A senior Marist brother who said in 2008 that the financial costs of settling with Canberra child sex abuse victims were “obscenely out of proportion to the crimes committed” should quit or be sacked, Fairfax Media has been told by an abuse victim and the lawyer who handled many of the claims.
“The financial costs to us in this matter are obscenely out of proportion to the crimes committed, and that is reason enough for me to defend the charges as we are,” Brother Michael Green, now the national director of Marist Schools Australia, wrote in an email to the head of the order, Brother Jeffrey Crowe, at the height of the legal battle for victims’ compensation.
A Marist Brothers spokesman has defended the email, saying: "They (the comments) were made at a time before he (Green) was director of Marist Schools Australia when he did not have responsibility in matters of professional standards.”
The spokesman did not say why, in that case, Brother Green was advising the Provincial, Brother Jeffrey Crowe, on a professional standards court case.
"I readily concede that the use of the word `obscene’ in relation to financial costs was inappropriate," Brother Green has told Fairfax. "I was not referring to levels of financial settlements to victims but more broadly to legal costs incurred."
One Marist College Canberra abuse victim and the lawyer who handled many of the claims do not read it that way.
“Green talks about 'obscene'. How obscene is it for a nine-year-old kid to be abused by up to five different adults over four years?” said the former MCC student, who was molested by serial paedophile and disgraced Marist brother Kostka Chute.
“To use the word obscene to discuss the compensation is disgusting. The truly obscene thing is that a person who thinks like this (Green) is still trusted with the care of thousands of children.”
Porters Lawyers’ Jason Parkinson, who has represented numerous victims since 2008, agreed.
“There has to be a case for Green to resign or be removed,” Mr Parkinson said. “That is ultimately up to him and the Marist Brothers. A fish rots from the head. If this is the message they want to send then they should keep him on as national director.
“They (the Marist Brothers) love their money more than they love humanity.Those `obscenely out of proportion’ damages were going to people who, as small children, were treated as pieces of meat by criminals and rapists in the employ of Marist Brothers schools.”
Brother Green’s comments were “unfortunate”, said Francis Sullivan, the chief executive officer of the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Council.
“The comments by Brother Green are unfortunate and I’m assured they no longer reflect his view or that of the Marist Brothers.”
The former student who is calling for Green to be sacked says there is a strong case for Brother Jeffrey Crowe to step down or be removed as well.
“Crowe (in his 2009 statement rejecting claims there had been a Marist paedophile ring operating in Canberra), has shown great concern for the reputation of the church and little for the crimes that have been committed,” he said.
“In light of the new evidence from the commission (which indicates at least one boy alleged he had been abused by up to four different Marists and a lay teacher over four years) and the farcical investigation Crowe ran, his position as provincial must surely be untenable.
“The 20,000-odd children in Marist schools today need a leader they can rely on to fulfil the responsibility for protecting them.”
He and Mr Parkinson say Brother Green’s 2008 email seems to give the lie to the order’s oft-repeated claims that times have changed and old attitudes towards sexual abuse have been swept aside.
“This email, and the fact Green is still national director, indicates the problem is not just something that was occurring 20 or 30 years ago," Mr Parkinson said.
“These attitudes are still current. Green is one of the most senior members of the Marist Brothers hierarchy and this letter tells us what the views of the Marist Brothers are - and it is not what they were saying at the royal commission.
“It makes you worry that the changes they are crowing about having made (to protect children) are just window-dressing and that no real changes have occurred.”