Abuse, Power and Control

20170927_221423All abuse is about power and control. The Comboni Order of Verona revictimise those that were abused by their priests because they are fearful of loosing their power, wealth and image. I am speaking as one who has been revictimised. In my case not  only the power of the abuser over the child, but the power of the abuser over the child’s family. Comboni, Father Romano Nardo did this to perfection on my family. And, yet, the Combonis still do not acknowledge or apologise for what happened.









Mark Stephen Murray


I don’t undersand why the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, gave me 30,000 pounds and that the ‘gift’: “was made on a purely commercial basis with no admission of liablity?” Do they believe abuse took place or don’t they? Why give donated money away? It stinks.



Bishop of Galloway:
“I would like to offer my personal apology to the victims: I am deeply saddened and pained by the abuse they have suffered.”

Comboni Provincial, Fr. Devenish:
“if you ring here again..I will call the police and have you done for harassment.”


Mark Stephen Murray

@MarkStephenMur2 twitter

I dealt, as best i could, with the abuse I suffered as a child at the Comboni Child seminary at Mirfield. It is much harder, psychologically, to deal with the response and appalling, dismissive and arrogant behaviour of the Order towards me and my fellow Comboni seminarians.



In his final paragraph of his narrative at Santa Marta in 2014, His Holiness, Pope Francis said, “Jesus comes forth from an unjust trial, from a cruel interrogation and he looks in the eyes of Peter, and Peter weeps”. This is the reference to Peter who had thrice denied that he knew Christ – and the cock crowed as Christ had foretold that it would.

That Cock continues to crow within the Catholic Church as clerics obfuscate, as secrecy covers the truth, as the avoidance of scandal denies justice, as Victims, like Christ himself, are falsely accused, ill-used, have suffering upon suffering heaped upon them by a malicious priesthood which is akin to that of the Pharisees and Saducees who were bent on preserving their hierarchical dominance, their self-deception of moral superiority and the comforts of their “way of life”. Peter wept for his sins of denial and gained Redemption. Yet, there will be no Redemption for the clerics of the Catholic Church unless they get out of their ‘clerical mindset’ and their palaces and go back to the Gospel roots of humility and service.

The Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy shows none of the repentance of Peter. A British Admiral, Viscount Lord Nelson, famously once put a telescope to his blind eye and announced, “I see no ships!” and he then proceeded to disobey his orders. The Comboni Missionary Order in their cruel, moral blindness have claimed, “I see no Victims!” and since that time they then proceeded to ignore every moral creed, Church Canon, Civil Law, their obligations to the Bishops’ Conferences of the British Isles, their undertakings to Safeguarding Practices and their very own Code of Conduct.

In April 2015, Mark Murray, took it upon himself to journey from North Wales to Verona in Italy in a final attempt to confront his Abuser. For his own peace of mind Mark Murray needed to know “Why?” this priest (who had already admitted that he had taken the 14 year old Mark Murray to his bed) had committed the long series of sexual crimes – in the guise of sacred rituals – against him. He also had a deep concern for the treatment of all the other sexually abused seminarians who had suffered abuse at the hands of Comboni Missionaries. Like his confreres at the Mirfield seminary in Yorkshire England, the crimes committed against both them and him had caused each of them suffering in later life. Mark had experienced doubts and fears, drastic mood swings in and out of depression, the fear that his psyche had been irrevocably affected by the paedophilia of the paedophile who had abused him. At one point in his life, Mark’s inability to resolve the issues of the abuse in his own mind had led to his contemplation of a bottle of whisky and packs of pills in a lonely hotel room as he considered his own oblivion.

A meeting between Mark Murray and Father Romano Nardo had been denied by the Order for some 20 years for a host of different reasons. The extradition of Father Romano Nardo to the United Kingdom to answer charges by the West Yorkshire Police had also been repeatedly denied. The Superior General of the Order had said that Father Nardo was not fit to travel and was psychologically unable to face questioning. Mark Murray knew, however, from information that had found its way on to the Internet that Father Nardo was travelling occasionally within Italy. He had been photographed in the parish of Pordenone, quite distant from Verona, saying Mass and giving a homily. Also, by the admission of the Order, Father Nardo was working in a hospital for elderly priests. The ability to undertake these functions suggested that Father Nardo was perfectly capable of answering charges of child sexual abuse – despite any alleged bad dreams he may have been having of the atrocities committed by Idi Amin of Uganda 35 years before. Those dreams had not stopped Father Nardo from working at the Parish of Lira in Uganda since the time of those events.

Pope Benedict XVI had, in 2001, already placed in Canon statutes of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith a new clause that required that a Priest who had “admitted” crimes of sexual abuse of minors (even though no legal process had found him guilty of those crimes) should be stripped of his priestly title and functions. Father Nardo had made such an admission and that had been conveyed to Mark Murray in a letter. Yet, it seems the Order failed to report Father Nardo’s admissions of guilt to the Vatican, which they were required to do by Canon Law, presumably in an attempt to protect their paedophile priest and the good name of their Order from external scrutiny – even that of the Vatican. One of the penalties of the Benedict XVI injunction was that a priest who had admitted crimes of child abuse should be forbidden to celebrate public Eucharist Masses – yet Father Nardo was obviously still doing so. Quite clearly, the Comboni Order adopted the ploy of never admitting that any crimes by Father Nardo had ever been committed in the first place. That adoption of that stance of denial was the equivalent of the condonement of the crimes of a paedophile priest who they then succored and protected for decades, whilst the Victim of the paedophile’s crimes was ignored, trashed and discarded as money grabbing, human detritus.


As Mark Murray arrived at the Verona Mother House, he walked straight in through their first set of sliding doors. There he asked the receptionist to send for Padre Romano Nardo and if he could go and pray in the chapel; she said that he could – and opened the next set of doors and pointed him in the direction of the chapel door. He entered the chapel and walked around it and then sat at the back on one of two chairs and spent a little time to compose himself. Whilst Mark was sitting there in the chapel, he was crying in his heart, not knowing what to do. Father Nardo was on his way and he was afraid of losing his courage at the last moment. Then the sound of a cuckoo, slowly and softly dawned in his subconscious and in an increasing crescendo reached such a volume that he could distinctly hear it and his mind and so he was then distracted from the thoughts of Father Nardo’s arrival.

When Father Nardo entered the room, he looked at Mark Murray in complete shock. Then, after a few seconds Mark said, “ Do you remember me?” Father Nardo appeared unable to speak and initially stood in silence, saying nothing, but then mouthed inaudibly the word “No” and so Mark said “I am Mark Stephen Christopher Murray.” There was no response from the priest, who then sat down next to his unexpected visitor. The two remained there, side by side in silence, for a long time – each struggling to recall the events of the sordid past that they had experienced together. Mark later recalled that in those moments he was having flashbacks about the Mirfield Seminary where, on occasions, he and Father Nardo used to sit beside each other in the Chapel. “Do you remember Mirfield?” Mark persisted. “Look at me! Look at me! Can you look at me?” After a while, Mark then said, “Do you realise what effect the abuse you did to me has had on my life, my wife’s life and my children’s life? You abused me. I spent many years thinking I would wake up one morning and start abusing children because I was abused by you”. Father Nardo got off his chair and knelt on the floor mumbling : “If it is my fault that you bear a heavy cross, I believe I should ask the Lord for forgiveness, for having erred. I’m sorry. I’m very sorry. If what happened in your life was caused by me and if what you are saying is true, I am truly sorry and ask for forgiveness”. Mark Responded, “I came here to forgive you”.

The next day, Mark returned to the Verona Mother House of the Order and introduced himself again. He was let in. This time a different Priest arrived who said that he was the Vice Superior of the house. He was surly in his manner and Mark was already on his guard for an unpleasant encounter. Mark asked for some water. The response from the Vice-Superior was that there was no need for Mark to be there and he then threatened Mark with the Italian law of trespass for being on private land. When Mark asked the priest if Father Nardo was there, the response was that he was not. Mark told him that he did not believe him and the Priest stated that he objected to being called a liar and the more he objected – the more Mark asserted that he was not telling the truth. The priest again threatened Mark with the force of Italian law and in a pitiably childish game of semantics, the Vice Superior changed tactics and said words to the effect of, “Father Nardo is not here. You can see he is not here. He is not in this room. Can you see him?”

The Vice Superior then said to Mark, “Take your glasses off. I like to see a face!”. Mark took off his sun glasses and stood six inches from the Priest’s face, saying “Look at me in the eye!”. The response from the Vice Superior was, “How dare you call me a liar in our house”. He then criticised Mark for calling himself Christophoro, which is Mark’s second name. Mark turned to leave with the Priest calling after him in slanderous and defamatory words to the effect that Mark was just another “money grabber”. Mark said that he would return to see the Superior of the House who was not there at that time. The Priest told him that the Superior was apparently in Bari in the South East of Italy and that he would be back early to see him and Mark should be happy that he had decided to do so. The Vice Superior laughed in sardonic derision at Mark and smirked as Mark turned and left.

The next day, the Superior of the House arrived back in Verona and a meeting was arranged. On arrival, Mark noted immediately that the Superior had a more relaxed manner than his deputy and he introduced himself as “John” and offered Mark coffee. Nevertheless, it was a relatively brief meeting and the outcome was not positive. Mark said, “I saw Nardo yesterday ” and the immediate response from the Superior was, “You are not supposed to see him.” Mark asked, “Why not?” and the response was, “Because he is here for a special reason – he is not well and so he cannot see anybody. The only person you should be in touch with is Father General. Here we want privacy; we are sick persons. We do not want you to encounter anybody here. I do not know anything (else). The only thing I know is we do not want you to meet anybody here.” Mark then said, “I met Nardo here two days ago.” and the rejoinder from the Superior was, “You were not supposed to – he is not well.”
The Superior then moved the conversation to the inevitable subject – and asked, “How can the institute apologise? For what?” “The abuse!” Mark responded. To that the Superior said, “I cannot say anything.” Mark’s reply was, “That is all I get. Everyone says to me, “I cannot talk to you. The only person that has talked to me was Nardo. You are not talking to me!”. The Superior’s response was “(That is) because I have nothing to say.” Mark was feeling frustrated at the lack of any substantive response and stated, “You have a man here in this house who abused children!” The Superior did not deny that and replied, “And he is taken care of.” Mark continued, “In 2008 he was in Pordenone saying Mass, he was the main celebrant, he gave the sermon!” The Superior replied, “Since I have been here he has never gone out.”Mark again in increasing frustration, said, ” I came two days ago and he came down stairs to see me!”. The Superior replied blandly, “Somebody made a mistake. Rather than concentrating on an apology you should look towards the future with a positive attitude. Being here will not help you in any way. So it does not pay for you to stay in Verona because you will not see anybody.”

Mark responded, “I am here until I see someone who apologises.” The reply from the Priest was, “You will be waiting in vain.” At this Mark asked in exasperation, “Why are the Comboni Missionaries so frightened of apologising? You only say you will pray for me!” The pious rejoinder of the priest was, “There is nothing greater than prayer.” It was not what Mark wanted to hear and he said in a determined tone, “It has not helped me!” Then the final words of the Father Superior were, in the circumstances, a lame, “I hope it helps!”


The meetings described above are worthy of comment for what happened was not just a chilling exposition of the arrogance and pitiless behaviour of clerics in our own age, but it was a role reversal of sorts. The former Victim had metamorphosed and was now a man of courage. He had arrived unannounced in the den of the Abuser and those protecting him and he had suddenly caught them off guard. The Abuser, Father Romano Nardo, could not look Mark Murray, the Victim, in the face. When people avert their gaze they pretend not to see what they have just seen and pretend not to realise what they have just realised. For a man accused of crimes, his mind would then have harboured the fear of losing, in the future, the things that he now has. Father Nardo suddenly had to deal with the confusion that his self-deception of a lifetime had been a lie. He had thought this moment would never come and that his life-time of comfortable self-belief would have continued until he was committed to his grave. He had made an “if” apology, but what was that apology for? He had not fully conceded his guilt – albeit he had not denied it either. That would have destroyed him totally and he was not able to endure that. So his “if” apology was not a specific apology for crimes committed, but it was a deliberately vague and evasive comment which had no precise meaning. In those moments, he had been faced with a myriad of mental tasks to grapple with. His mind was unable to grasp control of the unexpected dilemma of his “guilt” for crimes and suffering. So, he must have wrestled in his mind with his options, which were to remain silent or to walk away.

The Vice Superior of the Order, who perceived himself to be the giant in his own cloister, was diminished in stature and displayed the apparent, unconcerned behaviour that many men demonstrate when they are faced with unexpected and disturbing odds that had not been previously encountered. He suddenly could not continue any more to play his role in the Order’s game of “dead” nor “deafness” and his contemptuous attitude was akin to those pointless efforts that are made when someone of self-perceived esteem is confronted by a degree of strength and determination to which he is unused. Thus he sought to retain control by derision and by taunting the Victim of his Order’s neglect, insensitivity and indifference. There is another word for his arrogance. It is called “Re-victimisation”.

r. The Superior of the Order’s Mother House was more relaxed and pleasant to Mark Murray. However, his words were not what Mark had wanted to hear for what he said in effect was. “Go Home. You will get nothing from us. Buck up and get over it!”. That is not the sort of advice one would expect from a concerned and well-intentioned pastor, but more the language of someone who is totally disinterested in the person being addressed. This is important to note in the overall context of this story. I have mentioned suicide frequently before in connection with child abuse and, in fact, Mark Murray is a Victim who has contemplated suicide. The Comboni Missionary Order know this as it is in his statement. In the United Kingdom, suicides amongst men of all ages have been increasing year on year and currently they account for almost 80% of all suicides. The numbers of female suicides have remained fairly static. It has been deduced by substantial research that one of the most significant factors contributing to male suicides is the pressure of society on men to repress anxieties and get on with life. “Man up!”, “Grit your teeth”, “Grin and bear it” and “Get a grip” are the common expressions aimed at men anguished by a dilemma or problem. Thus what this research reveals is that a man’s induced inability to talk about his anxieties to another person and his failed attempts to manage those anxieties within himself is one of the main contributory factors of a male person taking his own life.

In effect, therefore, the Comboni Missionary Order’s failure to accept any responsibility for the abuse of minors at their Mirfield seminary, coupled with their determined efforts to have no dialogue with Victims about it at all is a most damaging strategy. Mark Murray had arrived in Verona after many decades of suffering from anxieties about his abuse. He needed to talk about it. He had made many attempts to get a dialogue going and one by one they had refused to talk to him. That continuous failure of care of the Order that had at times been hostile is what had forced Mark Murray to make his trek to Verona unannounced. What happened? He was told to go away and sort it out himself. That is not just devastating re-victimisation. For some, such disinterested denial of dialogue could be a “death sentence”.

Appalling treatment of the Victims of child sexual abuse will go down in history as one of the most repulsive failures in a long list that chequers the history of the Roman Catholic Church. It is a human tragedy that will haunt them in the future. It is another repulsive scar on a reputation already damaged by centuries of arrogance and avarice, sins that blight the vitality of a conscience. Whilst paedophile Clerics believe that Mother Church will always be there to support and cherish them whatever they do and that secrecy and the avoidance of scandal will be used to ensure that their crimes are never made known – they will continue to adopt a self-delusional theory of “unassailability”- and they will continue to indulge in corruption and debauchery. It is shamefully regrettable that Churches have not been the prophets they should have been in an age that has countenanced and promoted the innocence, cherishment and dignity of children. That role has been championed by the civil institutions of this world. The world will not forget that the Catholic Church failed them. It is a legacy that will endure.


Mark Murray returned from Verona in Italy to the United Kingdom diminished once more in spirit. He had received an ‘if’ apology from the priest who had abused him as a child, but not an iota of regret had been expressed by any member of the Comboni Missionary Hierarchy. Indeed they had been unconcerned at best by telling him just to ‘get on with it’ and that they had ‘no sleepless nights about his distress’. Moreover, they had expressed their hostility towards Mark Murray by accusing him of trespassing, calling a lawyer to attend and threatening him with ringing the local Garda to evict him from their premises.

On arrival back home, Mark was even more dejected when he found in his post box a summons from the Criminal Court of Verona detailing offences ‘against him’ of the crimes of trespass, stalking and interfering in the life of the priest (who had abused him as a child). The Court at Verona duly heard the case, but the Judge said that there was no evidence of any crimes having been committed. The Accused, Mark Murray, had walked through an open gate, had seen no signs forbidding entry, had spoken to the receptionist, had been shown into the Chapel and had a quiet conversation with Father Romano Nardo. No trespass had been committed. In addition the fact that Mark Murray had attended on three occasions – two of which were for agreed appointments – could hardly be interpreted as ‘stalking’! Moreover the Judge noted that Mark Murray and Father Nardo had had a quiet conversation without any evidence of hostility and that the Priest had apologized to the Victim of his abuse – and Mark Murray, that Victim, had forgiven the Priest. To all intents and purposes none of the charges made by the Comboni Missionary Order were substantial to any degree and the case was dismissed. One would have thought that that would be the end of the story, but it was not. The Comboni Missionary Order appealed against the decision of the Judge. An Appeal Judge re-heard the case and said that no new evidence had been presented that could be brought to bear and overturn the original decision – and he dismissed the Appeal – commenting that the Victim, Mark Murray, should be praised for having forgiven the crimes of sexual abuse that had been perpetrated against him when he was a child of fourteen years.

Mark Murray was again vindicated, therefore, by the Judge – and it was suggested to him by his legal team, possibly in-advisedly, that it would be appropriate to respond with a charge against the Comboni Missionary Order of attempting to criminalise him and defaming his good name. Thus in the due course of time that case was heard. At that third judicial hearing, the Comboni Missionary Order presented the proposition that they had indeed made no attempt to defame Mark Murray at all by bringing Criminal Charges against him in the Criminal Tribunal of Verona. Their only intention had been to ‘protect Father Romano Nardo’ (who, as we know had had a quiet conversation with Mark Murray, had apologized and been forgiven). Moreover, following the dismissal of those charges by the Judge of the Criminal Tribunal of Verona, the Comboni Missionary Order maintained, in the new proceedings, that the only reason why they had previously appealed against the original decision of the Judge was again only ‘to protect Father Romano Nardo’! This proposition was made despite that that Appeal had also been dismissed by the Appeal Court Judge. Thus the ‘protection theory’ – remained the only response to the charge that the Comboni Missionary Order could muster for their attempts to incriminate Mark Murray.

For some inexplicable reason the Judge, in the case brought by Mark Murray against the Comboni Missionary Order for attempts to criminalise him, ‘accepted’ the plea that the only purpose of the original charges against Mark Murray and the subsequent Appeal brought by the Comboni Missionary Order was their ‘desire to protect Father Romano Nardo! From what I ask?! Father Nardo was the man who had abused the 14 year old child. That child now a grown man, had forgiven Father Romano Nardo. There is no evidence at all that Nardo needed in the past, nor needs now, any protection whatsoever – except from, perhaps, his own feelings of remorse for his abusive, sexual crimes against an innocent child! So we must ask ourselves – what is this saga really about?
Yes – it may be about ‘protection’ – but of whom? Well, it is not Father Romano Nardo. There is no evidence of physical hostility towards him – quite the opposite. The Comboni Order may fear that at some time Father Romano Nardo might be brought to justice if ever the UK Warrant for his arrest is enacted, but a statute of limitations in Italy makes that event unlikely now. So what could it be? Well, for one thing, three successive Superior Generals of the Comboni Missionary Order, David Kinnear Glenday, Enrique Sanchez and now Father Tessfaye have failed in their responsibilities to Canon Law. Moreover, a whole host of successive Superior Generals since 1970 have also failed in their responsibilities. Canon Law requires that any cleric or religious who commits crimes against the 6th Commandment ‘must’ be reported to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. They did not do so and this is reprehensible on the part of all of them.

Secondly, the majority of incidents of sexual abuse at the Mirfield seminary took place in the private rooms of the priests abusing the child seminarians. Those rooms were also used to hear the confessions of the boys they were abusing. Under Canon Law when ‘any’ place is used to hear confessions and is also used to commit sexual abuse or even to solicit it – then that is considered to be the most serious of crimes that a priest could commit – and such crimes not only lead to ‘defrocking’ of the priest, but also to ‘excommunication’. Almost every act of sexual abuse at the Comboni Order’s Mirfield seminary took place in the context of a ‘confessional’.Also, in the case of Father Romano Nardo – but also a list of other priests who have abused children that I know of – they were all sent to locations, following the discovery of their crimes against minors, to positions where they had further continued and unfettered access to more children. Three were sent to the Missions in Africa. One ran a school there and another had the responsibility for running the Ugandan Boy Scout Movement. A third was sent to a parish in Italy, only because, as the Superior General stated at the time in correspondence, his health was not robust enough to go to the Missions.

Moreover, in respect to Father Romano specifically, he admitted the crimes alleged against him by Mark Murray. When Crimes of sexual abuse against minors are admitted, then there is also a necessity under Canon Law to report that Priest to the Vatican so that he can be dismissed from Holy Orders by a Papal decree. In the case of Father Romano Nardo, this, quite clearly was not done. Had it been, he would no longer be celebrating Mass in public around Italy – for which there is photographic evidence. Thus the overwhelming evidence is that the Hierarchy of the Comboni Missionary Order is protecting itself from their Canonical inaction and the bad publicity that would lead to a loss of funds from a laity who, pretty much to the ends of the earth and back, are simply disgusted by what is done by clerics in the name of Catholicism.
Father David Kinnear Glenday, a previous superior General of the Comboni Missionary Order, but now the Secretary of the Union of Superiors General at the Vatican, stated in a letter about the sexual crimes committed against Mark Murray by Father Romano Nardo that Nardo had ‘acted inappropriately’. Those words “acted inappropriately” were David Glenday’s euphemism for the priest’s washing of the 13 year old boy’s naked genitals in a “baptismal rite”, the boy then being encouraged to wash the priests naked body, being in the room as the priest masturbated and ejaculated, sharing the priest’s bed nightly and laying upon the priest’s naked body followed by the ritual of the priest breathing the life of the “Spirit” into the boy’s open mouth. That was a Biblical reference to the Prophet Elisha lying on a boy’s body limb to limb, eyes to eyes, mouth to mouth as he breathed the life of the Spirit into the boy and brought him back from the dead. This too was in the same room, as I have stated elsewhere, that the priest routinely heard the boy’s confession – and the same room where, on one deeply sacrilegious occasion, punishable with the greatest severity under Canon Law, that the same priest, Nardo, placed his stole around the boy’s neck as the priest confessed to the boy. It may have been a game of charades at the time in attempts to groom the boy – but under Canon Law it has unholy consequences. And I almost forgot, in the midst of this sordid story, the horror the boy experienced when the priest first stripped naked in front of him and the boy was confronted by the red-raw scars of a crucifix that had been carved by a sharp instrument into the priest’s naked torso – and which the young boy later tried to emulate himself so as to be closer to the God of this priest.

Abuse Survivors Push To Change New York Statute of Limitations

Abuse Survivors Push To Change New York
Statute of Limitations

A National Catholic Reporter Article by Peter Feuerherd
(Peter Feuerherd is a correspondent for NCR’s Field Hospital series on parish life).

After three metro area dioceses offered programs to compensate victims of church sex abuse, Brian Toale was one of those who applied. Toale, on his personal website describes a horrific series of events in the early 1970s when, he wrote, as a student at Chaminade High School in Mineola, Long Island, New York, he was systematically groomed and abused by the Marianist school’s radio club moderator. According to Toale, the alleged abuser, a layman now deceased for 27 years, took Polaroids of the abuse and threatened to expose the then-16-year-old if he told anyone. Now 64, Toale has endured decades of therapy and struggles with alcohol, which he has addressed via 12-step programs. “My survival strategy was if I didn’t tell anyone, no one would know. On the day I graduated, I could then just live my life. But my life fell apart,” he told NCR during a recent interview over coffee at a Manhattan diner. In a story all too common for sex abuse survivors, Toale describes a painful divorce, dropping out of college, and substance abuse issues that plagued his life and from which it took him decades of therapy and emotional support to emerge.
Toale, who lives in Manhattan, applied for the compensation programs for the New York Archdiocese as well as the Rockville Centre Diocese, where Chaminade is located. But he was denied because the programs cover only abuse committed by diocesan clergy. Two years ago, he wrote what he describes as a “sharing the shame” letter, which he sent to Chaminade, detailing the abuses of his senior year. The response came quickly in the form of a terse letter stating that the allegations were forwarded to the district attorney of Nassau County, where Chaminade is located. Chaminade, in a response to NCR, issued a statement that the school puts a high priority on protecting its students and that all accusations are forwarded to law enforcement authorities.

Toale received an extensive reply to his letter from the district attorney’s office, offering to review his case. It was then he discovered that his alleged abuser was deceased. The events that Toale describes had taken place well beyond the current statute of limitations.

Under New York law, child sex abuse victims have until they are 23 to bring charges or a civil lawsuit. It is one of the shortest windows in the country. A proposal introduced in the Assembly this year would raise the criminal statute of limitations by five years, until the victim-survivor’s 28th birthday. It would also raise the civil statute of limitations until the survivor’s 50th birthday and also allow old lawsuits to be brought no matter how long ago the incidents occurred. Toale is now a committed activist to change the law, making the 280-mile roundtrip visit to Albany to lobby on behalf of changes. It has become a regular routine of the state legislative session over the past decade. Bills to change the law routinely are passed by the Democratic-controlled State Assembly, supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat, but then bottled up by the State Senate Republican leadership.

The lobbyists against changing the statute of limitations include nonprofit groups such as the Boy Scouts, Orthodox Jewish organizations and the Catholic bishops. They argue that allowing for an extensive change in the statute of limitations could create criminal and civil cases where memories are clouded by the passage of time and important witnesses have died. The bishops say that the onslaught of cases could bankrupt the state’s Catholic dioceses, similar to what has happened in states such as California, Minnesota and Delaware, which enacted similar legislation. “I want for them to just come clean,” said Toale. An admission by Chaminade that he was abused decades ago would aid his recovery, and provide a look into how many other such cases existed, he said.

Proponents of change in the law say this may be their year. Cuomo has put a bill extending the statute of limitations into his budget, and the clamor of the #MeToo movementcould have an impact on the State Senate. The future of the proposed changes will be determined after the state passes its budget in April and before the legislative session expires, probably in June. The New York Archdiocese and the dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre have each initiated a compensation program, administered by an independent arbitrator, that compensates those who were victimized by diocesan priests or deacons. Similar programs have been enacted in the upstate dioceses of Albany and Syracuse. Millions of dollars have been awarded, including $40 million from the New York Archdiocese alone. Survivors who receive awards are free to talk about their cases, but give up future claims.

The state’s Catholic bishops argue that time limits are needed to avoid litigation around hard-to-verify claims. Some cases go back to the 1940s, the bishops state in a position paper posted on the website of the New York State Catholic Conference. “Statutes of limitation are an essential protection of American law because they ensure that claims can be fairly adjudicated in a timely manner based on credible evidence,” the bishops’ statement reads. Changing the statute of limitations “would force institutions to defend alleged conduct decades ago about which they have no knowledge, and in which they had no role, potentially involving employees long retired, dead or infirm, based on information long lost, if it ever existed.”

Dennis Poust, spokesman for the state bishops, said that legislation being considered would also exempt governmental institutions, such as public schools, from its provisions. “Where a child was abused should have nothing whatever to do with whether or not he or she can bring a lawsuit,” he emailed NCR. At least some New York Catholics disagree with their bishops. Nancy Lorence, a member of the board of Call to Action of Metro New York, a church reform group, told the state legislature that extending the statute of limitations would cause predators to be exposed and would enhance public safety. She testified that cases such as those involving the Catholic Church, Pennsylvania State University and USA Gymnastics indicate that once one victim comes forward, others follow. “Victims free themselves from their guilt and shame by finally handing it back to their abuser when they go public,” she said. “By doing so, they also alert the public to keep children away from that abuser.” Call to Action also included testimony from Connie Altamirano, a Brooklyn woman who says she was regularly abused by a male family member. The #MeToo movement, Lorence told NCR, is an indication of how pervasive sex abuse is in the wider culture. She said that it is clearly not just a Catholic Church issue and that most sex abuse takes place within families.

Toale, asked why he wants the statute of limitations extended, brings out his cellphone to show a photo of his infant grandson. It’s for the future, he said, to create a society where sex abuse is no longer rampant. “Part of why we want to change the law is that when people come out, other people come out of the shadows,” Toale said. When institutions are confronted by court action, they are forced to hand over internal documents indicating how sex abuse has been handled, requests balked at by New York’s Catholic dioceses. A public spotlight is still needed, even after decades of lawsuits and legal action, he said. Toale said his activism, along with the public letters he has written about his case, has provided some healing. “It is as if I have gone back in time and I had saved that little 16-year-old boy,” he said.

Former Papal Adviser Says Francis Needs To Make Sex Abuse a Priority A ‘CRUX’ Article by Claire Giangravè

Former Papal Adviser Says Francis Needs To
Make Sex Abuse a Priority
A ‘CRUX’ Article by Claire Giangravè

A former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has charged that Pope Francis is not making the fight against sexual abuse a priority, and expressed her frustration with the procedures and limitations of the group, which she said led her to hand in her resignation last year. The commission is an advisory body to the pope on the issue of safeguarding minors and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse. Its first three-year mandate concluded in December 2017, and appointments of new members, along with the confirmation of some previous members, came earlier this month.

French child psychiatrist Catherine Bonnet said she tendered her resignation letter in June to Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, a member of the C9 group that advises the pope and the president of the commission, after she failed to convince the majority of its members to enact changes she perceived as necessary. “I personally advocated that bishops and superiors of religious orders be required to report suspicions of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities, which is already done in the United States, including for all members of the clergy,”

Bonnet said in an interview with French news outlet L’Express. “I had support, but when I saw in June that I was not going to be able to convince two-thirds of the commissioners, according to the rules, I wrote my letter of resignation.” Francis reportedly did not accept her resignation, but when the commission’s term expired and was rebooted in February, Bonnet was no longer on the list of members. The new commission lineup was announced on Feb. 17 and includes nine new members, some of whom are also victims of abuse.

The relationship with abuse victims has been a recurring issue for the commission, with two clerical abuse survivors, Peter Sanders of the UK and Marie Collins of Ireland, resigning from the group and publicly criticizing the Vatican’s methods and approach.
“When [abuse victims] send letters, we do not answer them! Marie Collins found this point particularly unbearable,” Bonnet said, adding that in her 35 years of experience working in this field, the testimonies of survivors are essential.

The French psychiatrist stressed the importance of collaborating with other organizations and institutions that are active on this issue, such as Ending Clerical Abuse. “We wanted to work with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is officially charged with pedophilia issues in the Vatican. But it was not easy,” she said. While Bonnet seemed to praise certain decisions by the pope, such as appointing O’Malley to head the commission and replacing German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, she was critical of other aspects. “The problem is that the pope did not come to our plenary meetings,” she said, echoing an issue that had been pointed out previously by other members of the commission, and stating that it’s important that the pope review the themes addressed by the group and participate in the conversations. “Not to mention that we only meet once a week, twice a year! It is far too little,” Bonnet said. “Pope Francis must make the protection of children a priority now.”

In terms of holding bishops who cover up abuse accountable, Bonnet stressed the need for an ad hoc tribunal charged with treating these cases. In his 2015 motu proprio, ‘Like a Loving Mother,’ Francis opened up to the possibility of a disciplinary committee that would judge clergy charged with negligence in cases of sexual abuse. This project was abandoned in 2016, officially in light of the slew of legal issues that were raised, and the pope urged officials to use already existing systems of accountability. “We were not informed of the motives behind the change,” Bonnet said. “The most important thing was that something be done. But the motu proprio was supposed to be enacted in September 2016. Up till now, no cases have been heard.”

The child psychology expert pointed out that among the new members of the commission there are several law experts, including an African law professor, an Australian judge and a Polish specialist in constitutional and canon law. “A commission such as this one must make recommendations, but not only. If you want to arrest criminals, there has to be a change of law, because that’s the only thing that scares them,” she said. Bonnet also called for exempting cases of clerical sexual abuse from provisions of Church law related to pontifical secrecy, arguing that it’s important to inject transparency into the process.