THERE are some facts the Catholic order of Marist Brothers cannot deny after five devastating years of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
More than 20 per cent of Marists were alleged perpetrators. At least 10 Marist Brothers who worked at the order's Maitland and Hamilton boys' schools have been convicted of child sex offences, with others charged with offences.
The order has accepted at least five other Marist Brothers who worked at Hunter schools from the 1930s sexually abused students. Compensation has been paid.
The royal commission showed evidence that Marist Brothers were moved from school to school and interstate after credible allegations were raised with superiors.
This much is not disputed, at least by those who recognise when the history of an organisation is written, it cannot and should not avoid the darkness. In the case of the Marist order's history in the Hunter, there is much darkness.
A memorial that was dedicated on Wednesday evening, on Catholic Church land near the former Marist Brothers, Hamilton School - now known as St Francis Xavier College - is acknowledgement of that dark history by the order and Maitland-Newcastle Catholic diocese.
The order and the diocese accept that people who were sexually abused at the school have died, and it is unreasonable to deny that sexual abuse was a factor in some of those deaths.
It took many decades for the Marist Brothers to acknowledge, at the royal commission, that Andrew Nash, 13, was most likely sexually abused before he took his own life in 1974.
His teachers included Brother Romuald, who was found guilty of sexually abusing boys at places including Bar Beach during school activities. Andrew's mother Audrey Nash recalled the day her normally cheerful son come home very late, very quiet, and in response to her worried questions about where he had been, he would only say "Bar Beach".
Many years later it is one of the awful pieces of information that led the order to formally apologise to the Nash family for abandoning them after Andrew's death.
The Nash family and Clergy Abused Network founder and Marist survivor Bob O'Toole made the case for the memorial at the location where the abuse occurred. After years of silence about the extent of sexual abuse that occurred, their request for a place to acknowledge survivors, and those who didn't survive, was important. It is to the credit of the order and the diocese that resources were found and the project was completed.
It is a fact that many students were and are educated at Hunter Catholic schools. For many their school days were and are good. But that is not the complete picture. The memorial gives voice to those lost.
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