This "saintly" Marist Brother has finally been brought to justice

By a Broken Rites researcher

When John Aloysius Littler became a Marist Brother, he was given the religious name of "Brother Nestor", in remembrance of an ancient saint. But Brother Nestor was no saint. He soon committed sexual crimes against boys in a Catholic orphanage in Sydney, and the Marist Brothers (as usual) harboured him during his subsequent long career as a Brother, including at St Joseph's College, Hunters Hill, in Sydney — one of the most elite Catholic schools in Australia. Some of the orphanage victims eventually got Brother Nestor charged by the police. And another victim has forced the Marist Brothers to apologise for sexual abuse committed by Brother Nestor at a school in Maitland, New South Wales.

Broken Rites research has ascertained that John Aloysius Littler was born on 17 June 1926. He was recruited by the Marist Brothers in the late 1940s. After training, he took his final religious vows in 1951.

From 1955 to 1964, as Brother "Nestor", Littler worked at St Vincent's Boys' Home, which the Marist Brothers operated in Westmead in Sydney's west. Nestor Littler has admitted that, while at this orphanage, he committed child-sex crimes.

The former St Vincent's Boys' Home is now the Westmead precinct of the University of Western Sydney.

At the end of 1964, Brother Nestor was  transferred from Westmead to the Marists’ posh boarding school, St  Joseph’s, Hunter’s Hill, Sydney, where he was put in charge of a dormitory. He remained at St Joseph's until 1970.

Broken Rites has managed to discover two more of Brother Nestor's later schools:

  • In 1972 - 1977 he was the principal of a Marist Brothers school in Maitland, north of Sydney. (This school was later named as St Peter's high school.)
  • Later, until 1985, he was principal of Parramatta Marist High School in western Sydney. In 1986 Br Nestor Littler was replaced as principal of Parramatta Marist High by Br Terrence Mulligan (thus, one child-abuser was replaced by another, for Mulligan too was convicted for child-abuse committed during his career as a Marist Brother).

Convicted in court

Eventually, in the early 1990s, a former boy from the Westmead boys' home made a formal police statement, stating that in 1962, aged 15, he was sexually abused by Brother Nestor.

In the Sydney District Court on 25 August 1993, John Aloysius "Nestor" Littler (then aged  67) pleaded guilty to three charges of indecently assaulting this boy.

According to court documents, the boy was forced to fondle and masturbate Brother Nestor. Nestor had great power over the boys, as he was then the deputy director of the home, the court documents said.

In his sentence remarks, Judge Joseph Phelan praised the victim for coming forward. This victim, he said, could not be seen as someone "seeking vengeance."

The judge said: "I get the strong impression that he [the victim] wants the truth to come out and he wants to come to terms with the way these events have affected him. It took great courage on his part to bring these matters to light."

The offences of indecent assault carried a maximum penalty of five years' jail.  However, the judge noted Littler’s bad health, his “remorse” and his “high standing in the community” (i.e., being a member of a Catholic religious order).

Therefore, the judge gave Nestor Littler a lenient sentence (a five-year good-behaviour bond).

Outside the court, the victim (aged 46 at the time of the court case) was interviewed by journalists, and a report appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald  the next day. The Herald also said that the head of the Marist Brothers organisation apologised to the victim and expressed his "deep regret" at the incidents [or was it "deep regret" about the publicity?].

This 1993 court case was the start of much bad news for the Marist Brothers and other Catholic religious orders. Broken Rites opened its national telephone hotline in late 1993, which prompted many victims of church-related sexual abuse to contact Broken Rites.

More charges

News of the Brother Nestor Littler 1993 court case prompted more former inmates from the Westmead Boys Home to contact Broken Rites and/or the police. But in late 1993 Littler fled from Australia, thereby contravening his bond. Police eventually located Littler in the United States at a Marist Brothers study centre in Chicago. According to a media report, he told investigators that he had been "ministering" in the Chicago area.

In July 1996, Littler was brought back to Australia under a police escort. In a Sydney magistrates court, he was charged with another 30 offences against six other former students at the Westmead Boys' Home between 1954 and 1964.

The defence tried every means to avoid the charges being heard, citing Littler’s bad health, including a convenient loss of memory.

A magistrate committed him for trial at the Sydney District Court. A District Court judge put aside most of these new charges and the remainder, relating to two students, were listed for trial.

In May 2001 (when Brother Nestor Littler was 75 years old), the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal granted a permanent stay on these remaining charges. Thus, Littler gave up an opportunity to clear his name in relation to these charges.

One of the complainants told Broken Rites: “The Appeal Court’s decision is a big win for Littler and the Marist Brothers. It means that, if any more Littler victims come forward, any new complaints will be unlikely to proceed.”

After 2001, Broken Rites received more complaints from more former pupils about Brother John Aloysius "Nestor" Littler and also about the Marist Brothers cover-up.

Apology in 2015

On 8 August 2015, the Newcastle Herald published an article by Joanne McCarthy, about a former student (Patrick) who has complained to the Marists that he was sexually abused by Brother Nestor at Marist Brothers Maitland in 1976 when he was 11 years old in Year 7. Brother Nestor, then aged 50, was the school principal.

Patrick says that, one day in 1976, he was summoned to Brother Nestor's office.

"I had no idea what I was being called there for," Patrick says.

When Patrick entered the office, Nestor began the sexual abuse. Patrick screamed out. Patrick believes that adults at the school knew he had been abused but Patrick remained silent.

He says: "Who was going to believe me, an 11-year-old boy, up against the principal? That was what I was always telling myself until years later when I had to say something."

"I put it behind doors in my mind, bolted it, chained it, no-one was ever going to find out about it, and that has a terrible impact on your life. It shattered my life."

In 2015, Patrick extracted a financial settlement from the Marists. He also received a formal apology from a senior member of the order.

He says: "I know what effect it had on my life, until I spoke about it. For me to come out the other side and be the man I am today, it was important for me to step out of the shadows.

"No amount of money could cover the impact of what happened to me but at the end of the day it was more about the apology."

Patrick believes that other boys, also, were victims of Brother Nestor.

Broken Rites is continuing its research about Brother Nestor Littler and about how the Marist Brothers harboured him (thus protecting him from the police) for so long.

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