Jailed Lismore Marist brother apologises to abuse victims

Retired Marist brother John Chute (left) leaving court in Canberra in 2008 after pleading guilty to 19 counts of committing an indecent act with a child between 1981 and 1987.  Photo AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Retired Marist brother John Chute (left) leaving court in Canberra in 2008 after pleading guilty to 19 counts of committing an indecent act with a child between 1981 and 1987. Photo AAP Image/Alan Porritt

AAP – Stories of ruined lives, death threats, lost police statements and a three-decade-old apology have featured in the opening session of child sexual assault hearings in Canberra.

Witnesses on Tuesday recounted their mistreatment at the hands of Marist Brothers Gregory Sutton and John Chute who worked as teachers at schools in NSW, the ACT and Queensland.

Sutton worked for a period at St Carthages in Lismore, while Chute is a former principal of St Josephs (now Trinity College).

‘The affect of the abuse by Brother Gregory has been profound and had a significant impact on me in a number of areas of my life,’ one female victim told the hearing, recounting numerous problems since the 1984 abuse.

Another woman, now 40, said she believed Sutton when he threatened to kill her family if she told anyone about the mistreatment.

‘I also felt that even if I did tell, that no one would believe me anyway,’ she said, referring to Sutton as ‘god-like’ in the eyes of her southwest Sydney school community.

The woman said she failed as a student because of the abuse and has since suffered alcoholism, nightmares, flashbacks, mood swings, anger, low self-esteem and has also tried to commit suicide.

The women are among scores of victims to be paid more than $8.5 million compensation by the Marist Brothers for abuse allegations linked to Sutton and Chute.

But neither had received an apology from their abuser or the church.

Lawyer Greg Walsh, representing Sutton, said he spoke to his client during a break in proceedings and had a message to relay.

‘I wish to convey to you his apology for what he did to you which was an outrageous breach of trust,’ Mr Walsh said.

One of the women quietly replied ‘thank you’.

Both women said they made statements to NSW Police in 1989 regarding the abuse they suffered at age 10 and 11.

They were later told both statements had been lost.

Sutton and Chute have since been convicted and jailed for multiple child sex offences involving scores of children.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will investigate what measures were taken by the Marist Brothers and other authorities to act on reports of inappropriate acts by the pair.

The brothers were regularly moved between schools and remained in positions of contact with children, despite repeated complaints by students and parents and warnings from fellow teachers.

Chute spent 14 years of his 40-year teaching career at Canberra’s Marist College from the mid-1970s where 39 boys allege he assaulted them.

One of those boys was Damian De Marco, now 45, who says he was abused by Chute in 1981.

Mr Walsh, who also represented Chute, suggested Mr De Marco’s recollection of events relating to the abuse had been affected by cannabis use.

‘My memory is very vivid,’ Mr De Marco insisted.

‘I can picture to this day what happened in that storeroom.’

The hearing, part of a nationwide schedule, continues in Canberra on Wednesday.

4 responses to “Jailed Lismore Marist brother apologises to abuse victims”

  1. Ken says:

    All well and good, they’ve apologised ! now back to business
    This is a long standing tradition ( no pun intended ) in the catholic tradition.and has been recognised as a problem for centuries, and is sanctioned (again no pun intended ) by the Pope and cannon law forbids informing the proper authorities.
    Obviously these scum deserve hanging…… but what about the parents who continue to endanger their children by sending them there ? Surely this is criminal negligence or at least neglect.
    What about the role of the Pope who presides over the activities of this, the largest worldwide paedophile group.
    Doesn’t anybody care what is done to these children in the name of god ?

  2. Christopher Francis McIlrath says:

    Whilst many catholic priests I have worked with in East Timor are the very finest of people, something between one and two billion US dollars has been paid to victims of child sexual abuse – often rape – by the catholic church in north America alone. Remarkably this seems an insignificant amount to the catholic church, which was described as a business by someone with personal knowledge of catholic affairs internationally. The Vatican Bank does not seem bothered by this petty change.

    As I understand it, the ban on marriage of priests was originally an economic policy to reduce the cost of housing and feeding a priest while he wielded the collection plate and encouraged people to join up, donate or bequeath, forgave sins etc.

    Perhaps it is time for a peep at reality and to acknowledge it is a genetic imperative to reproduce (sex between man and woman) and to continue to deny the bleeding obvious brings stress to priests, visible distress to nuns and is the direct cause of untold permanent damage to victims of this recklessly driven business.

  3. Christopher Francis McIlrath says:

    “Sex is like air – it doesn’t really matter until you aren’t getting any” (on a T shirt seen in Dili).

  4. Eco LandManager says:

    Typical of these [people] to follow up an apology (via lawyer) with an attack on a victim suggesting their memory is not trustworthy due to (alleged) cannabis use. The sooner the catholic church is listed by the Australian Government as a terrorist organisation – with criminal sanctions against making contact with the organisation, like for other terrorist groups – the better.

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