Instead they abused those in their care, a public inquiry established to determine the extent of the abuse heard.
Kevin Rooney QC, on behalf of the order, said: “That some brothers abused boys in care was in contradiction to their vocation as De La Salle Brothers.”
He added: “They accept and deeply regret that boys in their care were abused. They wish to offer their sincere and unreserved apology to all those whom they failed to protect.”
The Brothers’ Rubane House in Kircubbin is due to come under the spotlight during a mammoth inquiry into historical wrongs committed against children across several Catholic orders, voluntary groups, and state over seven decades.
Many young people were taken into care because their mother was not married,because their families were too poor to keep them or because they were orphans.Once inside some were physically and sexually attacked, victims claim.
Retired judge Anthony Hart, who is chairing the probe, also heard an apology from the Sisters of Nazareth order of nuns, which ran institutions in Belfast and Derry. Their lawyer, Turlough Montague QC, said they were shocked and appalled at some allegations.
The treatment of children in Church-run residential homes will be a key concern of the probe being held in Banbridge, Co Down.
The alleged abuse involved homes in Belfast, Derry and Kircubbin. Separate concerns over the local authority-run Kincora boys’ home in east Belfast, where details of alleged abuse of young children by loyalist paramilitaries first emerged decades ago, are to be investigated.
Public hearings are due to finish in Jun 2015, with the inquiry team to report to Stormont’s Executive by the start of 2016.