Priest assaulted in Australian embassy
An astonishing and harrowing account has emerged about an assault by Australian embassy staff in Tokyo on a Catholic priest – Lawrence Lambert, above – after he had brutally raped the 11-year-old son of diplomat.
The Age reports that the rape took place in 1965, but the victim remained silent about it for 48 years. He has now requested to testify in private before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the largest inquiry of its kind in Australian history.
The mother of the victim, “Jacob Bernstein” (not his real name), explained in a signed affidavit the circumstances that led to a violent confrontation in the Australian embassy between the Canadianborn priest and embassy staff:
The ambassador’s wife met me and took me for coffee. We later entered a small room and there was a glass one-way mirror allowing us to see into the ambassador’s office.
Through the glass she saw the ambassador, Sir Allen Brown, together with her husband and several embassy staff. She watched as Lambert was brought into the room, accompanied by Brother John Paradis, headmaster at the time at St Mary’s, a Catholic boys’ school run in Tokyo by the Brothers of Christian Instruction, or Mennaisians.
There was a lot of yelling. Phil [Senior Trade Commissioner Philip Searcy] and Les [Commercial Counsellor Les Backen] grabbed Brother Lawrence’s arms from behind and held him, and Mr McRae [a cypher clerk] started punching him in the stomach and chest.
Brother John got up to perhaps intervene and was pushed to the ground, causing his glasses to fall off. The ambassador stepped on them; his wife and I then both left.
About an hour later, she was able to observe them leaving the embassy.
I recall seeing Brothers John and Lawrence being pushed hard out of the chancellery door to the driveway, down, perhaps, five steps. They hobbled away. It was like something I expected from the Soviet embassy.
Although “Jacob Bernstein” was abused at an institution in Japan, he says he made a submission for a private hearing on the basis that institutions and representatives of the government, namely the embassy and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the ambassador to Japan at the time, Sir Allen Brown, all colluded to cover up his abuse.
The rape occurred in the school chapel. He had entered it to eat his home-prepared lunch. He said that Lawrence Lambert and another Catholic Brother suddenly entered, made the sign of the cross and then approached him.
Brother Lawrence said I was to be punished for eating in the chapel. I was taken to a table near the door and made to face it and drop my pants and bend over. I thought I was to be spanked. One of them pulled my pants right off. Brother Lawrence started to sodomise me. I had no idea of what he was doing, only that it hurt.
“Bernstein” says he was then also raped by the other Brother.
He put his hands under my T-shirt and pulled it up over my head, so covering my face. Then he sodomised me. I did not make a noise. I was too frightened.
After the ordeal, Bernstein says he was told to keep silent or his brother, a grade 2 student at the time, would be similarly “punished”. The threat worked, but a few days later his mother began to suspect something was wrong.
In her affidavit, the victim’s mother said:
In 1965, our maid Mutsuko-san brought me a pair of [Jacob’s] underpants that were covered in blood. I immediately took him to see Dr [Alan] Fair, who was the official embassy doctor. [Jacob] would not say what was wrong, earlier that day he did not want to go to school and said he had a tummy bug. He was walking hunched over on the way to the car.
After examining Jacob, the doctor prescribed some medicine and told the boy’s mother that he didn’t know what was wrong. It wasn’t until later that she discovered the shocking truth when her husband revealed that the doctor had informed the ambassador of the rape.
She said her husband told her that “the ambassador would not have the police called” and had decided to deal with the matter internally.
Jacob and his younger brother were immediately taken out of St Mary’s, and the family returned to Australia. The mother says her husband was:
Advised to not mention it again if he wanted a career.
Lambert’s “punishment” was to sent back to Canada, yet records indicate that this was only a temporary measure, and by 1968 he had returned to Japan.
Soon, Lambert would be back teaching at St Mary’s and in regular contact with boys again. Photographs from the 1969 and 1970 yearbooks show he was teaching English to elementary students during that period, despite the fact the school and embassy knew he was a child abuser.
Lambert’s career as a teacher and Brother didn’t just continue unchecked, it flourished. In 1971 he was transferred out of Tokyo to Shizuoka City to teach at another Mennaisian school, Seiko Gakuin. In 1982, he returned to St Mary’s, this time as elementary school principal. The same year, he was promoted to vice-provincial of Japan for the Order. He remained elementary principal for about three decades, until 2011.
After retiring, Lambert continued to live on the St Mary’s campus until 2013. In 2014, he returned to Canada. He is now living in one of the Brothers’ residences in Trois Rivières, Quebec.
In May 2013, “Bernstein” contacted the then-headmaster of St Mary’s, Brother Michel Jutras, and told him about the abuse. This led to negotiations between Bernstein and Brother Raymond Ducharme, the vice-provincial for Japan and the Philippines, that culminated in a face-to-face meeting between Bernstein and the man who had raped him.
At that meeting, held in January 2014, at a synagogue in Shibuya, Tokyo, Lambert and Ducharme read out letters of apology in the presence of the rabbi. Lambert said:
The simple truth is that still today I cannot understand the fact I raped you. Somehow, passion suddenly took over and I did what I should never have done, and selfishly and violently hurt your body and hurt your heart for the rest of your life.
The letters were then signed and presented to “Bernstein”. He was also handed an apology written by Jutras, who was not present. Bernstein had also asked for an apology from John Paradis, who was headmaster at St Mary’s in 1965 and had known about the abuse since that time, but no such letter was forthcoming.
In an e-mail “Bernstein” sent to Ducharme in 2013, he talks about how the abuse affected his life:
Child abuse has devastating effects. For me, Brother Lawrence Lambert’s abuse has meant I have had a life which is severely compromised . . . I attempted suicide at age 12. The abuse has robbed me of not just my childhood, but also much of the adult who grew from that abuse.
A copy of Mrs Bernstein’s affidavit was sent to the Australian embassy in Tokyo. The embassy responded by saying:
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has deep sympathy for victims of abuse. It takes these allegations seriously and has provided the information you passed to the embassy to the Australian Federal Police.