Marist Brothers admit they harbored this criminal Brother

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 27 August 2018

The Marist Brothers have been forced to acknowledge that yet another one of their members — Brother Thomas Joseph Butler (known as "Brother Patrick") — committed sexual offences against children. Former students, from several Marist schools in New South Wales and Queensland, have told Broken Rites that the Marists knew about Butler's offences but the Marists allowed him to continue teaching — and offending — throughout his long career.

Broken Rites has researched the background of Brother "Patrick" Butler. His life story was typical among Australia's Marist Brothers. When he was still a schoolboy, he was groomed and recruited by the Marists and was inducted into the Marist's ways of behaving.

Thomas Joseph Butler was born in Sydney on 19 May 1929. He became a pupil at a Marist Brothers school in Eastwood (Sydney), where (by the age of 13 and a half) the Marists groomed him to consider a career as a Marist Brother. In January 1943 he was enticed away from his parent's home to live in a Marist Brothers "juniorate" (a boarding school for Marist "aspirants"), where he completed his secondary schooling (to year 11), followed by 18 months of Marist religious education and teacher-training, which included adopting the name "Brother Patrick". Then, just after his 17th birthday, he began his lifetime of "celibacy" (wink, wink) as a teacher in Marist schools in New South Wales and Queensland

Broken Rites has researched Brother "Patrick" Butler's teaching appointments. Between the late 1940s and the year 2001, he taught at many Catholic schools

  • In New South Wales, Brother Patrick taught at the following Marist schools: Hamilton (in the late 1940s, again in the mid-1960s and again in the 1970s), Mosman, Darlinghurst, Hunters Hill (St Joseph's College), Eastwood, Parramatta, Kogarah, and Randwick (Marcellin College).
  • In Queensland, he taught at Brisbane's Marist College Ashgrove (in 1962 and again in 1989-2000).

Broken Rites has interviewed ex-students of Brother Patrick Butler from three of his schools. They all said that Brother Patrick would invasively handle a boy's genitals, either from inside or outside the boys' pants. Brother Patrick did this openly, in the classroom, during a lesson, they said.

One ex-student ("Barnaby") told Broken Rites in 2002:

"I encountered Brother Patrick when he was the principal at Marist Brothers Eastwood in Sydney in the 1960s. He would sit down beside a pupil and place his arm around you and fondle your genitals through your shorts pocket. 

"One day, after school was finished for the day, I was required to see him to explain my reason for having been absent from school recently. After a brief questioning, he attempted to take my shorts off. I panicked and hit him with my open hand and ran out the door. My parents were notified a week later by mail that I was expelled from school for truancy.

"I could not tell my mother about the sexual abuse. She was a strict Catholic and would never believe that a thing like sexual abuse could ever be committed by Catholic clergy  or religious Brothers, so I was never vindicated."

"My entire school days, apart from my last year were spent at catholic schools and often we would hear different stories of this Brother or that Brother doing strange things to the kids."

"Brother Pat" died in 2006, aged 77.

In April 2015, responding to questions from the Newcastle Herald, the Marist Brothers Australian head office made a statement, admitting that it had received complaints about Brother Patrick from students at three Marist Brothers schools, although it did not name the schools. The Marists' statement made "an enduring apology to the victims of Patrick Butler and the victims of other Brothers or school employees."

In September 2016, Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission held a public hearing (in Newcastle) to examine how the Marist leadership handled Brother Patrick Butler (plus some other offenders).