The Shifting of the Moral High Ground – by Brian Mark Hennessy

The Shifting of the Moral Ground  –  by Brian Mark Hennessy

The Art of Telling Lies

I begin with a question. Do clerics have a monopoly of the “Truth” simply because they wear a white collar around their necks? For some, we would hear the riposte, “What is “Truth”? The answer to that is complicated – because there are ways, of course, apart from telling direct lies, of avoiding the truth. Language skills can achieve this by adding a simple word of condition such as “if”. Silence is another tactic that is disingenuous to the “truth” by suggesting “innocence” or “unaccountability”.  Semantics – the art of analyzing the subtle shades of the meanings of words – is widely employed to find an alternative that adeptly conceals the “Truth” – or suggests that another man’s sincerely attested “Truth” can be doubted.  Sadly – I should say regrettably – I know priests who use these ploys of ambiguity repeatedly. However, in the moment of their shameful utterances, most observers will see through them, their pious disguise will be undone – and the character of their “priesthood” will dissolve into a murky, meaningless morass. Any outward hint of the china-white charism they once appeared to have possessed is then shattered to the degree that it cannot be reconstructed without all the stained and dirty cracks offending the eyes of their beholders.  Despite the linguistic skills which some clerics engage to disguise their subversive purposes, even the most common of men will recognize their deceit at a glance. The white collar around their necks is no badge of “Truth”!

This blog has related so many incidents of clerical duplicity that it is pointless to reiterate them again. Suffice it to say, that, amongst others, the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, has deployed spokespersons with all the refined devices of denial in the repertoire to avoid admitting the truth of allegations of child sexual abuse that took place at their “now notorious” St Peter Claver College Mirfield Seminary in England. Such is the blind, inept folly of their cloak of self-righteousness – that they are unaware that their keen observers espy from afar their moral vacuousness through the fickle façade of their ecclesiastical robes. Nevertheless, the Comboni Missionary Order remains steadfast in committing themselves in perpetuity to their deliberately vague, but unconvincing denial of “Truth”. Those clerics of the Order that engage in this activity at the London Provincial and Roman Curia levels betray Christ Himself who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Light. No one comes to the Father except through Me” – words which demand that they both acknowledge and represent Christ as the “Way” to the Father and the Defender of “Truth”. Thus a dishonest priest plays a deadly game of charades. Deadly for themselves that is, for if they believe in what they profess, then they risk forfeiting their souls.

Hostile Litigation versus Honest Dialogue

Unfortunately, the Comboni Missionary Order is not alone amongst the clerics of the Catholic Church in their belief in unaccountable silence and the perversion of the “Truth” by any means. Most probably, the cause for their adoption of this tactic has a mixture of elements – which include clerical narcissism and arrogance – both of which conceal an inherent fear of disgrace and humiliation. To obviate the resultant unpleasant degradation that might ensue, therefore, they adopt the process of litigation which has an inherent, endemic posture of hostility – rather than straight forward humility and honesty which are the moral signposts to closure, healing and reconciliation. Litigation requires, ultimately, that they seek to destroy the reputations of the very victims that they themselves know to be telling the “Truth”. How much they expend in the preservation of their self-perception of dignity matters not – for the sole aim is not to admit the guilt of their knowledge of the abuse and their failure to prevent further abuse. It seems that they do not put a price tag on that. The sky is the limit. A simple example of this is that the Comboni Missionary Order were quite happy to ex-spend almost half a million pounds sterling (and much more by the time litigation has been completed) in legal fees without any admission of guilt in order to retain an aura of innocence of the claims of sexual abuse laid against them. Yet, all the claimants wanted was an apology foremost – moderate reparation and a dialogue that led to reconciliation. What the clerical establishment of the Catholic Church does not understand, due to their elitist isolation, is that their observers – the canny parishioners in the pews and the man in the street – can see through the bellicose smokescreen of litigation to the underlying act of damage limitation in which the Church is involved. That man in the street abhors and detests the vilification of victims of clerical abuse by the Church to a degree that equates to repugnance – and they will side, unsurprisingly, not with the Monolithic Conglomerate which is the Catholic Church, but with the hounded and wounded underdog – the victim.

The Man in the Street Gains the High Ground

The result of this clerical predilection for the expensive and hostile legal option is that the moral ground of the Catholic Church appears to have shifted away from its clerics in the former Christian, but very local heartlands, that were once typified by small communities living and working around their parish churches and religious communities. In the new media inter-related world, where news spreads globally faster than any ferocious forest fire ever could from one field to the next, it is now universally manifest that it is not the clerics, but the lay people in every walk of life that have sustained the righteous, moral outcry about the sexual abuse of children. Those lay people are horrified with the extent of the clerical abuse that has been endemic and unseen for so long in Catholic dioceses, institutions and Religious Orders. Moreover, what they have witnessed is that the abuse was and has remained largely unchecked, unreported and covered over by Bishops, Religious Leaders and the Vatican even when they had full knowledge of it. The huge scale of the Vatican’s comprehension of clerical sexual abuse is not a myth. The Vatican’s very own UN Ambassador, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, reported in 2014 that, in the previous decade, 3,400 incidents of clerical abuse (of whom 848 ended in defrocking) were reported to the Vatican. That is almost one case a day – and it is only the tip of the icebergs seething in the turmoil of Diocesan, Religious and the Curial murky seas of denial and cover-up.

Moreover, there is no point in the Curia Cardinal Muller at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith using statistics to point out that the percentage of paedophile clerics is no greater than that in civilian populations. We accept, albeit most reluctantly, that in the secular world there are many people with disturbed natures who, for either psychiatric or immoral reasons of self-gratification, target the innocents of the world. In comparison, Ordained clerics and Religious under vows, by virtue of their vocation, have always been set apart from that secular world and have been considered to be in a unique place of trust. The white collar and cassock were once akin to their badges of honour. They were often treated as members of the family and they were perceived, historically, to be utterly dependable. That trust is no longer there. The current, clear evidence for this lack of trust is that recent research in the United States, meticulously undertaken by eminently qualified economists and statisticians, demonstrates that, because of clerical child abuse, Catholic parishioners have stopped contributing to the Church and have walked away from its doors. Many have joined other religious denominations for worship. Some have withdrawn their children from Catholic schools – which has resulted in many school closures.

It is both undeniable and sadly unconscionable that the Catholic Church is in the distant “rear guard” in leading the fight to protect children from harm – and that the lead forward comes from the civil institutions at local, national and international levels. Despite some very creditable work (such as the Nolan Report, Cumberlege Report in the United Kingdom, and, in many countries, the establishment of Catholic Safeguarding Organisations) the Catholic Church, as a whole, continues to deny the full and hidden scale of abuse. It appears impervious to the “Truth” uttered by the voices of Victims and remains in denial and determinedly belligerent – even when the evidence is overwhelming and fully substantiated. Most grievously, as in the case of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona Italy, clerics who have admitted historically that they were aware of the “Truth” of the abuse – because it had been reported directly to them by witnesses, now deny any knowledge of it. They do so on the instructions of their unscrupulous lawyers or superiors. By perpetrating their lies, they fail the “truthfulness” test of their priesthood. The laity, thought that priests were different – that they were always caring, straightforward and, ungrudgingly, downright honest. We were wrong.

Against this background, this erring Catholic Church is in disarray. It has already lost the moral high ground – and it is now fighting a confused, uphill, rearguard action of inept denial, pious rhetoric and blame shifting. It insinuates that survivors have false memories, vague recall due to the length of time since the event in the past or are abject liars. The Vatican issues edicts which are not followed. Nobody appears to know who is really in command. Its Cardinal and Bishop ranks do not agree nor act in a concerted way. Few individuals amongst them know who to follow – or they choose the leader that most accommodates their individual objectives or preferences. Some miscreant clerics who step out of line are hung, drawn and quartered. Others are given a pat on the back for the same offence. It is a game of “Lucky Dip” with awful consequences for the losers – who are sometimes those who part ranks with their derelict and depraved superiors and endeavor to choose an honest, humble and moral way out of the quagmire. It is not a pretty picture. You do not need a prophet to foretell the outcome. A brief perusal of the very recent press demonstrates the ongoing confusion.

Bless Me Father – For I am Confused

A few weeks back in June, Pope Francis decreed in an edict that Bishops and Religious Leaders guilty of looking the other way or covering up child abuse by priests within their congregations had committed a “crime” and would be removed from the clerical state.

The National Catholic Reporter stated this week that Archbishop Bernard Hebda, the newly appointed head of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese in the United States maintains that his diocese, which protected a paedophile priest who is now in prison, was guilty only of “failures” and not a “crime”. His precise words were: “A failure isn’t the same as a crime. That is a legal question, not a moral question. Committing a crime implies a criminal intent and is something altogether different from failing.” The Archbishop neglected the fact that in civil terms a “failure” to report a known paedophile is a crime in some jurisdictions, albeit I accept it may not be in others. More to the point, Pope Francis has stated quite clearly that he regards that such “failures” are “crimes” in both the Vatican State Jurisdiction and in Canon Law – which applies also in Archbishop Hebda’s diocese, presumably. As to the matter of intent – failure to take reporting action, whether to the civil and/or Church authorities, against an individual who sexually abuses a child (which is a criminal offence in all jurisdictions that I know of) cannot be said not to have been done without some degree of “intent”. Such a failure is a most serious moral issue and this year, canonically, has become a criminal issue also within the Catholic Church. Why does Hebda split hairs? A crime is a crime – not a spade.

At the same time as the above, it was reported in the Associated Press and NCR that Msgr. William Lynn, the first U.S. church official convicted for his handling of clergy sexual abuse allegations, has been released from prison on $250,000 bail. Lynn, 65, served as secretary for clergy for the Philadelphia archdiocese from 1992 to 2004. In the case, originally held in June 2012, a jury found Lynn guilty on a charge of child endangerment by not taking appropriate action in the case of the former priest Edward Avery. At the bail hearing, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams confirmed that his office will retry Lynn on the child endangerment charge. The civil courts in this case clearly believe that Lynn had intent – and his action to protect Edward Avery could not be construed as a “failure”, but must be understood as a “crime”. Clerical understatement has lost out in this case it seems?

Archbishop Hebda has also indicated that he considered that the separate issue of his predecessor’s alleged sexual behaviour was not a diocesan matter – but it was a canonical matter of the Roman Curia, (despite that it occurred within the diocese), and, therefore, any action should be taken not by him, but by the appropriate Vatican Congregation. It appears that despite his Civil and Canonical law degrees and whilst it is true that Canon Law does not allow a cleric to criticise his superiors in a hierarchy, he has not heeded the Vatican Guide to Canon Law that places responsibility for the original report on allegations and the initial investigation clearly on the shoulders of the Diocesan Bishop – which is now Hebda himself. If it were otherwise, how would the previous Bishop be held to account? Archbishop Hebda ignores also that his predecessor was not his superior anyway, but his equal. He is scrubbing his hands, somewhat vigorously, of the responsibility he has to ensure that his predecessor accounts for his grave sexual misbehaviour.

To add to the confusion and contradictions in the above passages, NCR recently reported that Bishop James Johnston Jr., head of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese since last November, was forthright in acknowledging charges of abuse by his predecessor, Robert Finn, the resignation of whom, Pope Francis accepted in April. The incident followed reports of sexual abuse in the diocese and Finn’s failure to report the abuse and remove priests from their parishes. No washing of hands there! All done and dusted!

Also reported in NCR was that the Vatican envoy to the United States quashed an investigation into alleged sexual activity on the part of Archbishop John Nienstedt, and ordered a piece of evidence destroyed. Fr. Dan Griffith, then-Delegate for Safe Environment for the archdiocese concerned, stated that in April 2014 Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., ordered two auxiliary bishops to have a law firm quickly cease its investigation – and later that month instructed the law firm to destroy a letter they had sent to Vigano in an effort to resist his request. At a subsequent press conference, attorney Jeff Anderson said the documents show the presence of a cover-up and urged Pope Francis to take “definitive action” against the officials involved, (presumably, Vigano, Nienstedt and the auxiliary bishops) by putting them in jail and removing them from the clerical state. Anderson said, “So Pope Francis, if your words mean anything, just do it. You have the power and the evidence is before you. Do it!” No action has been taken to date against the offending clerics!

The French press, Associated Press and the National Secular Society have all reported about the civil legal case concerning the most senior cardinal in France, Lyons’ Cardinal Philippe Barbarin. The charges against him were that he had failed to report suspicions of child abuse by a priest under his control, as is required by French law. The Pope, controversially, said publicly before any court decision on the case, that it would be “nonsensical and imprudent” to seek the archbishop’s resignation – despite the fact that Cardinal Barbarin, had already admitted to his errors in the management of certain priests who were alleged to be paedophiles. In other words, Cardinal Barbarin took no action against them and failed – with intent – to report them as he should have done – and the Pope was aware of this situation. Is this a case of double standards or not? Moreover, soon after the Pope’s comments, on the very day of an important court hearing in the charged cleric’s case, the Pope gave Barbarin an audience! Was this a deliberate act of intent by the Pope to put pressure on the French Court to save a friend – or pure coincidence? Subsequent to the events described above, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin was informed by the prosecutor, that the charges that he had failed to report suspicions of child abuse by a priest under his control, had now time expired. This “grand poisson” has got clean away!

In strange contrast yet again, Catholics in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraiba woke just a few weeks before to find that Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto was stepping down after having his resignation accepted by Pope Francis. The Vatican said the pope accepted his resignation in accordance with Canon 401.2 of the Code of Canon Law, which covers “ill health or some other grave cause”. In a letter about his resignation, the archbishop said he always tried to give the best of himself and admitted he made mistakes. “I gave shelter to priests and seminarians, in order to offer them new chances in life. Among those were some who were later suspected of committing serious derelictions. I made the mistake of being too trusting,” stated the letter. In fact, some of the priests taken in by Pagotto had been accused of pedophilia! The case was precisely the same as that of Cardinal Barbarin of Lyon, but the result was diametrically the opposite.

As late as 2015, Bishop Accountability wrote to the Philippine Government’s Council of the Welfare of Children regarding 12 specific priests, amongst a much larger number of about three dozen, for whom they had information of worrying, urgent, creditable allegations of child sexual abuse. Several of these dozen priests worked at some point in the United States, but were banned from U.S. dioceses following serious allegations of child rape and molestation. Apparently the priests sought refuge in the Philippines where they or their superiors believed they would escape either notice or the “arm of the law”. The letter further states that Filipino bishops appear to have legal impunity in retaining credibly accused priests in the service of the church and working in pastoral duties (and lists the specific locations of four of these priests). It is a matter of grave significance that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ document, “Pastoral Guidelines on Sexual Abuses and Misconduct by the Clergy”, categorically stated at that time that the Philippine Bishops, quite specifically, are not to adopt the practice of reporting accused priests to the law enforcement agencies. Bishop Accountability requested that the Government agency begins formulating legislation that would hold church officials accountable for preventing child sexual abuse by clergy. However, to date it appears that most, if not all of the specified priests are still active in the Philippines in parishes or institutions where they have uninhibited access to children.

Furthermore, the Monsignor Canonist for the archdiocese of the smiling Cardinal Archbishop of Manilla, Luis Antonio Tagle, pipped by some hopefuls to be the next Pope, stated in the Catholic Press that the parents of children abused by Catholic Clerics and their lawyers should “stop meddling in Church Affairs”. In others words, once you have reported the abuse, “butt out – because what action the Church takes against the cleric after that is nothing to do with you”. Cardinal Tagle skilfully explained this lapse in another way – “I think for us (in the Philippines), legal action, exposing persons, both victims and abusers, to the public, either through media or legal action, (just) adds to the pain.” The latest that I have heard about a solution to the Philippine Church’s diametrical variance with what is now decreed to be the categorical, universal Catholic practice of an “obligation” to report sexual abuse to the civil authorities – is that the Vatican has rejected the new draft proposals put before it by the Philippine Catholic Church – because it still contains the provision allowing priests to father one child in ministry – in what is scathingly called locally as the “one child per priest quota system.! (A check, before going to print, of the current Guidelines prepared by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines details two fundamental principles: “the protection of children and the preservation of the integrity of the priestly ministry. Through these Guidelines, the bishops commit themselves to transparency, accountability, and cooperation with civil authorities when handling cases of sexual abuse of minors committed by the members of the clergy”. I am unsure, however, how these principles are carried out in practice ).

Cardinal Luis Tagle, until a few weeks ago anyway, was still smiling profusely and, despite the grave inaction of his Bishops in the matter of child sexual abuse for decades, he has been rewarded by Pope Francis with the Presidency of Caritas International – the global charity of the Catholic Church – which presumably provides funds for children in need – possibly even for children who have been sexually abused by clerics or those fathered by Filipino bishops and priests. Currently, however, the Filipino Cardinal Tagle is not in the mood for rejoicing and has stopped smiling totally. The reason is that the new President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, claims he was abused as a child by a Jesuit priest in his Philippine Province of Mindanao – and he appears to be no friend of clerics. Recently, he insulted the Pope as a “Son of a Whore” on the latter’s visit to Manila – and has asked his supporters, “You know the most hypocritical institution? It is the Catholic Church! Even some bishops”, he stated, “were secretly married and forever begging favours from politicians”. “You sons of whores,” he said, “aren’t you ashamed?” Quite what will happen next, I am not sure. Will Cardinal Tagle offer the new President Duterte help to overcome the impacts of the sexual abuse that may have affected his psyche since his childhood – and has, perhaps, provoked the President’s current, unbridled rage – or will President Duterte, when he has solved the Philippine drug problem by extra-judicially eliminating and burying all drug users and sellers, turn his attention to rounding up and jailing abusive priests? Eventually, I suppose, what goes around – then comes around! So, perhaps Cardinal Tagle had better start to get his house in order – rapidly.

Nearer to home, in the Republic of Ireland, reports of rife homosexuality and abuse of junior seminarians by both clerics on the staff and senior seminarians (some of whom can be spotted in Gay Website photographs) has left the Irish Bishops in a flummox – apart from Archbishop Dairmund Martin it seems – who has sent his seminarians to Rome (another known hotspot for top to bottom rampant clerical homosexuality – I am told by an ex-Comboni Missionary Order scholastic who studied at the Vatican’s Gregorian University). The stories of abuse and abandonment of celibacy have been in the Irish press for an age – but there is, as yet, no sign of any action at all. Silence reins in the Conference Hall of the Irish Catholic Bishops regarding Maynooth. They appear to be content for the time being with their inaction! Perhaps those are grounds enough for Pope Francis to fire the lot of them. We do not expect anything so startling very soon, however. Nevertheless, those readers interested in spotting and questioning these twenty-five bishops about their apparent satisfaction with things as they are – and who continue to send vulnerable and immature young men to the institution in Co Kildare, Ireland, now known as the “Maynooth Gulag”, where they are “experimented on and turned into sex addicts” – according to Bishop Buckley (?) – can contact the latter’s “Wise Catholic Blog” and check out their photographs and the last place that the bishops were spotted. Reports can be made direct to the Vatican – who should by now, be on their tails also! Nevertheless, drawing on my personal experience – do not expect an answer soon – if ever.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is, most seriously, that within the Catholic Church, despite all the rhetoric, many known and, no doubt, many undisclosed, paedophile clerics remain protected in its midst and are often working with children and minors in the full knowledge of and acquiescence with the Prelates of the Church. The Pope himself openly appears to fail to act upon his own edicts with any uniformity whatsoever – and the offending Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops and Religious Leaders are not uniformly brought to account as the Vatican decrees that they should be. The Vatican Congregations, with many competing views, that may well be the result in some cases of “turf wars” for greater influence between their Prefects, are routinely at odds with each other and with those Prelates appointed to chair Papal Commissions. As a Consequence, there are unending contradictions in interpretation of edicts between these individual prelates and the hierarchies of diocesan Bishops and the Religious Superiors of the hundreds of Church Orders of men and women. A civil corporation would either be intolerant of such disorder – or go rapidly out of business.

The Vatican Curia has neither opened up and nor published the archives of its carnal history of child abuse despite United Nations claims that it should do so. Vatican Courts continue to determine the guilt and innocence of clerical sexual crimes in secret and without reference to Victims, instead of being openly informative for all to see. Moreover, the Catholic Church traditionally follows a blatant preference for this secrecy and silence in order to “avoid scandal’. I know it is thus depicted – for I have seen the word “scandal” written brazenly on 19 occasions in a Religious Order’s Code of Conduct which is authorized by the Curia Congregation to which it is subordinate. What is at the root of this secrecy? Simply, it is to continue a Medieval system of coercion and control – to hide truth and shame – to maintain arrogant clerical elitism – and to ensure ignorance of the laity by intellectual subjugation. What you do not know, hear or see cannot be questioned. Cloistered secrecy in trials of clerics, in some instances on pain of excommunication, has been a widespread practice in the history of the Church – even in the recent 20th century Church. Clerics from Rome to the ends of the earth have corrosively inherited this archaic mindset. Such practices amount, in their totality, to living the lies that they seek to conceal and refuse to confess. In stark contrast, all but the dictatorial and despotic Civil regimes of justice, are utterly transparent with their evidence, defence statements, deliberations, verdicts and the punishments of their judicial processes. In civil proceedings both claimant and defendant are present – and the outcomes are published unhesitatingly.

Globally, the Catholic Church expends not hundreds, not thousands, but millions in attempts to deny justice, reparation and rehabilitation to those who have been so grievously harmed by clerics when they were children. Through litigation the Catholic Church routinely provokes hostility within its ranks towards those that their clerics have so unjustly treated and victimised. What they have got so totally wrong – grossly wrong in fact – is that their misplaced pride rejects anything other than the meanest and most minimal admission by them of the disgraceful facts of their historical errors. Moreover, they still fail today, shamefully, to address their need to care, with universal, meaningful, Gospel-driven, contrition and humility, those that their wayward clerics have abused and abandoned. Whilst they claim to be the proponents of “Justice and Truth” – which are, according to their teachings, “Divine Attributes”, they fight a rear-guard action to deny those very same tenants of their religion to the victims of clerical sexual abuse. That is manifestly unjust and discreditable.  This combination of denial and indifference is a sign of abject arrogance, which hypocritically appeals for exemption and earthly impunity to an unearthly extraterrestrial authority – even in the most prosaic and universal earthly matter of a right of victims to processes of common justice. These are both gross moral failures and a spectacularly ridiculous and divisive lost opportunity to be seen to be occupying the high grounds of the very Justice and Truth that they preach. Their failure to be decisive, uniform and visible in the matter of the offending clerics is the Vatican’s new millennium “own goal” and a sensational media gift to its detractors. It is no wonder, universally, that congregations are walking out of church doors – never to return!

The title of this “tome” is “The Shifting of the Moral Ground”. There is a strong case to allege, however, that the moral ground may never have shifted. History suggests that this sophisticated, secretive, canonical, dogmatic, fabulously wealthy conglomerate – the Catholic Church has, as the rigidly hierarchical Curia-led “institution” of the Vatican – never occupied the high ground of morality since the days of the early Christian Church. That was before Emperors usurped the Church for its own purposes of Imperial security, legal domination and population control – and instituted a metamorphosis of the humble, enlightened, biblical bishops of local churches into the wealthy, worldly and politically motivated princes of an Empire. Before and since those days, the true moral high ground was “always” occupied by the uncomplicated believers who are the hard-working and unstintingly humble, dedicated preachers, laymen and women in the pews, fields, factories, offices and streets of every continent of this world!

The Pride of Lucifer

The Catholic Catechism proclaims that the sacrament of ordination “configures the recipient to Christ by a special grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he may serve as Christ’s instrument for His Church. By his ordination the priest is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the Church, in his triple office as Priest, Prophet and King. The Priest is the Defender of “Truth”, who stands with Angels, gives glory with Archangels, causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares Christ’s Priesthood, refashions Creation, restores it in God’s image, recreates it for the world on high and, even greater, is divinized and divinizes”. For me, as a layman, this tract from the Catechism projects a surrealistic image of priesthood that I neither recognize and nor, in anything like its fullest extent, can rationally equate to any priest that I have met. I am not saying that I have not met priests whom I have admired – for I most certainly have, but they were and remain today men of exceptional charism. Undoubtedly, there are more such men out there. Notwithstanding, if you push me, I am happy to go along with the Catechism definition of the ordained priest to the point that he most certainly “should” be a “Defender of Truth”. Yet, having said that, every person should have “Truth” as one of the fundamental building blocks of their character. Not all do, of course, but certainly, for a priest it must be an intrinsic quality. The priest owes that to himself and his vocation, his God, his Church and his flock. In essence, the priest should always choose the uncomplicated “Truth” when they know it – and with all the humility that it sometimes takes – and leave hostile litigation to the worldly realm of purely civil matters.

The Prophet Ezekiel tells us that there once was an Angel who held himself to be greater than his God – and he was banned from Eden – and his sin was pride. If “Truth” fails a priest in any circumstance for want of humility, his ordination is nothing more than a charade. If “Truth” fails a whole Church due to arrogance, then that Church becomes the corrupted ‘Betrayer’ of the Christ about whom it preaches – and it becomes the cataclysmic embodiment of the ‘Antichrist’. The Catholic Church must fear, lest by neglect, they bring that judgement upon themselves.


‘Act justly ..Love tenderly Walk humbly with your God’? — by F. Healy

‘Act justly ..Love tenderly Walk humbly with your God’?  


I want to express my feelings on hearing about the latest strategy of the Comboni Fathers to extricate themselves from the shame of protecting a paedophile priest from within their own ranks. I am shocked to hear that they have issued a summons for Mark Murray, (one of the survivors of such abuse), to appear before a court in Italy on 14th Sept 2016.

The charges are patently false: entering a place of worship through sliding doors represents trespass?; wanting to offer forgiveness to the one who abused you, represents interference in another’s life?; asking for permission to speak to someone & acting in accordance with the permission granted, represents stalking? I don’t think so.

How ironic that the charges include words such as ‘trespass’ ‘interference’ & ‘stalking’. While not referring to the possible legal interpretation of these terms, the following thoughts sprang to mind.

Have the Comboni Fathers not reflected on the words of Christ whom they profess to follow, ‘Forgive us our trespasses ..’ Who in this case needs forgiveness – the victim of the crime? – or the perpetrators? I am using the plural noun here because it seems to me, that it is not only Father Nardo that is guilty but also those who have protected him over the years.

For them now to accuse one of his victims of ‘interference’ in his life, is an extraordinary & shocking accusation, especially in view of the circumstances. It so happens, that for an adult to sexually interfere with a young boy as was the case at Mirfield, is a crime

The Comboni Fathers have offered to pray for Mark Murray & for those others who lives have been blighted by the interference they suffered as young people, while in the care of this religious institution. Well, when the Reverend Fathers engage in these prayers, do they ask for enlightenment? Do they plead for an understanding of the horrific nature of sexual abuse? Do they ask for the courage to do what is right & do they ask for forgiveness for their contribution to the suffering endured by all those, who in one way or another, have been affected by the actions of paedophile priests in their Order?

With regard to ‘stalking’: Do these representatives of Christ, in bringing the case against Mark Murray, (albeit under the guise of Fr Nardo’s legal guardian), have any concept of the way in which victims of sexual abuse, continue to be stalked by the experience, for the rest of their lives? But – who cares? Apparently not the Comboni Fathers

I am incensed, scandalized & hugely saddened by what they are doing by taking out this case against Mark Murray. I find it inconceivable that a survivor of sexual of abuse by a priest could then find himself subjected to this form of intimidation by other priests. Why? I can only imagine this is an attempt to protect their own reputation & to silence the erstwhile victim. The situation is compounded by the apparent rank hypocrisy & cowardice of the Order in lacking the integrity to put its own name to the summons.

‘Power corrupts’. What an excellent example of what this means.

Mark Murray is simply asking for an acknowledgement that the abuse took place & for an apology? That after so many years this request is still being ignored is in itself = a scandal.

Eventually we all have to account for our own actions. I doubt that I would be sleeping too soundly had I been party to issuing this summons. The fear of an even greater call, to stand before the throne of God, might keep me awake. However to experience such unease, I would have had to examine my conscience.

I cannot see Christ reflected in the actions of these so called ‘missionaries’. Isn’t there something in the bible that instructs us to: ‘Act justly ….. Love tenderly Walk humbly with your God’?

Pause for thought anyone?


CARDINAL PELL — By Brian Mark Hennessy


To lie, or not to Lie? That is the question.

From the outset, let me say that Cardinal Pell is, in this Earthly Realm, innocent until proved guilty – like every other man. Yet, he has – again – been accused of inappropriate sexual advances to boys during the 1980’s. The accusations are under investigation by police of the State of Victoria in Australia – in which country he was priest, bishop, archbishop and then Cardinal of the Catholic Church. It is not the first time he has been accused for he was previously accused – and cleared – of the allegation that he abused a 12-year old boy at a camp in the 1960s. The new matters for investigation are separate incidents of touching boys inappropriately and stripping naked in a locker room in front of three boys in the 1980s. Cardinal Pell has denied the charges, which were broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Company after the allegations were leaked. Cardinal Pell remains a specific object of press interest, however, not only for his Curial governorship of the Vatican’s wealth in its worldwide dimensions, but also for his contributions to a recent Royal Commission Inquiry into child Abuse in the Australian Catholic Church in which he appeared to admit, somewhat sullenly, that he did not take some reports of child abuse very seriously at the time they were reported to him.

I don’t know, of course, when Cardinal Pell is telling the truth or a lie. Only he knows – and presumably, his God, in the Heavenly Realm, knows too. One thing I do know – from personal experience – is that “Truth” is not the prerogative of priests, bishops and Cardinals just because they wander around in swirling robes, mitres and white collars – and cry from Sunday pulpits to proclaim the Truth of Jesus Christ, their Redeemer. I know this because priests do lie – and they have lied about matters I know to be true. I know those matters, related to the clerical sexual abuse of a minor, are true – because they happened to me. In the category of clerical lies – I include any attempt to suggest that the truth – which was told to them and which they have previously admitted to knowing – may now not be discerned because of the lapse of time between the present and the historic event which they seek now to enshroud with doubt.

Of course, if Cardinal Pell is lying, he is also taking a gamble. There are a few tosses of the dice he must consider. A double six – that God does not exist anyway – would be the best option because that would mean that the Redemption thing and Heaven and Hell are of no consequence. Any other score – and there are many permutations – pose a problem – such as will he be able to get to a Confessional Box in time before a thunder bolt strikes him down? I used to worry about this myself when I was still a child – because even touching myself “inappropriately” in the days of my youthful exploration of my own bodily capabilities – caused panic. That terrifying spiritual, physical and mental state of agitation was induced by priests of the Passionist Order who routinely threatened me with the Fires of Hell and Everlasting Damnation. A “Believer” – as I presume Cardinal Pell to be – has much, therefore, to worry about.

          Do the Comboni Missionary Order subscribe to “Cheap Grace”         

Yet even if Cardinal Pell is lying and makes it to a Confessional box in time, not all the problems disappear. He has to consider whether the theological theories of “cheap grace” and “hyper-grace” that once echoed against the walls of Catholic Cloisters and Sacristies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were true or not. Many clerics did believe in these “unorthodox” theories even into the middle of the last century and beyond – and so I need to explain what was expounded about them.

“Cheap Grace” was a proposition of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that emphasized the benefits of Christianity without any of the costs. For example, if one believed in the Redemptive power of Baptism or of the Crucifixion or both combined, which absolved all sins and saved all mankind for eternity from everlasting Hell fires – then Christianity has no personal cost to a “sinner” – because they have already been saved. Hence the word “cheap” – because there was no subsequent loss – in terms of the cost of a ticket to Heaven – attached to sins committed. “Hyper Grace” was a bit different. The term “hyper-grace” is a similar theory, but it emphasizes the grace of God to the exclusion of other teachings and maintains that all sin, past, present, and future, has already been forgiven, so there is no need for a believer to ever confess a sin and nor to submit to penance.

Yet there is another matter – which is more “thorny” – that Cardinal Pell must consider. Enter the Apostles. Paul preached in (Acts 20:27): the “whole counsel of God” – which meant that all teachings must be understood as one message and you cannot select the bits of it that you like. Thus he stated that it was true that Christians have been forgiven by God, but that does not imply that we never have to confess and demonstrate sorrow for our sins. Indeed, even in pre-Christian times (Psalm 51:4) it was suggested that if we are to confess our sins to each other in demonstration of remorse and re-commitment, then why should we not need to confess them to God, because every sin is against God. The final words on this subject really come back to the central difficulty for Cardinal Pell – which is his ultimate decision as to whether to lie or not lie about the allegations. The very last words, perhaps, rest with Saints Jude – and again Paul. The former implies that to rely on the facts of the Redemption without personal responsibility: “perverts God’s grace into a license for immorality” (Jude 1:4) – and St Paul maintains that the act of repentance is conditional only on a sincere resolve never to commit the same sin again.

My regular readers will know that all of the above is a preamble to something about the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy. This occasion is no exception and so I now allay any increasing disappointment in the direction of my progress. The subject, moreover, is also the same as usual: clerical child sexual abuse, clerical indifference and clerical lies. The matter in discussion today, however, is “confession” – and what was understood by clerics of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, as being the purpose of confession. What were they taught as young seminarians and as novices and scholastics already under religious vows and preparing for the priesthood within that Order? By whom were they taught? I cannot answer these specific questions, but there is one incident that gives rise to the doubt that they were much aware of the “final words” on the matter of confession and penance that I have attributed to Saints Jude and Paul above.

The Confession That Said It All

My doubts about a lack of understanding within the Order of the “orthodox” Catholic theology of confession relates only to one incident known to me. That is a limitation I have to accept – as does the reader. That event happened in the late 1960s when Father Luciano Fulvi, – who was based at the St Peter Claver College Seminary in Mirfield, Yorkshire, England and which was run by the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy – heard one of a number of reports from different seminarians that he had been sexually abused by a priest of that same Order and House. The response from Father Fulvi was not that the boy should give him permission to make sure that the Rector heard about the allegation straight away which the boy, using the meeting as a cry for help, had probably anticipated. Neither did Father Fulvi advise that the boy must have the courage to report the matter himself to the Rector so that it could be dealt with appropriately and the boy could get professional assistance. Father Fulvi did not say that it was a crime that had been committed against the boy and that the matter should be reported – not only to the Police because it was against Civil Law, but also to the Vatican Curia as even Canon Law demanded. These can be deemed to be serious failures on the part of Father Fulvi. Those failures were perhaps an attempt to protect the accused brother priest from action against him, but most likely, they were the result of a dearth of appropriate training by the Order, or knowledge of the instructions in the Code of Conduct ratified by the Order. Alternatively, these failures may have been the result of perceptions of the priest himself as influenced by the “cheap grace” and “hyper grace” theories. I have to admit that I do not know which, but the evidence allows me to speculate.

The latter “cheap grace” and “hyper grace” theories are certainly possible – for Father Fulvi’s response was merely akin to: “You must always remember that Father Pinkman has at his disposal an act of Confession to another priest”. This can be interpreted in a number of ways. For example: “It does not matter that much if Father Pinkman has sexually abused you because he will be forgiven – so just go away and forget about it – and take that into account if he abuses you again”. That is a bit of a stark explanation some might think – as they jump to the defence of Father Fulvi. Yet – are not Father Fulvi’s words proposing the very same as those that St Jude decried in his statement to the effect that redemption without personal responsibility “perverts the grace of our God into a license for immorality”. Were those words not implying the opposite to St Paul’s words that “repentance is conditional on a true and strong resolve never to commit the same sin again”.

Moreover, not for the first time, let me recapture here what was the general response of all the clergy of the Comboni Missionary Order at St Peter Claver College, the Mirfield seminary – when sexual abuse was reported to them. Those facts are: that 18 boys alleged that priests of the Comboni Missionary Order abused them at the St Peter Claver College Mirfield Seminary. Also, that some 1000 acts of sexual abuse were perpetrated against them – each act of abuse a crime in its own right. In addition, that 23 reports were made by seminarians themselves at the time of the abuse and 3 reports of the abuse were made by parents of seminarians. Furthermore, that those Victims of clerical sexual abuse have stated that 50 witnesses have provided statements in support of their allegations and 5 statements were made to the West Yorkshire Police – who subsequently determined that crimes had taken place. Finally, that a number of requests for extradition to the United Kingdom of one surviving priest against whom allegations have been made – have been refused. The Order at the St Peter Claver College Mirfield, held no inquiries to which any of the complainants attended. No reports were made to the Civil Police or Welfare authorities. No reports were made to the Vatican Curia. For years, no action at all was taken against the priests who continued to abuse more seminarians without relent.

The alarming fact is that the inaction of Father Luciano Fulvi mirrored that of every other member of the Comboni Missionary Order at the St Peter Claver College Mirfield Seminary to whom disclosures of abuse were made – and so I am making no comment about him that did not apply in general to his confreres. The Comboni Missionary Order have yet to explain how an Order, said to be founded to spread the Mission of Jesus Christ throughout the world, through the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles – could have failed so horrendously those very children that were in their care. Not only that. They need to explain also why they still seek to cast doubt upon the allegations, rather than submit to the “Truth” of events about which they have always known full well – and have admitted in the past, but now continue to deny at every opportunity.

Ultimately, the Comboni Missionary Order has the same choices as Cardinal Pell: to lie or not to lie! If they truly believe in an all-embracing way what they profess, they can either continue to lie and to make an unseemly rush to the confessional every time they open their mouths – or they can submit to the less than likely theories of “cheap grace” and “hyper grace”. It appears to me that they may have adopted the latter long ago as their survival strategy. So be it – but they need to be aware that those theories are just “theories” – and they might just be caught out individually on their day of Judgement!

As for Father Luciano Fulvi, there is no attempt here to undermine his personal mission to do good to fellow men. He was, perhaps, the most well liked of all the priests that spent time at the St Peter Claver College Mirfield Seminary in Yorkshire, England. I have a photograph of him – as he was laughing amongst a group of boys – myself included – covered in coal dust, after we had all emerged from the deepest and furthest tunnel of a Yorkshire coal mine. Yet – Father Fulvi was, at the very least, a product of a cruel system that was imbued, not only with moments of grace, but with a potential for evil. That “evil” was exhibited in abundance at the St Pater Claver College Mirfield Seminary in the 1960s and 1970s – and it has resurfaced in some of its members – principally in its Superiors – in each decade since – and it is still there amongst them in the present today.

No individual in the Order has some form of corporate insurance cover against the Day of their personal Judgement. The ultimate choice – to lie or not to lie – is theirs individually – and theirs alone in the face of their Eternal Judge. Moreover, their silence is no protection either. Silence can be as much a denial of truth as is a spoken lie. As for Cardinal Pell – he is a mere mortal – as are we all – and despite having the rare honour of owning a scarlet-tassled cap – he has the same choices as do we all in moments of personal crisis: to lie or not to lie – to be silent or to speak the truth. This is the question that, from time to time, we all have to answer – and then live with the consequences. The difference for an individual between the truth and the lie is the subsequent knowledge of personal “Honour” or the misery of perpetual human “Degradation”. The dignity of our self-perception will forever thus depend on the way we respond.

(Written by: Brian Mark Hennessy – with apologies to Mr William Shakespeare – to whom I have to admit that “to be or not to be” has so much more of a “philosophical” ring about it!

A Tale of Three Cities by Brian Mark Hennessy

A Tale of Three Cities   by Brian Mark Hennessy


  1. An Archbishop’s Apology in Minneapolis, USA.


Reporting in the National Catholic Reporter ( , Brian Roewe ( relates a story of events that resulted in a revision of a civil settlement concerning the sexual abuse of three minors by a diocesan priest. This event is notable for readers of this blog in that it has significant “dis-similarities” with the attitude of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, in relation to the manner in which allegations of child sexual abuse are best handled and how lessons must be learned.


The original charge had been served against the St Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese – and the allegation was “a failure to protect children” on the part of the archdiocese in relation to three minors who had been sexually abused by a former priest, Curtis Wehmeyer. The charge against the archdiocese was made, Attorney Choi stated, because, “It was not only Curtis Wehmeyer who harmed children, it was the archdiocese as well – and today, through the leadership of the new permanent Archbishop, Bernard Hebda, that direct and public admission of wrongdoing has now been made.” The charge was thus amended to state:


“Curtis Wehmeyer was a priest in this Archdiocese. The Archdiocese admits that it failed to adequately respond and prevent the sexual abuse of three Victims. The Archdiocese failed to keep the safety and wellbeing of these three children ahead of protecting the interests of Curtis Wehmeyer and the archdiocese. The actions and omissions of the archdiocese failed to prevent the abuse that resulted in the need for protection and services for these three children.” Archbishop Hebda later stated publicly, “Today. We humbly acknowledge our past failures and look forward to continueing down that path to achieve those vital, common goals that together we all share. To the victims and survivors, the faithful and the entire community, we pledge to move forward openly, collaboratively and humbly, always mindful of our past. We will never forget.”


  1. How Priests of the Comboni Missionary Order Stood by and Watched Children Drown in Shallow Water in Mirfield, Yorkshire, England.


Stepping back in time to the Comboni Missionary Order’s Seminaries in England, some 18 boys allege that Priests of the Order (and lay staff employed by them) perpetrated some 1000 acts of sexual abuse against them – each act of abuse a crime in its own right – from the late 1950s to the early 1980s. They claim that eight priests of the Order, including the Provincial Superior and the Superior General of the Order were aware of the abuse – which had been reported to them by the Victims on 23 occasions and by parents of Victims on 3 occasions. Apart from the statements of the Victims, some 50 further witnesses have provided statements. In addition 5 statements were made to the West Yorkshire Police who subsequently determined that crimes had taken place. Unsuccessful attempts on a number of occasions have been made to extradite the one living priest against whom crimes are alleged. Three living priests of the Order are known historically to have been aware of the abuse, but currently they have sought to deny it.


In respect to Fr Valmaggia, who abused his office as the Infirmarian to molest countless seminarians, multiple incidents of abuse have been documented throughout the period from 1958 to 1967. Ten reports of that abuse are known to have been made during the period 1966 to 1968. It was not until 1969 that any action was taken against Fr Valmaggia, at which time he was moved within the UK Province to the Novitiate at Sunningdale in Berkshire before later being incardinated to a Parish in the Diocese of Como, Italy. Needless to say, the abuse that took place after the first known report in 1966 could have been avoided if action had been taken by the Comboni Missionary Order at that time. No action was taken and, consequently, further crimes of sexual abuse, that could have been averted, were perpetrated unnecessarily against seminarians who were minors.


In respect to Fr Pinkman, who displayed the classic symptoms of a predatory paedophile, multiple incidents of abuse have been documented in the period from 1964 to 1967. Eight reports were made throughout the period from 1965 to 1968. Again, it was not until 1969 that action was taken against him – when he was transferred within the UK Province to Westminster. Subsequently, Father Pinkman was sent to the Missions in Palestine.


In respect to each of the two priests above, no Inquiries appear to have taken place. No Victims at Mirfield were invited to give accounts. No reports were made in 1969 to the Local Constabulary regarding the allegations of his crimes against minors and nor were Welfare Authorities advised. No reports were made to the Vatican Curia under the terms of Canon Law that required it.


In respect to Father Romano Nardo, a paedophile who committed masochistic and macabre sexual crimes veiled in religious overtones, multiple incidents of abuse took place in 1970 during which time he managed to ingratiate himself into the homes of some of his victims and abused them there also. His “cumuppance” took place when one Victim was seen leaving Father Nardo’s room early one morning in 1969 by Father Luigi Cocchi (based at Mirfield from 1969 to 1973) who had seen the boy must have reported it – for father Nardo, who had been assigned for a short period to Mirfield to learn English, was transferred immediately to the Missions in Uganda. Only the Superior General has jurisdiction over postings to the Missions. It is certain, therefore, that the request for his earlier than scheduled and immediate movement to the Missions must have been notified to the Superior General – who then condoned it. Moreover, again, during the subsequent 27 years of Father Nardo’s Mission in Uganda he would have had unfettered access to minors. Again, no Inquiry to which any of his Victims were invited to give evidence was ever held. However, in the years of 1996/1997, the Comboni Missionaries held an internal inquiry to investigate the allegations of serious assault then made by Mark Murray. The Inquiry concluded that Father Nardo had, in masterful understatement, merely “acted inappropriately”. This was confirmed in a letter dated 17 May 1997.


The failure to take any action against the perpetrators of the abuse at that time – and their failure to report those crimes to the Police as they were obliged to do, constituted arrestable and imprisonable offences. Yet, those priests to whom abuse had been reported chose to do nothing at all and their criminal indifference and criminal inaction, which led to further crimes of abuse against more seminarians, was nothing less than the equivalent of watching those young, helpless Victims slowly drown in shallow water before their very own eyes simply because they did not want to feel the discomfort of getting their feet wet.



  1. How the Comboni Missionary Order’s Curia Threw Stones at a Victim of Clerical Sexual Abuse at Verona in Italy.


And so we come back to the present – and to Verona in Italy to where some months ago a Victim of the alleged criminal paedophile priest, Father Roman Nardo, had made a journey to seek some kind of understanding as to why he had been abused, to seek an apology and to offer forgiveness. This Victim had been cruelly abused at the Mirfield seminary – and it is realistic to say that since the time of that abuse in 1970 his life has been one of distress, confusion, consternation and despair. On a number of occasions he had asked to meet with his abuser, but such a meeting had been refused repeatedly by father Enrique Sanchez, the Superior General of the Order – who was more concerned with the welfare of the paedophile priest that the Order harboured in its midst than the welfare of the suffering Victim. Ultimately, all members of the Order that the Victim contacted refused to meet with him or even speak to him. The Provincial Superior, Father Martin Devinish of the London Province, had even stated to him that if the Victim contacted him again, he would be reported to the Police for harrassment. The ex-Superior General of the Order, Father David Glenday, who is currently the Secretary General of the Union of all the 200 or so Male Religious Orders of the Catholic Church at the Vatican in Rome told him, “I will listen, but I will not answer you!”. Father Robert Hicks, who had been aware of abuse at Mirfield for decades, had said when contacted by the Victim, “I cannot talk to you because my dinner is going cold!”


So what happened to this Victim seeking dialogue, succour and understanding when he arrived at the Comboni Order’s Mother House in Verona, Italy? Well, he did meet his abuser, Father Nardo, in the Chapel of the Mother House. They spoke quietly for some five to ten minutes together. There were long periods of silence and much reflection. The Priest asked for forgivness for the lifetime of suffering that the abuse had caused to the Victim – and the Victim had forgiven his Abuser. To all intents and purposes, at that stage, the visit could have been gauged as a success – but the Victim had not anticipated what followed.


The Vice-Superior of the Mother House arrived and accused the Victim of trespassing on private property – albeit the Victim had walked through an open door and had spoken to the Receptionist and was shown into the Chapel to await the arrival of Father Nardo. The Vice Superior then said that he had called a lawyer and the Police – and as the Victim left to avoid any furtherconfrontation – the Vice Superior shouted after him that he was just a “Money-grabber”. Meeting the Superior of the House the next day, the Victim was told that he was never ever going to get an apology from the Order for the abuse (which he did not deny): “You will wait in vain!’ he was told. Then, incredulously, shortly after his arrival back in the United Kingdom, the Victim received a summons from the Criminal Court of Verona, Italy, and was indicted with three charges: “stalking and interference in the private life of the alleged criminal paedophile that had abused him as a child – and trespassing on the premises of the Comboni Missionary Order’s Mother House at Verona, Italy!”


Instead of the dialogue, succour, understanding and an apology from the Comboni Missionary Order that the Victim had hoped for, he was insulted and pelted with metaphorical stones by members of the very same Order who had failed to protect him and had watched him drowning in distress and confusion when he was a child in their care. Unlike the statement made by Archbishop Hebda in relation to the paedophile priest and the failures of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis, the unwritten statement by the Superior General and Curia of the Comboni Missionary Order appears to be:


“Romano Nardo is, and John Pinkman and Domenico Valmaggia were priests of this Order. The Order does not admit that it failed to respond and prevent any fabricated, alleged sexual abuse of the eighteen so-called Victims of these priests. The Order has categorically not failed to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of those eighteen children ahead of protecting any perceived interests of Romano Nardo, John Pinkman and Domenico Valmaggia or of the Order itself. There were no actions, nor omissions of the Order that contributed to any failing of the Order to prevent any alleged abuse – and, therefore, any need for dialogue, protection, apologies and services for these so-called victims are superfluous and unfounded. Today, we proudly proclaim that we did not fail in the past and look forward to continueing down our path of success to achieve our vital goals. To the alleged, dishonest, so-called victims and survivors, we pledge not to move forward openly, nor collaboratively and nor humbly, – and we will always behave as arrogantly as we have done in our past – which is to lend a deaf ear to their whining cries. We will endeavour to forget that any allegations against members of the Order were ever made. We will sue anybody who contradicts this statement. ”


Well – that’s how they do it in Verona Italy! Strange place – the Catholic Church. They haven’t really got it together have they! Unfortunately – this is not a bit funny – and I should not be flippant. The lives of eighteen children were ruined by the cold-hearted arrogance of this narcissistic, elitist, protectionist, so-called Christian Order of Verona, Italy – and yet, nobody in the Catholic Church – not a single Bishop in these British Isles – and nor the Vatican who are fully aware of the plight of the Victims of the Comboni Missionary Order – have ever uttered a word about this human tragedy.

The “Truths” that are Hidden by Clerical Masters of Understatement

(Written and posted on this Blog by the authorised contributor: Brian Mark Hennessy)

Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba in Brazil Resigns

Writing in the National Catholic Reporter, (which can be accessed on-line at, Lise Alves reports on the resignation, recently accepted by Pope Francis, of Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba in Brazil. The retirement from Aldo’s bishopric was accepted on the grounds of Canon 401.2 which covers many issues from poor health to “grave”, but unspecified causes.

Curiously, the Vatican has not specified the grave matter that  led to the resignation. Nevertheless, the Archbishop of Paraiba himself vaguely admitted that he had made errors – one of which was, in his own words of explanation: ” I made the mistake of being too trusting.  I gave shelter to priests and seminarians in order to offer them new chances in life. Among those were some who were later suspected of committing serious derelictions.” (“Derelictions”, we should note, is Vatican Canon Law “speak” for sexual abuse).

Lise Alves reports that some of the clerics taken in by Pagotto had been accused of “paedophilia” –  a word which the Archbishop seemed reluctant to use. In all probability his reluctance stems from the un-challenged claim that Archbishop Aldo was well aware, at the time he gave shelter to those  priests and seminarians, that the accusations of child sexual abuse against them were already known to him.

Paedophile Priests Suspended

Another piece in the Catholic National Reporter (by Catherine Lagrange, Dominique Vidalon and Gareth Jones) reports that the Roman Catholic Cardinal-Archbishop of Lyon, Philippe Barbarin, has announced that he has suspended four priests accused of paedophile activities and that their cases “are known” to French judicial authorities.

Curiously, this Cardinal was equally obscure about the details for he said in his statement that the un-named four had been working in the Lyon region in central France – but he would not say where. Apparently, according to Barbarin, other un-named priests are the “object of special measures”, but he would not elaborate what those measures were and nor the reason for those measures.

Prior to those announcements, the French Gendarmerie had questioned Cardinal Barbarin for more than 10 hours over the activities (in the early 1990s) of a pedophile priest, Father Bernard Preynat, and why Barbarin had not reported the facts to the civil authorities in the circumstances that such a failure to report a crime is an offence in France.

Meanwhile, several victims of alleged paedophile abuse have made complaints against Barbarin to the authorities for leaving accused priests in place, but Barbarin has denied any wrongdoing. He has acknowledged, however, mere “errors of management” in respect to the appointment of some priests.

Cardinal Barbarin’s Errors of Management

The “errors of management” of Cardinal Barbarin are a direct parallel to the excuses of Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba in Brazil who pleaded that he had simply been “too trusting”! These deliberately understated reasons for their failures beg the question as to what planet do the senior clerics of the Catholic Church inhabit in their spare time?

We are talking about criminal paedophiles who sexually molest and abuse children.  These criminals have been molly-coddled, pampered, cosseted and secreted within the walls of Catholic Church establishments – instead of being reported and handed over as alleged criminals to the legal authorities of the Civil States who have jurisdiction.

Bishops Guilty of Looking the Other Way

I cannot help but note that in June, Pope Francis warned that bishops guilty of looking the other way or covering up child abuse by priests within their dioceses could be removed from their duties. He has also said that protecting paedophile clerics is a “crime”.

So, in these cases, if the Archbishop of Paraiba and the Cardinal-Archbishop of Lyon have protected paedophile priests or seminarians from the jurisdiction of the legal authorities within their dioceses, why has the Vatican Curia not stated it specifically?

The Vatican does not constitute the “Church” in its totality. If a crime has been committed – then it is a crime against the whole “Church” – and thus all members of that “Church” have a right to know the details of crimes committed within and against the Church!

Vatican Curia Pussy-Footing

These episodes appear to be yet other Vatican Curia acts of “pussy-footing” confusion in which they wave a big rhetorical stick one day – and then camouflage the damaging details the next.

In today’s world, the Vatican must treat all members of the Church – both lay and clerical – as adults who are capable of a surprising degree of discernment – and not as the children of the Edwardian era who were to be “seen, but not heard” and in front of whom “delicate matters” were discussed only in obscure, coded, hushed whispers.

Those days are long since gone – and are unacceptable in the Catholic Church of today.

Comboni Missionaries Paedophile Priests

Closer to the home of this blog, there are parallels to the above within the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, whose paedophile priests, past and present, have never been handed over to the civil authorities – but who instead were moved rapidly out of the jurisdictions of the law enforcement agencies of the states in which their crimes were committed.

In some cases they were sent to distant Mission territories, in another case to the smallest of parishes in an Italian mountain diocese – and in a current case one, Father Romano Nardo, is confined to a “secret location”.

The nature of Fr Nardo’s crimes have been known to the Comboni Order since 1970, but he was then whisked out of the United Kingdom’s legal jurisdiction the day after reports were made to the Order by one of their own clerics, Father Cocchi, (who saw a boy in his pyjamas coming out of Romano Nardo’s room at an uneartthly hour one morning).

Father Romano Nardo’s Child Abuse Accusation

Thirty years later, when that same Victim confronted the Order with Father Romano Nardo’s historical criminal acts of child abuse in detail, the Order recalled Nardo from the Missions.

Eventually, it was admitted by the Comboni Missionary Order, in a letter dated 17 May 1997, that an Inquiry had concluded, in true clerical masterful understatement, that Father Nardo had “acted inappropriately by taking the boy to his bed and teaching him to make the sign of the cross”.

That statement is devoid of the detail of the baptismal rite of mutual purification of genitals in which the child was induced to participate – and it does not mention the naked child lying upon the naked body of the priest who was breathing the Spirit of Jesus into the boys mouth.

That sign of the cross, to which they refer, was engraved on the priest’s torso by a sharp implement, the sight of which caused the boy to attempt to emulate it by self mutilation in order to be closer to the God of that priest.

No Extradition of Father Nardo

The latter, Father Romano Nardo, who is alleged to have committed such masochistic and macabre sexual crimes veiled in religious overtones against a series of young boys at the Mirfield seminary in Yorkshire England,  has been prevented from extradition to the United Kingdom by doubtful claims over two decades that he is not fit to travel.

I use the word “doubtful” in the following context which is that: after almost 27 years working in Africa, Father Nardo (who returned from Africa late 1995 at the age of 54 to attend an internal Comboni Inquiry into the allegations against him), would, according to correspondence forwarded to the Victim by Father David Glenday, the Superior General of the Order in 1997, “be able to return to active ministry in the missions within a month”.

Yet in 1999, after his further four years sojourn in the peaceful, green valleys of the pleasant city of Verona, Italy, the Superior General, Father Enrique Sanchez stated in correspondence that Father Romano Nardo was unable to travel because he had become “worn out by many years working in Africa”!

Was it, perhaps, that this sudden loss of health was something to do with the fact that in 1999 the West Yorkshire Police had wanted to question Father Nardo about criminal charges of child sexual abuse – that he had already admitted he had perpetrated ?

Mother House in Verona

The Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, has rigorously confined this cleric to the Mother House in Verona Italy since 1997 (almost two decades to date) so that he “does not have access to children”. Father Nardo, currently aged 72, has agreed, apparently, to this confinement – which is to last, it seems, until the end of his days.

I ask myself “why would the Comboni Order confine him for so long and why would Father Nardo accept his confinement for acts committed in 1970 which were merely “inappropriate”? Such “life imprisonment” is in excess of many State law authorities’ penal punishment limits for a single, albeit dispicable, crime of child sexual abuse.

Clearly, as in the cases of Archbishop Aldo and Cardinal-Archbishop Barbarin, the Superior Generals of the Comboni Missionary Order (that is Fathers David Glenday and Enrique Sanchez) who are closely associated to the decision of the long confinement of Father Nardo, are, in true clerical, tradition, “masters of understatement” in matters of criminal child sexual abuse.

Call it Sexual Abuse not Inappropriate Behaviour

They need education – and so I offer it here: the abuse perpetrated agaist seminarian Victims of Father Romano Nardo at Mirfield were not acts of “inappropriate behaviour”, but serious and heinous crimes of sexual abuse against children.

So grave are such crimes that the United Nations Convention against Torture actually described child sexual abuse as a form of torture on account of its cruel and punitive nature – and, unsurprisingly in 2014, even the Vatican agreed to that definition. The truth is that Father Romano Nardo is alleged to have abused many boys – and in the cases of some – he destroyed their lives and, subsequently, the lives of their families.

Father Romano Nardo is, thus, an alleged criminal that Fathers David Glenday and Enrique Sanchez have actively protected and in the case of the latter, prevented from facing questions by the law authorities of the United Kingdom. They are thus allegedly complicit in his alleged crimes – which they have sought to downplay, in true clerical fashion and deceitful understatement, as merely “inappropriate behaviour” .

Father Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie

Moreover, the current Superior General, Father Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie, (to whom the Comboni Survivors pleaded for dialogue when he was elected, but from whom they received no response), is still intent on the further destruction of victims of child sexual abuse – as is witnessed by the scurrilous and malicious accusations he has authorised to be heaped on a victim of that abuse at a hearing in the Verona Criminal Court.

Why has Father Tesfaye, the Superior General of the Comboni Missionary Order and his Curia committed themselves to this action? It is to deflect the “truth” of the scale of child sexual abuse within that Order ever being fully uncovered.

It is to disguise to the Vatican and to the Worldwide Catholic Church their complicity in harbouring a paedophile so as to protect themselves from the implementation of the Ecclesial action of dismissal from the clerical state under 401.2 of Canon Law.

Rightful Justice for Abuse Victims

It is to deter further Victims from telling their stories and seeking rightful justice. I declare, however, that both he – and the Order have already failed in that venture – for the allegations of 1000 crimes of child sexual abuse committed by clerics of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, at the Mirfield Seminary, Yorkshire, England and their every attempt to deny them and hide them are now known globally – from the Vatican to the furthest reaches of each continent.

“No! No! No!”, I hear Father Tesfaye exclaiming, “The case in the Verona Criminal Court against the Victim of alleged crimes of child sexual abuse is nothing to do with me. It has been brought by Father Nardo’s own Court appointed legal Guardian”.

Well, yes, technically it has, but it has the fingerprints of Father Tesfaye and the Comboni Missionary Order Curia all over it. Indeed it has their big footprint right in the middle of it – as I will explain. The claim, which is, I suggest, factually devoid of every grain of truth whatsoever anyway – is that of “tresspass”.

Abuse Victim Walked Through Open Gate

The charge against the Victim who walked through an open gate which had no signs stating “No Entry” in sight, the Victim who walked through an open door and spoke to the Receptionist, the Victim who was shown into the Chapel by the Receptionist and who contacted Father Nardo on the Victim’s behalf to see him – and the Victim who returned on two occasions at agreed times for further meetings – cannot be brought against the Victim by a Legal Guardian appointed by the Court on behalf of Father Nardo. Why?

Well it is quite simple really : Father Nardo is not the registered owner of the Verona Mother House and its grounds. The Comboni Missionary Order, or a legal entity nominated on its behalf, is the registered owner of the Verona Mother House. Only the registered owner, or the legal representative of the registered owner, would be able, technically, to bring a charge – even this false charge – of trespass against the Victim.

Nardo’s Legal Guardian

Of course, it may be that the Legal Guardian appointed by the Court is the Comboni Missionary Order in disguise. In fact such a deception would be par for the course of an Order that has endeavoured to deflect all criticism of its behaviour for decades.

That is beside the point. Father Tesfaye and his Curia have overlooked this small detail. That charge of trespass, implanted within a case said to have been brought on behalf of Father Nardo by his Court appointed Legal Guardian, is the big footprint of the Comboni Missionary Order itself.

Indeed, I suspect that Father Nardo knows little or nothing of this legal case brought technically by his legal guardian on his behalf in the Verona Criminal Court.

Abuse Victim Bashing by Comboni Missionaries

It is brought, duplicitously, I suggest, by the Comboni Missionary Order itself to deflect from itself any criticism that the Comboni Missionary Order is engaging in one of their regular bouts of “victim bashing”!

When a storm suddenly threatens, it is wise to change tak and alter the windward direction of sail. Failure to do so has consequences.

If the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, continues to protect paedophile criminals, whilst lashing out against distressed victims seeking succour and understanding, events will surely come to overwhelm them.

Liam Gribben RIP


It was with a very heavy heart that I learned from Danny by ‘phone message on Friday that Liam had passed away on Thursday night in Orlando. Seemingly he had a heart attack and until his sisters come back from Florida we won’t know much else.


I later talked with Danny and with Joe. It happened to be Danny’s 65th birthday, so not good news on such a memorable day for him.


Liam was a year behind me at Mirfield and we were in the Juniors together and then into the Seniors where the vice-rectors were Ceresoli and Bano. Liam was part of that group of lads who all came from Greenock and, while Scottish, were also of Irish extraction – the last names tell it all. They all seemed to be great soccer players but Liam wasn’t a standout in that department as I remember. He could be as contrary as bedamned then and that never changed as he grew older. We used to talk about the fact that he and I had my only fist fight ever at Mirfield, I was never certain if he had others as he wouldn’t admit to any, but I have my doubts. Fr Bano separated us… happened in the 4th year and had something to do with soccer as it was in the recreation room as we changed for a game. I have no idea to this day what it was about and neither did he and we have laughed about it several times when it came up, which it always did on the reunions. That incident served to make our friendship stronger in the way any two brothers will fight and we all at Mirfield had that same bond.


It was an amazing, long gap from 1967 to 2005 when I saw Liam again. Both of us were now bald but as soon as I saw him and he opened his mouth I knew it was Liam. He lived for the reunions, just loved them, no matter where they were he would be at every one, even though he had the greatest distance to come by many a mile. We actually started to make the reunions around his trips to the UK for his business events. Talking of his business, what an interesting one it was. Whoever would have imagined anyone could make a living out of finding keys for people?…Well Liam did.


He couldn’t sing to save his life but he loved the ‘sessions’ we have on reunions and would stay until the bitter end always and constantly asking for particular songs from various people. Another thing about him was his generosity. He always had his room stocked with beers, soft drinks, goodies and so on to make sure that the party would last long into the night as he hated them finishing. He loved being with the guys and never like the goodbyes. There was something there which he knew and we all knew, it was that bond, understood, unspoken and unbroken. Even though it was so many years from when we lived, schooled and played together, he, like the rest of us, knew that we had a camaraderie that could only be explained by the word brotherhood. We were brothers in all but blood and still are and will always be.


I said earlier that he could be contrary when he was at Mirfield and sure enough he was the same in adulthood. That contrariness though was what endeared him to all of us. We were arranging one reunion which took place in Ennis in Co Clare a few years back. We decided that on this particular one we would invite everyone to bring spouses, partners, and family if need be. Liam moaned from across the Atlantic at me saying that would never work.  It had to be just the lads, he insisted, wives, etc., would only get in the way and spoil the fun. So Danny and I discussed it and agreed we wouldn’t take our wives. What does Liam do?  He arrives proudly sporting on his arm his new fiancée. That was the contrariness in Liam. But as I said, we loved him for it and what a wonderful reunion that was in Ennis, with many a story emanating from it and almost all of them involving Liam…and that’s the truth!.


We will continue to have reunions and another one must come about soon as we must have one in memory of Liam. I know full well that it would be his dearest wish that we get together and remember him, talk about him and smile and laugh in our memories. Being the good ‘old Catholic boys’ that we were/are ..whatever in various cases…it probably would not suit to have a service in that direction as that is probably not what Liam would want anyway and many of us would agree with him on that score. Therefore we will remember him in a joyous reunion soon and raise a glass and sing some songs in his memory.


Please add your memories to this e-mail and copy everyone above and please add on other names of fellow Mirfieldonians who would remember Liam or who would remember being at Mirfeld, as there will be names I cannot remember at this moment who should be on this list.


RIP Liam….the memories will live long with all of us…..until we meet you again at the next reunion -J





In reply to tonyk4.

hello. my brother Liam Gribben lived in Florida, I never knew that he had a heart condition. He was found in his garage yesterday. waiting on coroner’s report. sisters and brother en route just now.he always enjoyed the meet-up with ‘the lads from mirfield’

In reply to degs.

hello. my brother Liam Gribben ex Mirfield died in Florida. awaiting coroner inquest. my sisters and brother are on their way today. Liam always talked about his reunions with Mirfield Lads.


Joe C

Joe C

I am very sad and shocked to hear about the untimely death of Liam. He was a stalwart of our reunions and I know these gatherings meant a lot to him. We will all miss him and intend to get together shortly for a special reunion in his memory. R.I.P Liam and thank you for your life and contribution to us all.

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What Happens when the Vatican Wheels Grind to a Halt? By Brian Mark Hennessy

What Happens when the Vatican Wheels Grind to a Halt?


By Brian Mark Hennessy


(Note: Prior to the publication of this article on the Mirfield Memories site, approval was sought from the German Jesuit, Father Hans Zollner, who is quoted within the passages below. Father Zollner is a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors created by Pope Francis in 2014, is academic vice-rector of the Jesuit-run Gregorian University in Rome and head of its Institute of Psychology. Father Zollner has expressed his agreement to the publication of the comments attributed to him in the text of the article below.)


Hardly a day goes by when I do not read something hopeful from the Vatican on the issues surrounding clerical child sexual abuse. For instance, maybe one day Pope Francis says something encouraging to the press corps – then hopeful comments are issued from Vatican sources at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the effect that Bishops who cover up abuse will be held accountable. On another day we hear that Cardinal O’Malley of Boston and Chair of the Pontifical Commission on Child Sexual Abuse has rebutted some lesser Vatican Official who stated that Bishops do not need to report sexual abuse to the Civil Authorities. Then a Vatican Spokesperson says that both child abuse – and the attempts to cover it up by Bishops and Religious Superiors and protect paedophile clerics from legal civil actions – is now considered actually to be a “crime” (after twenty centuries since Christ said “suffer not little children to come unto me for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”). Now and then a Bishop is defrocked or a Cardinal is put out to grass. We might even be tempted to conclude from these utterances that the Catholic Church is in transformation. Perhaps we might one day have to concede that the Church has come a long, long way from the old days of cover up, denial, falsehood, silent stonewalling and the denigration of Victims as “money grabbing liars”. We might even have to admit that the days are gone since when their callous impulse was to give greater consideration to the protection of the criminal, paedophile clerics in their midst rather than extend a hand to the suffering Survivors of those same paedophiles’ abhorrent, indulgent and self-gratifying crimes. Sadly, such natal signals of change rarely, in practice, become hard, universal, identifiable “modus operandi” within the Catholic Church. Indeed, there is little evidence of change outside of the limited bounds of the Vatican State – and a little circumspection is required. We need to reflect a little longer before we can make such hopeful predictions. Perhaps, more accurately in practice, we are induced to believe that visible, concrete change is actually happening – whilst the only change is nothing other than the rhetoric – a form of turgid, soporific grandiloquence to dull our minds to the reality that nothing has changed at all.


The Jesuit, Father Hans Zollner, said something significant to our very own Mark Murray (a Comboni Survivor) just a week ago in Rome. Father Zollner, summed the  Catholic Church quite precisely when he said: “There are many churches within the Church”! This summation was acutely accurate – for whilst these days the Vatican says the right things (most of the time) – the response of the “other churches” is often either markedly different or non-existant. What else would explain the continued total lack of response by the Comboni Missionary Order to the countless allegations of abuse of child seminarians at their seminaries at Stillington, Mirfield and Elstree in the late 1950s to the early 1980s? In all some 1000 individual incidents have been enumerated – and each one was a “crime” in its own right. The apparently inscrutible Comboni Missionary Order are pathologically unable to admit, acknowledge, comment or apologise to the Victims of that horrendous endemic abuse within their establishments. They refrained from an opportunty to categorically deny, admit or comment upon the allegations within a document even before the worldwide distribution of that document in which the allegations were made in May 2015. They hold the view, it seems, that total silence allows them to hide behind the veil of a significant degree of inscrutible “unaccountability”. The closest they have ever got to admitting that the abuse (that living members of their Order are perfectly well aware of and have historically admitted) was when they were forced to respond to the British press after a civil suit against them was settled out of court. They then stated that:  “if” the abuse ever happened, it was so long ago that they do not believe that the “truth can now be established”! Well, I, for one, know the “Truth” of the abuse that happened to me because it did happen to me – as do all those other children, now men, who were similarly abused know of the “truth” of the abuse inflicted upon them. I have said to the Comboni Missionary Order before – and I repeat it here – “Truth” is not the monopoly of clerics because they wear a white collar around their necks! The Comboni Missionary Order are in denial because they are in their own little conceited, egocentric and narcissistic world – which is leagues apart from the reality of the real world.  They are in their “own little church”. That little church exists in their own little minds – and it seems that the church of their own little minds is inpenetrable and impervious even to the discourses of Popes and Vatican Congregations. Despite the Vatican’s hopeful pronouncements, the wheels of change of the Vatican wagon, if there is one, have ground to a halt and are bogged down in the mud at the gates of the Comboni Missionary Orders’ establishments at Sunningdale, Rome and Verona – and none within those gates are willing or able, it seems, to give that wagon a push over the threshold.


Moreover, a document highlighting the facts of this horrendous abuse at the Comboni Missionary establishments within the United Kingdom was forwarded to every Bishop in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland – from whence the sexually abused child seminarians were offered up by hopeful parents to the care of the Comboni Missionary Order. There was not a single response from those Bishops – except one – who asked what he was supposed to do with it. Clearly, “it” was not their problem. They had their own little Church in their own little corner of Britain – and “it” was nothing to do with them. I sent a copy of the document also to the heads of all the Religious Orders in Great Britain – to the abbots, hierarchs and provincial superiors who were, likewise, overwhelmingly silent as they crept around the cloisters of their own little “other world” churches. I even sent the document to the Bishops’ Conferences throughout the world – targetting most specifically those countries where the Comboni Missionary Orders were active. Silence was the loud reply – to use a well worn phrase. Furthermore, a copy of that same document was sent to the majority of the thousand or so ordained priests of the Comboni Missionary Order. I had three responses. Two of those clerics, who admitted that they had not read the document, decried it as false. The third – just one out of the many, many hundreds of clerics of the Catholic Church, from Cardinals to lowly priests in mission countries, who were in receipt of the document – said that he had actually read the document slowly, as his English was imperfect, over a period of three hours “and he felt ashamed”. I treasure that response from that humble, enlightened Christian man because he was the only cleric I encountered who was connected to the Church of the Gospels – and he had the spiritual grace to recognise the light of the “truth” of that document. He alone had made all my efforts to inform the clerics of the Catholic Church of the immense suffering of the Comboni Survivors of child sexual abuse seem worthwhile. Eventually, at the hand of a Cardinal – whom I had long badgered into action – a copy of the document reached the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That was six months ago. They have not responded – because they, most certainly, are another little church – the ramparts of which – I am on the outside.


As the Jesuit, Father Zollner, implied, these little churches consider themselves to be independent. I deduce that they proceed according to their own distorted sense of dignity, rules, philosophy and erroneous interpretation of the meaning of the Evangelists’ Gospels. They do not listen to nor heed what the Vatican says. They are autonomous. Thus there is no central Vatican control over their thinking and conduct. The Pope has power and influence over them in theory only – because they – within their little minded church – have decided not to be held to account by him. In practice, the Catholic Church is captainless and rudderless and constantly in tension – as all their little churches pull in different directions. Whilst the Comboni Survivors have always had a hope that the Catholic Church would eventually get a grip of the Comboni Missionary Order – I reluctantly admit that I think it never will – because the structure of the Catholic Church has shown itself to be incapable of doing so.


That begs the questions – what happens when the wagon wheels of the Vatican come to a halt – and what hope is there for the Comboni Survivors? The Catholic Church has failed them. There is no global, functional, just, auditable, accountable, victim-friendly, avenue open to Survivors of clerical sexual abuse within the Catholic Church – and, therefore, their only hope of a just hearing is in a constant recourse to civil action. Such action will not affect the mindset of the Comboni Missionary Order. There is no hope of that – but, ultimately, the Comboni Missionary Order should be aware that “Civil Action” will impoverish them. Indeed, that is what has happened and is continuing to happen. They know it themselves already – for the level of donations to their “mission” diminishes month by month. For further proof of the direction in which they are heading, the Comboni Missionary Order need only to look to the state of the Catholic Church in the United States. There, Catholic parish congregations are turning away from financially supporting their priests and bishops. This is the result of those clerics’ denials, their cover ups, their inaction against and protection of paedophile clerics – and their constant recourse to the justice system to avoid changes of statutes of limitations for the Victims’ civil pursuance of justice for the crimes committed. They are, as yet, unready for meaningful Christian dialogue with the Survivors of clerical Abuse – and for taking the caring steps needed to ensure that each and every victim is heard and provided with justice and closure. The dioceses of the US Catholic Church face widespread bankruptcy.


Eventually, financial bankruptcy will be the only lesson from which the Comboni Missionary Order will learn also. They seem to be able to cope in their little church mind with their moral bankruptcy, but their financial bankruptcy will be their turning point. Then, to rebuild their little other world empire of their minds – they will have to learn the fundamental lesson that rejecting the pleas for real dialogue with victims, denying and covering up child abuse and protecting paedophiles doesn’t pay their bills. If they don’t ever get to understand that– then they will, eventually, cease to function – and even cease to exist. Distasteful as it may seem, the Comboni Survivors will be doing the Comboni Missionary Order a favour, therefore, in terms of the eventual survival of the Order, to assist the Order in their headlong dash to a Cretaceous-like extinction at the point of financial bankruptcy. That can be achieved by the Comboni Survivors through civil legal action, continued maximum adverse publicity and other forms of direct action. One such action would be to let their donors know that the Comboni Missionary Order is spending their hard-earned weekly wages on doing everything conceivable to hide the truth of their history of child abuse, of their failure to report child abuse to the civil authorities – and their historical protection of and moving of paedophile clerics to third world mission countries where they could continue to abuse untold numbers of other innocent children unchecked. Thus, parodoxically, the Comboni Missionary Order should be grateful that, where they themselves have failed so manifestly to understand the reality of their diminishing chances of continued existance and its causes, the Comboni Survivors are willing to put considerable efforts into enforcing the lesson upon them.


There is a short-cut of course. The Comboni Missionary Order of Verona , Italy, can consider aligning itself to the Christian principles of the Gospels. I suggest also that, rather than remaining enclosed within that little church of their own little minds, they study the distant proclamations and principles of that other Church – the eclectic, universal, Catholic Church of Pope Francis, who was, after all, elected as their Supreme Pontiff. (It was on 13th March 2013 – in case they missed it)! It is a Church to which they appear to have forgotten that they belong, but can I assure them it does still exist. Whilst they are at it, the Comboni Missionary Order would do well to study the ernest undertakings and pronouncements of Cardinal O’Malley who was appointed by their Supreme Pontiff to chair the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. This Vatican based Church, of which I talk, has much to say – including that the cover up of child sexual abuse and the protection of paedophile priests by Religious Superiors – both at Provincial and Curia levels – is a “crime” that warrants dismissal from the clerical state.