This criminal was a "very respected" member of the Christian Brothers

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article posted on 1 November 2018

The Catholic order of Christian Brothers sheltered a pedophile (Brother John Climacus Kissane) during his long teaching career while he committed sexual assaults on boys in Catholic schools in Victoria and Tasmania. The Christian Brothers have recently paid compensation to some of Kissane's victims. When Kissane died in October 2018 (aged 96), the Christian Brothers published an obituary notice in the Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper, describing him as a "highly respected" member of their Order. His victims feel hurt by this "respect" being shown to a child-abuser.

When John Kissane joined the Christian Brothers as a young man, he was given a new middle name, Climacus, in honour of an ancient saint. But John Climacus Kissane, like so many Christian Brothers, was no saint. The Christian Brothers turned a blind eye to his child-sex crimes and tolerated him to the very end, finally looking after him in their aged-care facility for elderly Brothers in Melbourne.

Among his colleagues, he was known as "Clim" Kissane.

Brother Clim Kissane taught at various schools in Victoria and Tasmania, including (and this is not a complete list): St Joseph's College in Geelong; St Virgil's College in Hobart; St Joseph's College in Pascoe Vale (Melbourne); Christian Brothers College (now called Emmanuel College) in Warrnambool, Victoria; and St Joseph's Technical College, South Melbourne.

Broken Rites has been contacted by a number of Kissane's victims since we began our research in 1993.

For example:

  1. "Daniel" (born in 1947) spent his childhood in orphanages, and was a teenager in St Vincent's boys home in South Melbourne from 1958 to 1965. Next, he spent two years living at St Vincent's boys' hostel in this suburb while attending a technical college. Brother Kissane lived at the hostel at this time and sexually assaulted Daniel there on many occasions. Now, as he nears old age, Daniel is still feeling hurt by the church's toleration of Brother Kissane. He is also hurt by seeing the obituary notice in 2018 describing Kissane as a "very respected" member of the Christian Brorhers.
  2. "Jeremy" (born in 1950) has told Broken Rites: "I attended St Joseph's Catholic Techncal school in South Melbourne in 1962 to 1964. I can remember Brother Kissane arranging the classroom to sit one student (instead of two) to each double desk. Then he would sit beside each of us during lessons and run his hand up and down the inside of our thighs while encouraging us. At that age, we all wore shorts to school in Grade 6 . None of the students thought to question this behaviour because it was from a person in trust. Later in life, I realised that Kissane would have gone further than that with some of his pupils during his career, but I will never know which ones."
  3. "Jim" (born 1955)  has told Broken Rites that he encountered Kissane at age 11 in 1966 in the primary school at St Joseph's Christian Brothers College in Geelong, where Jim was a boarder. Broken Rites interviewed Jim at length in January 1994 and we interviewed his mother later that same year. Jim's life was badly damaged by the sexual abuse and by the church's cover-up. The Broken Rites researcher was very moved by Jim's story when we interviewed him and his mum. Unfortunately, when Broken Rites tried to re-contact Jim a year later in 1995, he had recently died, aged 40.
  4. At St Virgil's College in Hobart in the late 1960s, Kissane's victims included two boys (from a "very Catholic" family) who were boarders at the school. After the abuse, one of these victims had a damaged life, involving drug addiction, and he became alienated from the family. Another of his siblings contacted Broken Rites in 2006, telling us the story.