A public official is bringing a motion before Dublin City Council accusing the Christian Brothers of taking unjust legal action against victims who are suing the church for sexual abuse.
Amian O’Farrell, an independent councilman and attorney, said victims of convicted abusers must sue each and every member of the community individually to recover any claims.
The victims must also go to court separately to ask the Christian brothers to release the names and addresses of these congregation members in order to pursue claims.
Mr O’Farrell said it was the gift of Christian Brethren to enable victims to circumvent this “ridiculous” legal position, which he said prolongs the trauma suffered by victims seeking redress.
His motion calls on the congregation to take “community responsibility” for the “heinous acts” of some of its former members.
The situation has arisen following a Supreme Court ruling that religious communities are “unincorporated bodies,” meaning they cannot be sued.
However, the Supreme Court found that individual members who were present at the time of the abuse could be held liable for the actions of Christian Brother perpetrators. This means serving legal documents to each and every member of the congregation.
A victim of a former Christian brother who was twice convicted of abusing students had to serve subpoenas against each of the 162 Christian brothers who were members of the congregation at the time of the abuse, Mr O’Farrell said.
Some of these Christian brothers are abroad. Another complication is that each individual friar may have a different legal team, further lengthening the process.
Mr O’Farrell said the Christian Brethren could appoint a representative, such as the Order Provincial, to defend the lawsuits, thereby avoiding victims having to deal with potentially 160 legal firms. However, in a series of actions before the High Court, successive provincials have failed to do so.
“Victims should not have to bear the costs and delays associated with suing each and every member of the community when it is the gift of the religious order to appoint a single representative to defend claims,” he said.
A statement from the Christian Brethren said the congregation had no control over “complexities arising out of a Supreme Court ruling in which it was not a party and in which it was not a party.”
It continued: “Notwithstanding this judgment, a claim relating to a named Christian brother or specific Christian brothers may be brought against such persons without any obligation to deal with or serve any papers on other Christian brothers.
“It is solely up to the plaintiff and his counsel whether or not to expand their complaint beyond named alleged perpetrators.”
All respondents “have the right to due process and independent representation,” the statement said. In cases where “facts are not disputed,” “the community always prefers to facilitate settlement discussions to help survivors on their journey to healing” without the “added stress and expense of litigation.”
Mr O’Farrell’s application to Dublin City Council said the victims “had already obtained criminal convictions against their Christian brothers as perpetrators and were of primary school age when they were hideously injured and are still suffering the lifelong effects”.
She calls on the order to ensure that “victims of child sexual abuse by Christian brothers are treated fairly and in a Christian manner.”
“Your senior members, most of whom have provided long and distinguished service, also deserve better treatment.”
The Christian Brothers publicly apologized in 1998 for abuse in the Order’s institutions.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/christian-brothers-sex-abuse-legal-strategy-ludicrous-and-unjust-41925909.html Christian Brothers’ sex abuse legal strategy is ‘ridiculous and unfair’