The church helped a pedophile Marist Brother to get easy access to young victims

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 18 July 2018

Broken Rites is doing research about a senior Marist Brother (Brother Kevin Hopson, also known as Brother "Crispin" Hopson) who taught (sometimes as the head Brother) in Marist schools in New South Wales and Canberra. Australia's child-abuse Royal Commission has been told that, at one of Hopson's schools, he harboured a paedophile Brother (Gregory Sutton) who was committing sex-crimes against young students. And now Broken Rites has learned that Brother "Crispin" Hopson himself was committing sexual crimes against young boys.

Brother Hopson's birth name was Kevin Nicholas Hopson, born on 6 February 1933. On joining the Marist order in his late teens, he adopted the religious name Brother “Crispin”, called after Saint Crispin. From 1953 to the late 1990s, he worked in Marist Brothers schools in Sydney (at Mosman, Daceyville, Lidcombe, Hunters Hill and Kogarah), as well as at Marist College Canberra. Often, Brother Crispin Hopson was the "Superior", that is, he was in charge of the other Brothers.

Brother Crispin committed cover-ups

Brother Hopson has been mentioned at Australia's national Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, when the Commission conducted public hearings into some Marist case-studies. The Royal Commission was told that, when Brother Kevin "Crispin" Hopson was the superior at the Marist community in Sydney's Mosman, he received a complaint (in 1976-1977) that another Brother (Gregory Sutton) was a danger to primary-school boys. But, despite this complaint, Sutton was allowed to continue in the Marists, committing more crimes against more victims.

Twenty years later (in 1996), three ex-students from the Mosman school were among several Marist ex-students (from several schools who spoke to NSW Police detectives, resulting in the jailing of Gregory Sutton for multiple incidents of indecent assault. Each of these three Mosman students was abused by Sutton on the school premises and also in the Brothers' residence, the Royal Commission was told. At this residence, Brother Kevin Crispin Hopson was the Superior in charge. (These three students were not necessarily Brother Sutton's only victims at Mosman; these were merely three who eventually spoke with the police investigators.)

The successful prosecution of Brother Gregory Sutton in 1996 demonstrates how it is important for church sex-abuse victims to report these crimes to child-protection police and not to the offending organization, in this case the Marist Brothers.

The story of ex-student Godfrey

The mention of Brother Hopson at the Royal Commission was noticed by an ex-pupil ("Godfrey", not his real name) who was reading the proceedings of the Royal Commission. Godfrey immediately wrote to the Royal Commission, reporting an incident that he experienced at the hands of Brother Kevin "Crispin" Hopson.

Godfrey also contacted Broken Rites, stating:

"I was a student at Marist Sacred Heart primary school, Mosman, in Sydney, from 1983 to 1985 (primary year 4 to year 6) when Brother Crispin was the principal.

"One day in late 1983 or early 1984, I was alone with Br Crispin in his office. It was dimly lit and both doors were closed. Brother Crispin was sitting on a chair in the middle of the office (not behind his desk, as usual) and I was standing next to him. He told me that I had been 'a very naughty boy'. He told me: 'pull down you pants because I have to smack your bare bottom'. 

"I refused and I grabbed the waistband of my pants and said 'No, I don’t want to'.

"An intense feeling of fear came over me as I stepped back away from him. He then said: 'your mum has told me to check your bottom because you have been very bad.'

"Again, I refused. I had feelings of anger and confusion as to why my Mother would say such a thing. He said: 'Next time you come back, you’ll have to pull your pants down for me'.

"At that time, there was nobody to whom I could report the incident. I have never spoken to anyone about it and I have never asked my mother if she said what Br Crispin claimed. I feel as though he was attempting to sexually assault me.

"The recent reports from the Royal Commission's hearing regarding Marist Brothers (and my recollections of this Brother Crispin incident) have left me feeling quite unsettled; and I now feel compelled to look closer and share my story."

The story of Jeremy

Godfrey was not the first ex-student to contact Broken Rites about Brother Kevin "Crispin" Hopson. In 2012 (before the Royal Commission began), another ex-student ("Jeremy") told Broken Rites:

"I was a former student at Marist Sacred Heart primary school, Mosman, in the 1980s when Brother Crispin was the principal.

"He was actively interfering with boys in my year and the year below. It was never spoken openly about it as he was the principal.

"One day, my friend and I were sent out of class to Brother Crispin's office. He asked my friend and me to take our pants off and sit on his lap. My friend and I knew that what he was asking was wrong and we refused.  We ran out of his office and didn't return to school that day. I'm still in contact with my friend who can verify my story.

"My friend and I were lucky. There would have been many who wouldn't have been lucky over the years.

"I know the names of at least four of his regular victims. They were boys who were always in trouble or on detention. His actions would have disrupted some of these people’s lives.

"I was annoyed recently when I saw Brother Crispin's name on a Marist website, saying what a great man he was.

"I would like it known that he wasn't the saintly person that the Marists make him out to be."

Two more victims

"Martha", of Sydney, told Broken Rites in 2018:

"In the early 1990s, Brother Crispin was the principal of the Marist Brothers primary school in Daceyville, Sydney, where my two sons were pupils. I did not know then that he sexually abused each of them.

"Because I did not know about the abuse at this time, Brother Crispin was a welcome guest at our home. He had dinner with us and our poor sons must have been confused because we spoke so highly of him and how happy we were that he was their school principal.

"Much later, I found out that Crispin abused my older son during a school camp. My son came home extremely subdued, quiet and teary. I suspected that he had been sexually abused but it was a long, long time before I discovered that the abuser was Crispin.

"I had thought I was ensuring that nothing like this ever happened to my children. Ironically I went on all school camps when my kids were in state schools but foolishly thinking it wasn’t a concern now they were safely in Catholic schools.

"My younger son was abused in Crispin's car in Sydney. His happened more than once.

"The abuse of my sons had a huge impact on both of them, disrupting their later lives into their twenties and thirties. Each of them is damaged by the chaos in his life.

"Neither of them are where they should be in life, in their careers or relationships, because Crispin’s despicable acts took that normality from them.

"The Catholic Church has failed my family miserably and I no longer want to have anything to do with this church."

Schools

Broken Rites has compiled this list of Brother "Crispin" Hopson's positions:

1964+: Marist Primary Lidcombe (Superior and Principal)
1968+: Marist College Canberra (Superior, Bursar, Foundation Principal)
1974+: Sacred Heart Primary, Mosman (Assistant Superior, Deputy Principal)
1976+: Sacred Heart Primary, Mosman (Superior, Principal)
1989+: Marist Primary, Daceyville (Superior, Bursar, Principal)
1993+: St Michael’s School, Daceyville (Superior, Principal)
1994+: Marist College Canberra (Superior)
1995:  Marist Brothers North Sydney (Superior, Bursar)
1996+: Marist Brothers Randwick (Community Support, Bursar, retired)

Marist Brother Kevin "Crispin" Hopson died in 2007.