A teacher who denied a child sexual abuse allegation was believed because Marist Brothers are meant to tell the truth, a royal commission has been told.
Marist Brothers are meant to tell the truth.
That’s why when John Chute, also known as Brother Kostka, brushed aside a serious allegation of child sexual assault, his superior believed him.
Former headmaster of Canberra’s Marist College, Terence Heinrich, approached Chute after the father of a student complained the teacher had “interfered” with his son.
When Chute said the allegation was just a misunderstanding, Br Heinrich believed him.
“That’s the way we should be, that’s the way we are – to be true and honest,” Br Heinrich told a royal commission on Friday of the Marist Brothers order.
It has emerged that during Chute’s time at the school from 1976 to 1993 he allegedly abused 39 boys, at least nine of them during Br Heinrich’s five years as principal from 1983.
The headmaster admitted he was “ill-equipped” to respond to the parent’s complaint.
“The failure in all of this began with me,” Brother Heinrich said.
He felt uncomfortable hearing the complaint and did not ask for more details.
It later emerged the boy was abused repeatedly in 1986 during film nights at the school when Chute put his hands down the student’s underwear and fondled him.
Despite Chute’s denial, Br Heinrich took the matter to the Sydney-based provincial, Alexis Turton, after which he heard noting more.
“It wasn’t the done thing to question a superior.”
A subsequent headmaster was told nothing of concerns surrounding Chute or the reason for his removal from the school in 1993.
The royal commission, currently sitting in Canberra, is looking at whether institutions responded adequately to reports of child sexual abuse.
In 2008 Chute was convicted of 19 child sex charges and jailed.
He has since been released.
The hearing is also considering the case of former brother Gregory Sutton.
The pair worked at schools in NSW, the ACT and Queensland during their careers which spanned a period from the 1950s to the 1990s.
In 1996 Sutton pleaded guilty to 67 charges of child sexual abuse and was jailed until 2008.
The hearing continues on Monday.