Around 1973 a stray dog arrived at Mirfield.
After a couple of days a large number of seminarians, myself included, had become besotted by the dog and were more than happy to have it around, feed it and play with it.
Father Robert Hicks instructed some of the senior boys to kill the dog. The dead dog could then be used in his biology lesson (Father Robert Hicks was, at that time, the biology teacher as well as the Father Rector – the priest in charge of the seminary.
A group of about four or five – I was one of them – took the dog down to the nearby woods . The plan was to carry the dog up a tree, tie it to a rope and then hang it from a branch. I could not stay and watch what they were doing to the dog. I was physically sick and crying. I left them to it.
The head of the dog was severed, and on the instructions of Father Robert Hicks, it was boiled in the Nun’s kitchen in order for all the flesh to come off the head. The skull could then be used in a biology lesson. The torso of the dog was skinned, and also used in the same lesson.
The order to kill the dog came from a priest. Not just any priest, but the Father Rector of the seminary. It exemplifies the power that priest had over our lives during our period at the Comboni Missionary seminary. The hanging was done because we were told to do it. We did not think about what we were doing to the dog. We did what we were told to do – we followed orders.
The same for the Comboni Sisters when they were asked to boil the dog’s head in the kitchen; they too, probably did not think. Did not want to question the request of a priest. Clearaclism. Do not question the request of a priest. The priest knows best. The priest is God’s representative on earth.
I have spoken to others recently who took part in the hanging of the stray defenceless dog.
Some are so ashamed and disgusted about their actions, that they have never been able to speak to another person about it.
There are some similarities with the present:
“Just doing what i have been instructed to do by my superiors.” “I am sorry, but i will pray for you.” “I cannot speak with you.”
When we killed the dog we were children, and we responded to adults, especially adults who were Catholic Priests, in the way that children do. What was right, and what was wrong, did not enter our mind.
You are Priests.
Supposedly men of God.
Supposedly followers of Christ.
You know what is right.
You should know what is wrong.