A classic cover-up, putting more children in danger

Research by Broken Rites Australia has found how the Catholic Church covered up sexual abuse by a religious Brother at a church school in Queensland. The cover-up enabled the offender to attack more victims.

Brother Wilfred De Cruz was a member of the Catholic order of De La Salle Brothers. This order conducted a primary and secondary school (now called Southern Cross Catholic College) at Scarborough, on the Redcliffe peninsula, north of Brisbane.

Broken Rites has found evidence that Brother Wilfred De Cruz was indecently assaulting boys at the school in the 1970s and 1980s. The victims whom he targeted were aged between 11 and 15.

Broken Rites has also found that, by 1978, Brother Wilfred's offences had been reported to Monsignor Bartholomew Frawley (the parish priest in charge of the Scarborough-Redcliffe region), who was the most senior church official associated with the school.

However, Monsignor Frawley covered up the complaints, thereby enabling Brother Wilfred to find further victims. Thus, Brother Wilfred continued to indecently assault boys at the school for several more years while he enjoyed the protection of the church authorities.

Several of his victims, who do not know each other, have contacted Broken Rites, explaining how the church's negligence disrupted their schooling and their adolescent development. Broken Rites has advised these victims about how to tackle the church authorities. As a result of this action by Broken Rites, the Australian headquarters of the De La Salle Brothers have begun making amends with Brother Wilfred's victims.

Southern Cross College

The origins of Southern Cross College were in the 1950s when Father Bartholomew Frawley (a priest belonging to the Brisbane archdiocese) began developing Catholic education in the Scarborough-Redcliffe area — a boys' school staffed by De La Salle Brothers and a girls' school staffed by nuns. Frawley administered this parish until he retired in 1983 (with the rank of Monsignor). In retirement, he continued to reside in Scarborough, still being honoured as a founder of Southern Cross College, which became co-educational.

However, a veil of silence remained over the fact that Monsignor Frawley knew about Brother Wilfred De Cruz's sexual abuse. Information about this cover-up finally reached Broken Rites in 1994, and Broken has received more information as recently as 2010.

The offender

When Brother Wilfred de Cruz was at Southern Cross College, it was still a boys-only school. The students then included boarders from country areas.

Wilfred De Cruz was of Asian background and originally lived in Burma. His surname (which is sometimes spelt D'Cruz) is a Eurasian one which can be found in India, Burma and Malaysia.

Some of his indecent assaults occurred in a shed in the school grounds, near a duck pond. Brother Wilfred used to look after the ducks and he would try to entice boys into the shed, where he would maul them sexually. At least one boy was penetrated anally. Brother Wilfred also committed indecent actions against boys inside the school main buildings.

In all these acts, Brother Wilfred was committing a crime — indecent assault of a child. This crime, if reported to the police (and if not covered up by the Catholic culture) can be punished in the courts with a jail sentence.

Cover-up

A Scarborough, "Millie", who lived very near Southern Cross College, has told Broken Rites:

"We were not Catholics but we lived very close to the De La Salle school. About 1978, my son ('Andy', then aged 12) was attending a government school but he and his friends played in the De La Salle schoolyard after hours. The grounds included a swampy area with ducks and eels. I assumed that a church schoolyard was a safe environment.

"Brother Wilfred befriended Andy and started phoning our house to speak to Andy but I noticed that Andy started to evade the calls. Later, Andy told me that Wilfred would entice a boy — any boy — into a secluded area at the school and touch them sexually.

"I complained to the parish priest, Father Bartholomew Frawley. He asked me if I had told anybody else about it. When I said No, he told me that he would attend to it.

"He urged me not to tell anybody else, so as to protect the school's reputation. I now realise that this was a corrupt request because parents have a right to know when children are at risk. The church's cover-up only increases the danger.

"Some time later, I overheard some other boys telling Andy about how Brother Wilfred would take a boy into a science room at the school and would expose his genitals to the boy. I went to the school again (accompanied by another non-Catholic mum, 'Cath') and reported this to a senior De La Salle Brother. He merely said he would look into it. I still know Cath, and we both still remember our interview with the Brother.

"Despite these complaints, Brother Wilfred continued to be conspicuous at the school. I still used to notice him in the school grounds, for years afterwards."

"Now, I regret that I did not make more fuss about the incidents and that I merely told the church, not the police."

(Broken Rites first received a phone call from Millie in early 1994. We contacted her again in 2010, and she was still feeling annoyed about the De La Salle sex-abuse and the way it was covered up.)

The story of Roger

In 2008 a former student, "Roger" (born in 1958), told Broken Rites how he encountered Brother Wilfred De Cruz in the early 1970s. Roger said: "I had Brother Wilfred De Cruz at De La Salle, Scarborough, during three consecutive years from 1970 to 1972, when I was aged from 12 to 14. I used to help him to look after the ducks in the pond. I used to see him around his shed at lunch time and sometimes I would stay back after school to help him.

"He shoved his hands into my pants and tried to masturbate me. He also made he touch his genitals under the clerical frock that he wore.

"I was from a large Catholic family. My parents were very devout. Therefore, I knew that I was prohibited from saying anything negative about Catholic priests or brothers. So I had to remain silent about Brother Wilfred.

"My father eventually died without knowing my story. My mother is still alive but she still does not know about it."

The story of John

Broken Rites can reveal that, after Millie's complaint to Monsignor Frawley in the late 1970s, the church authorities allowed Brother Wilfred to remain at the school, where he continued to offend.

One victim, "John" (born in 1967), told Broken Rites in 2006: "Brother Wilfred De Cruz sexually abused me dozens of times during a three-year period between 1980 and 1983, when I was aged 13 to 15. It happened in a shed near the duck pond at the school.

"The pond had a fence around it, topped with barbed wire. The shed could be locked and he kept a pile of mattresses in one corner."

John said Brother Wilfred D'Cruz would maul the boy's genitals and would make John do the same to Brother Wilfred and he made John take part in oral sex.

Brother Wilfred placed his penis between John's buttocks, John said.

During these various activities, Brother Wilfred would ejaculate, John said.

John said that sometimes Brother Wilfred would give him five dollars or sometimes cigarettes.

John said: "Brother Wilfred was a friend of my family and he often came to our house for dinner during the three years that he was abusing me. I could not tell my family what he was doing to me because of the family's friendship."

After lengthy negotiations, De La Salle's headquarters in Sydney gave John a written apology, signed by the order's Australian head, plus a financial settlement.

Other victims

It is not known exactly how many victims Brother Wilfred De Cruz had but the number could be considerable.

"Brian", of Scarborough, told Broken Rites in 1996: "Two of my friends were sexually abused by Brother Wilfred at Scarborough in the 1980s. They also knew about another sex-abuser at Scarborough, Brother Ibar Frank Keating."

In 2008 a mother ("Sally") told Broken Rites that Brother Wilfred sexually assaulted her son ("Boris") at this school in 1978. This family were not Catholics — they had sent Boris to this school for reasons of convenience. As they were not Catholics, the family quickly learned about the abuse and reported it to the police in the same year, 1978. But, Sally says, a Catholic police officer (who was a supporter of the school) made sure that Brother Wilfred De Cruz was not charged.

Obtaining justice

Brother Wilfred De Cruz died in the late 1980s. Therefore, the police can no longer arrest him.

However, there is a process by which his victims can still tackle the church authorities, seeking an apology.

A culture of abuse

Brother Wilfred De Cruz was not the only offender at this school. Brother Ibar Frank Keating (referred to by "Brian" earlier in this article) was appointed to De La Salle at Scarborough in 1981 and became the deputy principal and principal. Brother Ibar, too, committed indecent assaults on pupils at Scarborough (and elsewhere). The superiors of the De La Salle order had known for years that Brother Ibar Keating was a danger to pupils.

Wilfred D'Cruz also follows in the tradition of a another abusive De La Salle Brother — Brother Fintan Dwyer.

 

 

It is not surprising that Brother Wilfred De Cruz was protected at the Southern Cross College for so long.

Article updated 4 January 2011.