Christian Brothers' leaders knew of brothers committing sexual assaults against children and responded by transferring the men to non-residential schools where they would continue to work with children, the royal commission in Perth has been told.
Giving evidence in the second week of the Perth public hearing into child sex abuse at four WA Christian Brothers' orphanages between 1947 and 1968, former province leader Brother Anthony Shanahan outlined the rules which governed the order and responses to complaints of "fondling".
Last week, 11 former residents of the Tardun, Clontarf, Catsledare and Bindoon homes told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse of repeated rapes, physical abuse, neglect, slave labour and torture at the hands of the Christian Brothers entrusted with their care.
Today, Brother Shanahan told the inquiry that visits to the schools during the time in question did not appear to have an emphasis on children and there were no specific rules and procedures on child protection, handling complaints or disciplining brothers accused of offences.
Brother Shanahan, who became a member of the governing province council in 1989 and was leader for six years from 1996, outlined rules which banned brothers from "fondling", touching and forming friendships with the children at the schools.
"Brothers are forbidden to manifest a particular friendship with any of them," the rules stated.
"They must not fondle the pupils. They must never be alone with a pupil.
"During play hours, they are to guard the pupils...from moral as well as physical danger.
"They shall not touch their pupils through playfulness or flapity, and they and shall never touch them on the face.
"Should it be considered necessary to punish a pupil, it must be done calmly and with great moderation."
Questioned by commission chairman Justice Peter McClelland, Brother Shanahan said he believed "fondling" referred to sexual or intimate touching.
He said the rule prohibiting fondling had been introduced in 1962 and he agreed it was a more forceful stipulation than previous rules.
Based on research into the order by Brother Barry Coldrey, Brother Shanahan said he understood that if a brother denied an allegation, his word was generally taken over that of a child.
He said in cases of fondling by a brother, he would be warned or transferred to a non-residential school.
"So, do we have a picture that the brothers knew brothers who sexually abused, committed sexual assaults, who were transferred to continue to work with children," Justice McClellan asked.
"Yes," Brother Shanahan said.
"Do you think that was wise," Justice McClellan continued.
"No," Brother Shanahan conceded.
The hearing continues.