexually on a bed inside a presbytery with two young boys.

The inquiry heard while Br Nangle recalled one other complaint from a mother involving Br Farell which was sexual in nature, he did not remember what the allegation was.  

A survivor known as CCD told inquiry he made a complaint to Br Nangle after being sexually abused by Br Farrell. He said the assault had destroyed his life and ruined his trust in people.

Br Nangle said he did not remember telling two boys who said they were abused by Br Farrell and another mother whose son had been severely beaten by Christian Brother Edward Dowlan not to go to the police. He told the inquiry in each case of abuse reported to him, he passed the details onto the Christian Brothers provincial and trusted his superiors to follow it up. 

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