By Brian Mark Hennessy

A mother named Kausar Parveen struggles through tears as she remembers the blood-soaked clothes of her 9-year-old son, raped by a religious cleric. Each time she begins to speak, she stops, swallows hard, wipes her tears and begins again. Her son had studied for a year at a nearby Islamic school in the town of Kehrore Pakka in Pakistan. In the blistering heat of late April, in the grimy two-room Islamic madrassa, he awoke one night to find his teacher lying beside him. “I didn’t move. I was afraid,” he says. The cleric lifted the boy’s long tunic-style shirt over his head, and then pulled down his baggy pants. “I was crying. He was hurting me. He shoved my shirt in my mouth,” the boy says, using his scarf to show how the cleric tried to stifle his cries. He looks over at his mother. “Did he touch you?” He nods. “Did he hurt you when he touched you?” ”Yes,” he whispers. “Did he rape you?” He buries his face in his scarf and nods yes. Parveen reaches over and grabs her son, pulling him toward her, cradling his head in her lap.

Sexual abuse is a pervasive and longstanding problem at madrassas in Pakistan, an investigation has found. It is pervasive – from the sun-baked mud villages deep in its rural areas to the heart of its teeming cities. But in a culture where clerics are powerful and sexual abuse is a taboo subject, it is seldom discussed or even acknowledged in public. It is even more seldom prosecuted. Victims’ families say that the Police are often paid off not to pursue justice against clerics and cases rarely make it past the courts, because Pakistan’s legal system allows the victim’s family to “forgive” the offender and accept “blood money.” The perpetrators of the abuse, therefore, are rarely criminalized in the Courts.

Investigations have found hundreds of cases of sexual abuse by Islamic clerics reported in the past decade, and officials suspect that there are many more within a far-reaching system that teaches at least 2 million children in Pakistan. The investigation was based on police documents and dozens of interviews with victims, relatives, former and current ministers, aid groups and religious officials. The fear of clerics and the militant religious organizations that sometimes support them came through clearly. One senior official in a ministry tasked with registering these cases says that many madrassas are “infested” with sexual abuse. The official asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution; he has been a target of suicide attacks because of his hard position against militant groups. He compares the situation to the abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church.

“There are thousands of incidences of sexual abuse in the madrassas,” he says. “This thing is very common.” Pakistan’s clerics close ranks when the madrassa system is too closely scrutinized, he says. Among the weapons they use to frighten their critics is a controversial blasphemy law that carries a death penalty in the case of a conviction. “This is not a small thing here in Pakistan — I am scared of them and what they can do,” the official says. “I am not sure what it will take to expose the extent of it. It’s very dangerous to even try. That’s a very dangerous topic,” he says. A tally of cases reported in newspapers over the past 10 years of sexual abuse by clerics and other religious officials came to 359. That represents “barely the tip of the iceberg,” says Munizae Bano, executive director of Sahil, the organization that scours the newspapers and works against sexual abuse of minors.

The above heart-wrenching report was written by Katthy Gannon and Kehrore Pakka of the Pakistan News outlet of the Associated Press. For those readers who were abused in childhood by clerics of the Catholic Church, the ingredients of the abuse – the vulnerability, fear and shame of the innocent child in juxtaposition with religion, power, threats, cover-up, lack of apology and blood money in exchange for silence – will all have familiar echoes. It is easy to understand why it was that the anonymous official had made a comparison between clerical sexual abuse in the Islamic madrassas and the schools and seminaries of the Roman Catholic Church.

Kausar Parveen, the mother of the boy struggling to hide his mental and physical pain through his tears, will have a chance, at least, to help her 9-year-old son overcome his trauma simply because the boy’s blood-stained clothes were visible evidence that something horrendous had happened to him. With her love and care and his trust in her, she may be able to help him to overcome at least some of the psychological damage that has been inflicted upon him so early in his childhood. That is small comfort, however, and only the best prospects in the circumstances. For those children whose abuse remains uncovered, life is more difficult – because, often in silence and alone, child victims of sexual abuse face secondary trauma in the long process of the critical path to disclosing the events that had taken place.

Often, when victims of abuse try to tell their stories to the clerics responsible for their wellbeing, they are in fear of the consequences of their disclosure. It may cause them the trepidation of being disbelieved and induce them to produce hesitant, unconvincing, incomplete and even partially retracted descriptions of the events. Such assumptions are often well-founded for it is common for victims to be assaulted with counter-charges of disbelief and blame – and that further inflicts upon them the curse of their rejection. Their expectation of help and comfort may reap only negative responses such as charges of lying, imagining, complicity and even their manipulation of the adult abuser.


Such damaging abandonment of the child by the very adults who are critical to their recovery constitutes re-victimisation and can result in deep-seated and permanent responses such as self-blame, self-hate and alienation. That sense of rejection will be increased proportionately to the child’s degree of expectation, trust and help that they had anticipated from the person in whom they had confided. Hence, it is not uncommon that the very fear of such rejection inhibits the disclosure of the trauma a child is suffering to anyone. From then on the child may take the wrong options and descend into a state of secrecy and helplessness. The last hope for such a child is that in later adulthood they begin to unravel the damage and find themselves able to speak out, but, that does not always happen.


I feel a deep and poignant care for the son of Kausar Parveen as he faces his future. Worlds apart from where he and his mother struggle to unravel both the present and the future trauma that they will re-live again and again, I recall the lifelong, internal conflicts of so many of the boys who were abused by Catholic clerics at the Comboni Missionary Order’s seminary at Mirfield in England. Some of those boyhood friends still wrangle in their hearts and minds over the events of abuse that was perpetrated against them half a century ago by priests whom they trusted implicitly. Betrayal by an adult – one that a child had admired and sought to emulate – is a mentally debilitating and spiritually cancerous injury. It creates a bitterness that cannot be sweetened by time alone. Indeed, whilst the clerics of the Catholic Church remain concerted in their abject denial of the truth – such denials can be life-threatening.





By Brian Mark Hennessy

A short while ago we reported in this Blog that an Italian priest had disappeared. Those familiar with this site will know that story well as it concerned the disappearance of the Comboni Missionary Priest, Romano Nardo, but for those unfamiliar with the case I repeat the bones of it again here:

The Comboni Missionary Order has resisted attempts by the United Kingdom’s West Yorkshire Police to have an Italian priest extradited to the United Kingdom to face criminal charges. That priest named, Romano Nardo, a native of Prata di Sopra in Pordenone, Italy, had been dumped out of sight in Uganda at the Aduku Mission in the Diocese of Lira from the time that his abuse of a fourteen year old junior seminarian was discovered at Mirfield in England. In that Uganda Mission, obviously, he had unchecked access to even more children for decades. Following his exposure as a priest who had abused boys at the Mirfield seminary, he was moved from Uganda to Verona in Italy. After his discovery there in 2015 by one of his former victims, he was again moved to a secret place of hiding where he remains today under constant guard in order to prevent the possibility of his discovery by the Italian press and media – and extradition to the United Kingdom. To all intents and purposes, Don Romano Nardo has disappeared.

Now, according to the Italian organization Rete L’Abuso, which tracks the movements within Italy of priests accused of the sexual abuse of children, Don Gabriele Martinelli, who is accused of abuse of junior seminarians at the Vatican St Pius X Junior Seminary, has also disappeared. Martinelli was only ordained in July 2017! Apparently, the priest, whilst still a senior seminarian at the Vatican had a casual relationship over a period of time with at least one other boy younger than him and aged just 13 years. According to eye-witness accounts, however, there were other victims of Martinelli at that same Vatican seminary.

Given that the seminary is located within the Vatican State this places Pope Francis in a difficult situation for he, as head of both the Vatican State and the Catholic Church – and the Pope has declared that he has “No Tolerance” and that “There is no place in the Catholic Church for those clerics who abuse children”! In addition, what will Pope Francis ask of the Bishop of Como, for according to the reports, witnesses to the abuse have also stated that the abuse was reported to the Bishop of Como before Martinelli was even ordained.

The Diocese of Como has been forced to issue a report regarding the accusations and stated that, “The accusations made were investigated by the relevant ecclesiastical officials and the priest’s canonical superiors had evaluated Martinelli and his behavior prior to his ordination. The Bishop of Como, having taken note of the outcome of this inquiry, all the assessments of Martinelli’s personality and the vocational journey of the seminarist, then made the decision personally to proceed with the ordination of Don Martinelli”
Following his ordination in July, Don Martinelli was sent to work in Valtellina, Lombardy in the Diocese of Como. Attempts have been made by journalists to contact Martinelli there, but he has not been seen in the town or country surroundings. So where has this priest been “disappeared” to? Has he been “dumped” somewhere else in the diocese by the Bishop of Como? Curiously, we should note, Como is also the diocese where Father Domenico Valmaggia, a Comboni Missionary Priest accused of abuse of many Junior seminarians at Mirfield in England, was “dumped” in the 1970’s! They are obviously not very “choosey” about their clerics in the Como Diocese – and presumably – have very little regard for the welfare of children also!

(Note: Passages of this article were produced from reports on the subject by the reporter, Susanna Zambon writing for “Il Giorno” and Francesco Zanardi, President of “Rete L’Abuso”. The information regarding Don Romano Nardo was published in the Pordenone “Il Gazzettino”. This Blog, “Comboni Missionaries – A Childhood in their Hands” accepts no responsibility for errors in reporting by third parties).


By Brian Mark Hennessy

I was born in 1946. We always think that the start of our life is that specific moment of our birth, but of course it is not precisely.

Conception is the true moment of our creation and earthly existence. Our development in the womb takes place in the safest and most secure environment that we will ever experience in our lives. My conception took place at the most destructive time that is known to humanity. It was when nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It has always perplexed me that I was given life at the very moment when so many other lives perished. I was, of course, unaware of that devastating moment in human history when I was safe and secure in my mother’s womb.

Our actual date of birth denotes the moment of the awakening of our awareness of the world around us, but it also denotes the moment of ever increasing consciousness that we are helpless in the perilous world into which we are born. For years to come we remain dependent on those around us for our safety and survival. Until the time of adulthood we will continue to need care and protection.

It is a poignant thought for me personally that when I was born the world was in ruins. I was aware as an infant walking to school that every other house was a bombed-out shell or hole in the ground. Even later as a young teenager, from the steps of Portsmouth’s destroyed Guildhall, I could still see a full square mile of Blitz rubble in front of me. Since the end 1946, the year of my birth, however, humanity was already striving in earnest to create a better world for children – and UNICEF, the United International Children’s Emergency Fund, as it was then called, had been created under the umbrella of the United Nations.
More than seventy years later we think of most children as being safe – and it is true that most children are – but it is not a moment for complacency. UNICEF reports in our world today are not just saddening, but alarming and all adults need to take stock of what is happening around them – not just in a general global sense – but in our very own neighbourhoods. There, unseen and often unheard, children are suffering. UNICEF reports that:
“Three quarters of children aged from 2-4 are regularly subjected to violent discipline by their parents or caregivers. Worldwide, half of all school-age children live in countries where corporal punishment at school is not fully prohibited, leaving 732 million children without legal protection. Bullying is experienced by 1 in 3 students between the ages of 13-15. That is close to 130 million students worldwide. Columbia, Honduras, Brazil, El Salvador and the Bolivian Republic of Venezuela had the highest homicide rates among adolescents age 10-19 as of 2015. Nearly half of all adolescent homicides occur in the Latin American and Caribbean region. Of the 59 school shootings that resulted in at least one reported fatality in the last 25 years, nearly three quarters of them happened in the United States”.
“Violence against children in all its forms, from the slap of a parent to the unwanted sexual advance of a peer, is harmful, morally indefensible and a violation of every child’s human rights. Every five minutes a child dies as a result of violence. Millions of children live in fear of physical, emotional and sexual violence. All children have the potential to be happy, healthy and successful, but witnessing or experiencing violence erodes that potential and affects a child’s health, wellbeing and future. The effects can stay with them for life. It is for all of us to stand up and speak out to end violence against children, recognise it and report it.”

For the Victim, however, we should also be aware that the destructive effects of child abuse, in whatever shape or form it was inflicted upon them, does not necessarily cease when they reach maturity – and nor will the pain automatically cease with the Victim’s own adult acknowledgement of the facts of the abuse that they suffered in their childhood. Their resolution of the damage done to them can be so severe that the effects of the abuse can – and most probably will – cling to them in their adulthood in the same way as would the inheritance of a physically destructive and progressive disease.

The psychological destruction caused by childhood abuse can be made worse if those children in later adulthood are unlucky enough to have been abused by someone in a powerful organisation such as the Catholic Church. Despite all the pronouncements of the Vatican, local Bishops and the leaders of Religious Institutes, the rightful cause of seeking acknowledgement from those responsible for the day to day monitoring and governance of offenders of abuse can be harrowing.
Of course, it would be most wrong of me to generalise and there are many within the Catholic Church, both clerics and laypeople, who feel both horror and shame at the flagrantly egregious and devastating effects of the failure of some elements within the Church Hierarchy to embrace victims in their own community. Just today, one such victim of child sexual abuse said to me:
“You have no idea what it has been like. It has been years of pure hell. Birthdays, Christmases and holidays have passed by with the sword of Damacles hanging over me. It has led me to sickness, both physical and mental. I have had work problems, family problems and relationship problems. The Religious Order of the one who abused me even threatened that if I proceeded they would ruin me financially and leave me in penury for the rest of my life. It is all too much”.

UNICEF – like me – is 71 years old now, but the need to protect children will, most regrettably, never cease. The work to eradicate one of the world’s most injurious evils – which is the infliction of ill treatment, sexual molestation and psychological harm upon children remains with us today and it will be there in the future.

Those of us who are the Survivors of sexual abuse by members of the Comboni Missionary Order have also learned another lesson from our own experiences. That is that in this world, there are institutions that claim for themselves the moral values of exemplary righteousness, but, in reality, they use a facade of ritual, vestments and Biblical mutterings on one day of the week – only to expend their energy on the next six days on the concealment and denial of a history of callous physical and mental injury to children.

This forum, entitled “The Comboni Missionaries – A Childhood in their Hands”, was founded specifically to assist and open up a “space” for those sexually abused by clerics of the Catholic Religious Institution that was founded with the name of “Comboniani Missionari” – sometimes also known historically as the “Verona Fathers”. Those survivors of child sexual abuse perpetrated by members of that Religious Institute – extend a welcome to all those who were abused as children to use this space to express their pain and anxieties. We understand you in a way that others cannot – and in a way that many others with manifestly irrefutable accountability for the abuse, like the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, will deny to you.



By Brian Mark Hennessy

Cardinal Pell is the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy of the Holy See and is widely reported as being the third-ranking Cardinal in the Vatican. Pell disputes his Vatican ranking as false, I should note first of all. Presumably that is because it would be unbecoming that the Catholic Church, widely regarded by most international economists as the richest institution in the world, had any interest whatsoever in wealth! After all had not Saint Matthew written in his Gospel: “You cannot serve God and Mammom”. That aside, Cardinal Pell is more infamous than famous in the world today for his appearances at the Australian Royal Commission – and for the “as yet untried” outstanding allegations of child sexual abuse against him..

I should say at the outset, that I am not a big fan of Cardinal Pell – but I know nothing of the veracity or otherwise of his claims of innocence regarding a host of allegations of sexual abuse when he was a young priest – and nor his alleged cover up of the crimes of other clerics when he was a Bishop and later Archbishop of Sidney. Whilst I can make no judgements about those affairs, I confess that I do not have much admiration for his comment to the Australian Inquiry when he responded to his knowledge of alleged abuse in 1975 at the Inglewood parish in the State of Victoria with the words, “It was a sad story, but not of much interest to me at the time”. When I heard those words as I watched that broadcast on live television, I gasped incredulously at his incurious aloofness to the sexual abuse of a child.

However, when Cardinal Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic, appeared before the Australian Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse he did say something that was true – well, almost true. He stated, “The Catholic Church was (in the past) more concerned with protecting its own reputation than helping victims of clergy abuse, and had a “predisposition not to believe” children who made complaints. At that stage, the instinct was more to protect the institution, the community of the Church, from shame. The Church, in many places has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those, but the Church has mucked things up, has let people down. I’m not here to defend the indefensible.”

What was wrong about Cardinal Pell’s comments above was not the content, but simply the tense. Whilst the Catholic Church claims that they have done much to rectify their past criminal record of concealment of child sexual abuse, have ended their protection of paedophile clerics from civic criminal action and have ceased their victimization of the very children who had been subjected to heinous abuse – many of their clerics are not yet on board that specific vision of St Peter’s fishing boat on a becalmed Galilean Sea.

To use an expression out of the very mouth of Cardinal Pell (that, incidentally, I have not heard since my youth) there are clerics in the Catholic Church today who are still “mucking” thing up and the Church knows that very well. Indeed, one Cardinal Archbishop, who is regularly seen in the marbled colonnades of the Vatican, was overheard in a church gathering very recently to have said in a conversation about the Italian Comboni Missionary Order of Verona that they are “fools”. Such a comment is not a shocking surprise to me given that I know that a 170 page document on sexual crimes committed by members of that Italian Religious Institute against child seminarians at Mirfield in Yorkshire, England, has been in the possession of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for nearly two years. Indeed, I know also that it has been read by that same Cardinal who is purported to have pinned the label of “fools” on the “Missionari Comboniani”.

The Italian Comboni Missionary Order, in their Roman Curia, their Verona Mother House and their United Kingdom Provincial Headquarters at Sunningdale in Berkshire continues to this day to live in that past described by Cardinal Pell. Their principle concern remains to protect their own reputation more than it is to help victims of clergy abuse. They still have a “predisposition not to believe” Victims who have made complaints. They continue to demonstrate an instinct to protect their institution from shame, continue to make the mistake of failing to work to remedy the errors they have made in the past – and continue, in Cardinal Pell’s words, “to muck things up and let people down”.

Considering that the Comboni Missionary Religious Institute will be coming under significant scrutiny shortly from the United Kingdom’s ongoing Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in their Catholic Church deliberations, it is hardly surprising that members of the most senior echelons of the Curia in the Catholic Church are expressing both their frustration and exasperation.

IICSA will be using the case of the Comboni Missionary Order’s United Kingdom Province and Italian Curia to determine how “not” to manage issues of child sexual abuse in the future. The fact is that the Comboni Missionary Order is “mucking” things up to this very day. Curiously, that is precisely why IICSA has a specific interest in that Religious Institute. It is most opportune for IICSA to have a live and kicking body with the continuing symptoms today of the disease they are investigating. That will assist them in determining the remedies for the prevention of that disease, its cure and, hopefully, through monitoring, education and cultural changes, its ultimate elimination in the future!



By Brian Mark Hennessy.

In an extraordinary “to and fro” at a session on 23rd June 2017 of the Scottish Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse that had taken place at the Benedictine Fort Augustus Abbey, Dom Richard Yeo, on behalf of the Benedictine Confederation, mustered somewhat miserable attempts to fend off any possible hint of accountability by members of the current Benedictine hierarchy for any of the gross failures that had occurred historically at the Abbey. Indeed, the situation is complicated by the fact that every Benedictine Abbey is totally independent and has its own Abbot President. An Abbot Primate of all the independent Benedictine Abbeys is elected every four years but his powers of oversight are very limited as he has no direct jurisdiction over the Abbot Presidents.

Ultimately, Dom Yeo denied that even the Pope himself had any responsibility for the affairs of the Abbey and hence, none other than the Abbot of Fort Augustus at the time of the abuse had accountability whatsoever for Child Protection in that establishment. The revelations from some 50 former pupils of the Abbey were that Fort Augustus was used as a “dumping ground” for clergy previously accused of abuse elsewhere. The four most recent Abbots before closure in 1998 were Dom Oswald Eaves, Dom Celestine Howarth, Dom Nicholas Holman and Dom Mark Dilworth. A dozen Benedictine Monks and lay teachers of the Benedictines in the United Kingdom have been accused or convicted of the abuse of pupils of their United Kingdom monastery school establishments.

The structure of the Catholic Church, admittedly, is difficult to understand for anyone other than a well informed Vatican Watcher or Canonist. The casual spectator of the Catholic Church will be easily confused, for although like any other organisation the Catholic Church has, in essence, a top to bottom structure, it is also important to understand that the structure varies in pattern according to the authority, scope and purpose of each formation within it that is scrutinised.
Nevertheless, there is a “key” to understanding each of those seemingly impenetrable structures within the Church and the unique application of authority within each of the separate branches of the overall Hierarchical Structures. Quite simply, to penetrate the complexities of the many titled ranks and the names of their formations there is one guiding principle – and that is the proverbial, good old adage: “Follow the Money”!

Thus, whilst there may appear to be a confusing and colourful kaleidoscope of the channels of authority, indeed there are not. To see clearly, we just need to strip away the candles, vestments, bells, incense and mitres of the peculiar and unique structure of the Catholic Church. Quite simply, hand in hand with that traditional theatre of the Church celebrations and the moral teachings of the Scriptures are the common administrative offices, procedures and controls that can be found in any other institution for the control of money, property, inventories of valuables, investments and other assets.

To be economical with my explanation, the three main ecclesiastical branches of the Catholic Church that are likely to come under scrutiny at the UK Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual abuse (IICSA), which is also in current process alongside the Scottish Inquiry, are the structures of (1) Dioceses run by the Bishops, (2) the Institutes of Consecrated Life with Abbots and Abbesses at their head and (3) the Religious Institutes of the Missionary, Teaching, Medical and other charitable Foundations. There is a key word within all these structures that defines authority – and that word is “ordinary”. Quite simply, that word denotes a person that has the right to exercise “jurisdiction” to a specific degree and of a specific nature over any institution at any level within the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church is an institution much the same as any other and its structure is that of a pyramid. All authority is invested in the Pope and is derived from him. It has a set of laws that govern both the moral and temporal structure of the Church at every level. Those laws have been derived from the historical pronouncements of the Church Councils that date back to Constantinople in the 4th Century. The Catholic Church has a “product” called “morality” which it claims to be inspired from sacred texts known as the Old and New Testaments. The rights of children have a biblical setting in the Gospels of the New Testament when Christ said, “Suffer not little children to come unto me”. There is an imperative in that statement that implies that children are to be both cherished and protected. Thus, in the context of the safeguarding of children it can be categorically stated that:

The Pope, the “Supreme” Ordinary of the Catholic Church, through his subordinate Ordinaries – who extend to the level of Bishops, Abbots of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Superior Generals and Provincial Superiors of the Religious Institutes of the Catholic Church – is obligated to teach the morality exemplified in Scriptures, ensure that safeguards are in place for the protection of children, monitor adherence to safeguarding practices and bring non-compliant clerics to account.
At the recent IICSA hearing regarding abuse at Fort Augustus the following questions and answers took place between Counsel and Dom Richard Yeo. When the latter was asked about accountability, he responded:

A. “The English Benedictine Congregation had no authority over or involvement in either school. It is not the relevant organisation in respect of the schools as establishments. It has no remit or authority to acknowledge or accept abuse on behalf of the former Fort Augustus Abbey.”

Q. Just on that, that’s the position you adopt, is it? You don’t see that you, as the Abbot President, has a remit or authority to acknowledge or accept abuse?

A. I have – I can say on my own account personally that I am sorry about any abuse that has happened, but obviously I cannot speak for the school.

Q. Who can?

A. Nobody – and that is why I insisted that I wanted to say sorry myself because Fort Augustus is closed.

Q. Yes, but who can be held accountable for any abuse that occurred at Fort Augustus or (for the offences of) Carle Kemp?

A. Since the monastery has been closed I don’t see how anybody can be.

Q. What about the Holy See? I think we have accepted that the Holy See had ultimate responsibility.

A. Ultimate responsibility but not ultimate control.

Q. Or ultimate accountability. What you are saying is that because the monastery has closed, the Catholic Church cannot be held accountable, and that’s what I’m seeking to test with you.

A. I think I said publicly at a fairly early stage that the great problem with all this is that Fort Augustus is closed down and that must mean that the redress that any survivors of abuse can have is going to be limited. It is for that reason, as I say, that I felt it important to express my own sorrow about abuse but I cannot do that on behalf (of others). I can do that myself but I can’t do it as a representative of the organisation which was responsible.

Q. But what I’m seeking to explore with you, Dom Yeo, is whether there is someone within the Catholic Church who can provide the victims and survivors with that sort of apology in a more, if I can put it in this way, in a more responsible category?

A. I think that because Fort Augustus is closed, I’m the only person who can do that.

Q. Not even the Pope?

A. The Pope has expressed his sorrow that abuse has happened.

Q. Yes.

A. — but you cannot say that the Pope was responsible for it”.

That was the wrong answer. All roads in the Catholic Church do lead to Rome. The Pope is the “Supreme” Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Church and he has both moral and temporal administrative obligations. The buck does stop with the Pope and he must own it when all else fails! Dom Richard Yeo was categorically wrong when he replied that it does not and that a mere expression of sorrow from him will have to do! For the benefit of Dom Richard Yeo, I have constructed the following from Canon Law and other RCC Vatican sources for both his use and that of those representing abused children by clerics of the Catholic Church:

The Pope. The Pope is the “Ordinary” over the entire Catholic Church. The “buck” really does stop there! (Ref: Conc. Vatic., Const. “Pastor Aeturnus”, c.iii).In a period of interregnum following the death of a Pope and the election of a successor, the Cardinal “Carmelengo” in conjunction with the College of Cardinals assumes the role of Papal Supreme Ordinary. The Vatican Secretary of State, Prefects of the Vatican Curia Congregations and other Appointees to Pontifical Commissions and Intercasterial Commissions derive all the temporary authority they exercise as “delegated authority” directly from the Papal Supreme Ordinary.

The Chain of Command at the Vatican: Prefects of the Curia Congregations and Heads of the Pontifical Commissions and the Vatican Secretary of State with “Delegated” authority > The Carmelengo and College of Cardinals with “Delegated” Ordinary authority (“in absentia”) > Pope (the “Supreme” Ordinary of the Catholic Church).

The Diocesan Bishops There is often confusion about the title of “Bishop”, but in essence a Cardinal Archbishop, Archbishop, and Bishop are one and the same thing wherever they are located. They are all simply Bishops, as is the Pope himself, and they are the “ordinary judges” of the dioceses to which they are allocated. Their authority, which is both juridicial and territorial, is considered to be ordained by the Holy Spirit in the Acts (New Testament Acts of the Apostles 20:28). A Vicar Capitular or Vicar General assume the role of a Diocesan Bishop in an “inter regnum” period or other absence of a Bishop. Diocesan Auxiliary Bishops derive all temporary authority they exercise as “delegated authority” directly from the Diocesan Bishop. Parish Priests are not “ordinaries” and have no juridical or territorial authority.
Diocesan Bishops are appointed directly by the Pope following recommendations made by the Papal Legate of the specific country to which the new Bishop will be assigned. A Committee within the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy determines the final recommendations directly to the Pope for his consideration and subsequent appointment.

Diocesan Bishops are within their right (Canon 579) to establish an institute of Consecrated Life within their diocese by a formal decree, provided that they have consulted the Apostolic See – and the Bishop retains direct authority over such an institute, but will appoint a local superior “ordinary” with local “delegated” rights to manage the members of the institute in the “judicial” context. However, only the Pope can suppress an institute of Consecrated Life and the Apostolic See will make all decisions regarding disposal of the temporal goods of the suppressed institute.

Chain of Command of Diocesan Bishops: Local Ordinaries of Diocesan Institutes of Consecrated Life with “Delegated” authority from the Bishop > (Vicar General – “Ordinary in absentia”) > Bishop (“Juridical” and “Territorial” Ordinary) > Pope (“Supreme” Ordinary).

The Institutes of Consecrated Life The Pope in the Apostolic See is able to erect an institute of Consecrated Life, (such as the Benedictines), and individual members (clerics, lay brothers or sisters) are bound to obey the Pope as their highest superior by their sacred bond of obedience. The Superior (Abbot or Abbess) of an institute of Consecrated Life will convene a Chapter to advise and disseminate authority throughout the community. Only the Pope can suppress such an institute of Consecrated Life and he will also dispose of all the temporal goods of a suppressed institute. (Canons 589-591). The Abbot/Abbess is elected by the Chapter who will also advise and counsel the Abbot/Abbess.

Chain of Command of Institutes of Consecrated Life: Chapter (with “delegated authority”) > Abbot/Abbess (“Juridical” and “Territorial” Ordinary) > Pope (“Supreme” Ordinary).
Religious Institutes A Religious Institute (such as the Comboni Missionaries) is a society of clerics, lay brothers or sisters in which members, according to a proper law, pronounce public vows, either perpetual or temporary which are to be renewed when the period of time has elapsed. They lead a life in common. (See Canons 607 – 608). The Rule of a Religious Institute is approved by the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Religious Institutes require the authority of the diocesan Bishop to establish a house within a diocesan location (Canons 609-611), but the Religious Institutes are, nevertheless, autonomous. The Religious Institute’s Provincial Superior of the country or other defined geographical location is the Provincial Ordinary within that country or location and the Provincial reports to the Superior General who is the Ordinary of the Religious Institute.

The Superior General / Sister General is elected by members of the Institute’s Curia, Provincial Superiors and other nominated members in accordance with its constitution. A Vicar General and Council are also appointed.

Chain of Command of Religious Institutes: Local Ordinary Superior of a community with “Delegated” authority only from the Provincial Superior > Provincial Superior (Provincial “Juridical” Ordinary) > (Vicar General “in absentia”) > General Superior / Sister General (“Juridical” Ordinary) > Pope (“Supreme” Ordinary).



By Claire Giangrave, 15th November 2017 writing for “CRUX”

On Nov. 3, a 17-year-old girl went to the Maggiore Hospital in Bologna, in northern Italy, saying that she had been raped and robbed. She had spent the night in Piazza Verdi, a party-area of town, and had gotten drunk, when she realized her cell-phone was missing. That’s when she said she met a man from North Africa, according to media reports, who took her to a train station where he allegedly raped her. She told police that she later woke up half-naked and without her personal belongings.

This did not sit well with the local parish priest, Father Lorenzo Guidotti, who was quick to write a post on his private Facebook account saying that he has no pity for the young woman, who, in his view, was responsible for what happened to her. “I mean, honey, I am sorry, but (1) you frequent Piazza Verdi (which has become the a**hole of Bologna!! (2) You get disgustingly drunk! Why? If you participate in the (sub) culture of mayhem, it’s your f***ing business if the morning after you wake up who knows where,” he wrote in the post. Guidotti then underlined that for the past 50 years, he has woken up in his own bed. He also criticized the young woman for leaving with a North African. “After the mistake of getting drunk, who do you walk away with? A North African? Notoriously, especially in Piazza Verdi, very gentlemanly, all professionals, teachers, people of culture, good people,” he wrote. The priest also said that the young woman drank not only alcohol but also the “ideological pull of ‘let’s welcome them all’,” referring to pro-immigration policies that have been enacted under Italy’s current center-left government. “Honey, at this point waking up half-naked is the least that could happen. I’m sorry, but if you swim in the piranha tank, you can’t complain if when you get out, you’re missing an arm,” Guidotti wrote. “Should I feel pity? No.” The priest concluded his post with an appeal to young people, saying that they are being “brain-washed” and tricked by the system.

The post was first reported by local radio Città del Capo, provoking the indignation of many on social media but also the support of others who agreed with the words of the priest. Hundreds of posts expressed solidarity with Guidotti, including politicians, and many friends and faithful in his parish defended his remarks in front of the media and shielded him from cameras during Mass. “He is a good person, he does well by everyone,” one of his parishioners told local media, with one tearfully saying, “my heart breaks when I see what is happening to him, you must forgive him.”

The Archdiocese of Bologna distanced itself from the priest, releasing a statement saying that Guidotti’s words correspond to “his own personal opinions, which don’t reflect in any way the thought and assessment of the Church, which condemns every type of violence.” The statement included a letter of apology by Guidotti, who has been prohibited from speaking on the matter to the press – or the public – by the archdiocese. “I wish I could meet her,” the priest said in the statement referring to the victim’s mother. “I understand when she says that this is not Christian charity, but I did this with all the charity possible because we are getting used to news of rape. If no one helps our young people, because of complete imputability, then young people must help themselves, by staying away from mayhem. This is what I meant, but I said all the wrong words.” The Vicar General of Bologna, Father Giovanni Silvamagni, highlighted how this recent event may open a discussion about the use of social media by priests. “Social media courses? Perhaps we need responsibility in the use of an instrument that has potentials and risks,” he told local media, calling for more self-discipline.

The leader of Italy’s right-wing populist party Lega Nord, Matteo Salvini, told reporters in Milan that while “in the case of violence there is no difference between sober and drunk, there is a basis of truth in the words of the priest.” He added that people must be mindful of their actions and with whom they associate, and that the place she visited was well known for being a bad neighborhood. “If you go there underage and drunk – and I would like to know what her parents think – you are obviously not at your first rodeo,” Salvini said, concluding his statement by offering solidarity to the victim.

A recent survey by a local news site shows that while 25 percent of Italians concur with Guidotti’s statement, up to 62 percent condemn them, pointing to the fact that public opinion and what is conveyed online are two very different beasts. “Our Catholic teaching tells us that the only person who’s responsible for a sin is the sinner. Rape is a horrible crime and it’s also a sin, so the only person responsible for rape is the rapist,” said Dawn Eden Goldstein, an assistant professor of dogmatic theology at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut, and author of books on healing from trauma and abuse, including Remembering God’s Mercy and My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, in an interview with Crux. “Catholic teaching is very strong on the fact that abuse victims are never responsible for their abuse.” Goldstein stated that “people don’t look to be abused, nobody wants to be abused,” and that the seventeen-year-old girl wouldn’t have gone out drinking in a bad neighborhood if she had known it was dangerous.

Intentionally or not, Guidotti is in the eye of the hurricane in the debate surrounding sexual assault and victim blaming in Italy. The parish priest of the church of San Domenico Savio had a very active media presence. His Facebook profile (which has been closed following the scandal) shows a picture of a Lego dressed as a crusader and has posts expressing reactionary positions. “I will go visit the parish priest and tell him of my idea of Christian behavior, very different from his,” said the mother of the young woman who was raped. “My daughter was the victim and she must be defended, not only by a priest. The fault lies in the rapist, not on the victim.” The mother told reporters that the “pack of jackals” that descended on her family following the event only worsened an already very challenging moment. “We are a family with strong values, but we read a lot of inaccuracies and accusations surrounding our tragedy that hurt us, when no one, except us, knows what happened,” she concluded.

More than 4,000 cases of sexual assault took place in Italy in 2015, of which 80 percent were against women, according to data from the country’s Ministry of the Interior. Goldstein highlighted that according to the Bible, authority figures in the community also have a responsibility to young people in educating them and showing them the right path. “It’s very easy for this priest, or anyone after the fact, to blame the victim, but when they do that they are really just deflecting blame away from themselves because young people are formed by adults,” she said. As a teacher in a seminary, Goldstein said that men who are being trained for the priesthood should have some guidance regarding social media, and added that there should be a seminar with do’s and don’ts when using this platform. “Social media can become weaponized in the hands of representatives of the Church who are not thinking about their witness,” Goldstein said. “If we are treating someone in an uncharitable, hostile, egotistical way then people will not see the beauty of Christ when they look at our lives.”

(The views expressed in the article above by Claire Giangrave and the responsibility for accuracy are those of herself, the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of this Blog entitled – “Comboni Missionaries – A Childhood in their Hands”.
Nevertheless, this Blog supports the view that those who suffer from sexual crimes perpetrated by others are “Victims” whatever the circumstances and that those who attempt to impugn a Victim are contemptible and, by extension, are complicit in the crime.)