Comboni Missionaries UK – A Culture of Abuse and Cover-Up

by Brian Hennessey.

The Comboni Missionaries Players

The Clerical Sexual Abusers (more to be added)

Father John Pinkman
Father Domenico Valmaggia
Father Romano Nardo

Those Comboni Missionaries Told About the Abuse

• Father Anthony Wade (Tosh)
• Father Enrico Fulvi
• Father Eric Grace
• Father Renato Bresciani, the Provincial Superior
• Father Giacomo Ambrogio, the Rector
• Father John Fraser, the Rector
• Father Robert Hicks, the Vice-Rector

Comboni Missionaries – THE INDOCTRINATION

Predators of children can be opportunistic – but casual opportunities are rare – and without some groundwork, a casual opportunity may lead to discovery. To minimise the possibility of them being discovered, therefore, a Predator’s search for a victim requires a strategy – a series of calculated steps. Standard practice is to identify a group, seek out the vulnerable, befriend them and gain their trust, reward them and make them dependent – and then provide for their need of physical consolation. At that moment, the Predator will strike the victim he has lured into his trap – often without the victim either suspecting or understanding the true nature of the cruel and degrading crime that has been commited against him.

A Predator Priest has a head start on many because he has within his grasp a flock of young people who have been hard-wired with vulnerability. I illustrate that with my own story which starts with the visit of a Passionist priest to my school during Lent when I was about 12years old. In an assembly he berated me and my classmates with the dreadful repercussions of the Sixth Commandment – “Thou shall’t not commit Adultery”. Frankly, none of us really knew what adultery was, but as the priest had talked about the evils of impurity in the same breath, we had a rough idea what he was getting at. So, we all decided that at Friday school Benediction, we would all go to confession. Being the youngest, I drew the short straw and was first into the confessional box. I mumbled “Bless me Father for I have sinned. I have commited adultery!”. Hardly had I finished pronouncing the last consonant of those words, when there was a rush of wind – and a sound of increasing vocal thunder as the priest lunged towards the grill that separated us – and a gruff Irish voice roared, “Boy, you must be mad! You will perish in Hell!” I leapt out of the confessional in fright at this unexpected onslaught and was greeted by the startled staring eyes of a Cathedral full of turned heads looking in my direction. None of my school mates followed me into the confessional that Friday afternoon.

A year or so later in the dormitory at Mirfield, I went to sleep each night with my arms outstretched above my bedcovers as I steadfastly tried never to commit “adultery” again. In those days, God and Heaven, mortal sin, the Devil and the ever-lasting torments of Hell-fire were as real to me as were my shirt, my britches and my shoes. Whilst my friends in the dormitory giggled openly at my nightly cruciform pose in the dormitory bed, I recited a litany of prayers to ensure that if a thunderbolt struck me in the middle of the night, angels would gather me up to the gates of Paradise. I was, needless to say, a rediculous, but innocent and unwitting by-product of the pitiless, cruel and callous indoctrination of the Catholic Church – and putty in the hands of anyone in a black cassock.


The vulnerability of young seminarians at the Comboni Missionaries seminary at Mirfield in Yorkshire cannot be underestimated. In their eyes a priest could do no wrong. He was a Godly man with a special place in their lives and they aspired to be just like him. Thus, any Predator Priest intent on expoloiting them had a head start. He did not even have to identify his Victims – because all the seminarians were potential Victims – with unlimited gullability and vulnerability. The only thing the Predator Priest had to do was to seek out the one that attracted him the most or the one for whom he could fulfill a need and befriend, to whom he could express care and concern, provide help and comfort. Thus with friendly, light-hearted casual conversations and probing questions the Predator Priest would become a friend, consoler, comforter and an essential part of the victims life. When the Victim’s natural guards had been totally dropped, all that was left for the Predator Priest to do was to initiate the opportunity of the Victim’s exploitation. The grooming process was complete.


In a recent legal action against the Comboni Missionaries (formerly known as the Verona Fathers) in the United Kingdom, eleven ex-seminarians settled out of court in respect to crimes of sexual abuse against them when they were minors. The Predator Priests named in the statements of the Victims and the corroberating witnesses’ statements were Father John Pinkman MCCJ, Father Domenico Valmaggia MCCJ and Father Romano Nardo MCCJ. Only the latter is still alive and still a practicing priest at the Comboni Missionaries Mother House in Verona. Victims reported the abuse in the case of each of the three priests to the United Kingdom’s West Yorkshire Police Force who were responsible for the area in which the Mirfield seminary stood – and in each case the Police determined that crimes had been committed.

Predator John Pinkman was overtly of a predatory nature. He sought out the most vulnerable – the loners, the homesick – and he made them feel special. They were his pets and the fact was not hidden – and the Victims were aware of their special place and could have recourse to him at any moment. So when Predator Pinkman initiated a private chat about the “facts of life” with each of them, they were at ease with his feigned concern for them – and they submitted to his handling of their naked genitals with trust and without apprehension. Had it stopped there, his true desires might have remained hidden, but he was unable to contain himself and some Victims had to contend with being smothered with kisses in dark corners whilst he rubbed his erections against them. His appetites became insatiable – and he became both careless and reckless and was ultimately exposed by a group of boys. No punitive action was taken against him. He was first sent to the Westminster Diocese, then to Palestine briefly and finally to South Africa. Such disposal of Predator Priests to the Missions was common. In the History of the UK Province, written by Father Robert Hicks, there is a report of a discussion between the then Provincial, Father Bresciani and the Superior General, Father Briani, that appears to allude to the practice: “Remember dear Father”, says Briani, “…Should we be responsible for creating the idea that only the maladjusted are sent to the Missions”. Sexual Predators do not suddenly change. Their appetites need constant monitoring by others and all access to minors needs to be firmly and permanently halted. But was it?

Predator Romano Nardo adopted a different strategy. With his charm and vivacious character, he created the “God Squad” – a group of his small selection of favoured seminnarians that were gathered together in his room for counselling and prayers. The boys adored and trusted him. So, when at night he wandered into the dormitory of sleeping boys and awoke one with the Biblical words “Follow me” – then the selected Victim did so. He would wash the feet of his Victim as Jesus had done. This would be extended to the purification of the Victim’s genitals and then to total nakedness and the Victim would then purify the naked body of the Predator Priest. The ultimate finale of this sinister and diabolical ritual was for the Victim to lie upon the Predator’s naked body in his bed and to breathe the breath of the Spirit into each other’s open mouths. For one Victim this became a nightly ritual with the Victim not leaving the Predator’s bed until dawn. That is the story of just one boy. There were others – and they have all given witness statements.

Predator Valmaggia did not need to seek out his Victims. They would visit him – not suspecting that, as the door of his room closed behind them, they had walked into his trap. He was the Infirmarian and he had one remedy that cured all ills. If you had a sore throat – “Take your clothes off and lie on the bed.”. If you had a sporting injury – “Take your clothes off and lie on the bed”. If you had not had a medical inspection for a while – well yes – “Take your clothes of and lie on the bed”! He got his cheap thrills by fondling testacles, but Predator Valmaggia was capable of more than simple opportunism. He had a more calculated strategy for some unsuspecting Victims – confinement to the Infirmary dormitory within a few yards of the door of his room. It was a game of hideous charades. One boy who had a renal irritation was subjected to twice daily masturbation for two weeks to ensure that everything “was working properly” – despite protestations after a week that all was well. Another was confined to the infirmary for a similar period of time because of a minor groin injury and was subjected to twice daily massages of his testacles. Yet another Victim awoke in the early morning to discover Predator Valmaggia fondling the Victim’s involuntary morning erection. So many ex-seminarians have related incidents of abuse by Predator Valmaggia that the incidents must run into scores.

From the testaments of Witnesses and Victims, the sexual abuse of seminarians had started before the opening of the seminary at Mirfield. Predator Valmaggia had also been active at Stillington before that. The original group of seminarians, known as the “Mirfield 12” (those that instigated legal action against the Comboni Missionaries and made an “out of court” settlement), have knowledge also of other Predator Priests who were active after the closure of Mirfield – and of some who had even ingratiated themselves into the homes of their Victims. Moreover, whilst only eleven seminarians have taken action to date – more are doing so. Some others have provided witness statements or accounts, but have not yet made a decision as to whether to take action or not. A total of twenty Victims have so far been identified by the group.


A Comboni Missionaries’ spokeperson has stated publicly that as the allegations by the “Mirfield 12” were related to events that happened a long time ago, it is unlikely that the truth will ever be known! What they are implying by this statement is that they do not believe the signed Statements of the Victims and Witnesses. This accusation is arrogance. The Comboni Missionaries do not have a monopoly of “Truth” because they wear a white collar around their necks.


A Comboni Missionaries spokesperson has stated that there is no evidence of a culture of abuse at the Mirfield seminary. This statement is either deliberate obfuscation or they have not closely studied the record of abuse made available to their solicitors. Here are some facts: of the 20 Victims now known to us – and the 5 Predators:

• 7 Victims were abused by only one Predator on one occasion.
• 4 Victims were abused by 1 Predator on multiple occasions.
• 4 Victims were each abused by 2 Predators on one occasion by each Predator
• 1 Victim was abused on multiple occasions by each of 2 Predators
3   Victims of 1 Predator were abused on occasions  – one on multiple occasions.

  • 3 Victims were abused by one predator on several occasions.

• The total number of incidents is not precisely known, but, by extrapolation and deduction from Victim and Witnesses’ statements, the minimum number of incidents of sexual abuse – each incident a crime in its own right – is 87. However, the final number of incidents will certainly be around the 100 mark – if not more! Can the Comboni Missionaries’ spokesperson please indicate how many instances of abuse represent a “culture of abuse”?


A Comboni Missionaries’ spokesperson has publicly stated that there are priests alive today that were priests at Mirfield at the time of the alleged abuse, but have no knowledge of the abuse. This is sleight of hand. It may be true if the statement had been that there are priests alive today who were “seminarians” at Mirfield at the time of the abuse, but have no knowledge of the abuse. The records made available to the Comboni Missionaries clearly demonstrate (in the Timeline, associated Charts and Statements) that the following priests were informed of the abuse at the time of the abuse, but that until the level of the abuse became unsustainable and widespread, nothing was done to prevent more abuse. No reports of the crimes were made to the Police or to Child Welfare authorities – and because of this indolence and lack of care for those for whom they were responsible, more and more seminarians became the Victims of the Predators.
• Father Anthony Wade was informed on 3 occasions.
• Father Enrico Fulvi was in formed on 3 occasions.
• Father Eric Grace, the Head Teacher, was informed on 1 occasion.
• Father Renato Bresciani, the Provincial Superior, was informed on 5 occasions.
• Father Giacomo Ambrogio, the Rector was informed on 1 occasion
• Father John Fraser, the Rector, was informed on 5 occasions.
• Father Robert Hicks, the Vice-Rector was informed on 5 occasions.

Of the above, Fathers Fraser and Hicks are still alive. I repeat ; the “Truth” is not the monopoly of Comboni Missionaries because they wear a white collar.


A Comboni Missionaries’ spokesperson has stated publicly that the “out of court” settlement of the cases brought aginst them was not compensation for acts of alleged abuse but commercial transactions. This is, in effect, a further public statement made with the implication that the the Victims are not believed.


Predator John Pinkman died many years ago and cannot be brought to account.

Predator Domenico Valmaggia died in 2011. However, one Victim wrote to both the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and to Father Troy, the Provincial Superior of the Comboni Missionaries in 2006 and stated that he had been abused by Predator Valmaggia and wanted to know his whereabouts. Father Troy did not reply to the letter, albeit the Cardinal did – and so the Victim contacted Father Troy at Sunningdale by telephone The Victim was told that Predator Valmaggia was not in the list of the living in the Annuario. The Victim said, “Check the Dead” – and was told that he was not in the list of the dead either. The Rules of the Comboni Missionaries Curia Administration state that records of a member of the Comboni Missionaries are to be maintained at both Provincial level and at Curia level in perpetuity. Witness to the remarkable fact that the system operates most efficiently is that the Comboni Missionaries were able to provide the Victim with all the correspondence and records relating to his attendance at the Mirfield Seminary and also of his attendance at the Sunningdale Novitiate. Predator Valmaggia was a member of the UK Province and he was a Comboni Missionary for more than 40 years. Yet they were unable to state where he was in 2006 – or were disinclined to reveal where he was – or, at the very minimum, were not interested to find out. The Victim was thus denied the opportunity to seek an acknowledgement of the abuse from Predator Valmaggia – and an understanding of the man that had abused him – and was denied the opportunity also to forgive him. This led to an inability of the Victim to find closure to the recurring torments he had suffered.

Predator Roman Nardo is still alive and has a ministry caring for the sick in the Comboni Missionaries’ Mother House at Verona. In 1996, when charges of sexual abuse were made against him, he was withdrawn from the Missions in Uganda. The Victim was informed that Predator Nardo would not be allowed to work with children again. In a recent “out of court” settlement, the Victim received thirty thousand pounds sterling.

The UK West Yorkshire Police want Predator Nardo extradited to answer allegations of crimes of sexual abuse. However for more than a decade his attendance in the United Kingdom to answer the allegations has been denied by the Superior General of the Order. The Victim states that the reasons given change from time to time. In a recesnt letter from Don Enrique Sanchez new reasons for an inability of the Predator to travel to England have been given :- that he now suffers from dreams of atrocities, witnessed in Uganda 35 years ago. Under European Law, fitness to answer questions related to crimes and attendance at a Court proceeding is a matter of intellectual capacity to understand. Througout Europe and the United States the additions to unfitness due to incapacity to understand are serious physical impediments such as deafness and speech defects. Being suicidal, ashamed of you crimes or sick with worry about an attendance at Court do not constitute unfitness to answer allegations or attend a Court Hearing. The Comboni Missionaries have not indicated what Independent Doctor who is knowledgable of the Legal Code has pronounced Predator Nardo as unfit – nor have they provided an opportunity for the Victim and his representatives to nominbate their own Doctor. The only conclusion that can be made is that Predator Nardo is being protected from facing charges of child sexual abuse by the Superior General of the Order, Don Enrique Sanchez.

The United Nations Committee for the Convention Against Torture has recently informed the Vatican that, clerical abuse, on account of its cruel, degrading and punitive nature, has now been formally included in the Convention Against Torture as a form of torture. By UN definition, Romano Nardo is now a Child Torturer. Those who shield him from extradition to face charges of Child Torture are also complicit with Child Torture. The Comboni Missionaries are in danger of finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.



On 7th July 2014, Pope Francis gave a homily at Santa Marta at early morning Mass. The subject was the Clerical Abuse of Minors. He set out they way in which he is determined that the Church will care for the Victims of clerical abuse and the manner in which those clerics who abuse minors will be treated. I read the translation of his homily on the subject in a Comboni Missionaries’website. There is no excuse for any Comboni Missionary anywhere in the world not to have read it. If they have not already, then they should immediately do so. I can only conclude from the statements of the Comboni Missionaries and their spokespersons in the United Kingdom Province that they have not read it. I suggest that they do so. I suggest also that Don Enrique Sanches reads it. I know he does not speak English – but I am sure he will find a translation in his own mother tongue. At this point in time, we, the “Mirfield 12” have to assume that it has not been read. Otherwise the only alternative conclusion would be that the Comboni Missionary Order from top to bottom have rejected the moral authority and leadership of the Pope.

An example of the betrayal of Victims of sexual abuse by the Comboni Missionaries is that when the Victim of Predator Nardo recently tried to establish dialogue with members of the order and – in his words – to extend the hand of friendship he met with the following responses.

• Father Robert Hicks told the Victim that he was not allowed to talk to him and that, anyway, his dinner was on the table and was going cold.
• Father David Kinnear Glenday, who works at the Vatican, said I have been told that I vannot talk to you; I can listen, but I cannot answer.
• Father Martin Devinish, the UK Provincial said that if the Victim rang him again, he would report him to the Police for harrassment.


The “Mirfield 12” will strive to obtain redress for the crimes commited against them. This includes an acknowledgement of the crimes against them, an apology, reparation, restitution, rehabilitation and satisfaction. Further discussions are in hand with the United Kingdom West Yorkshire Police at revised attempts to extradite Predator Nardo to the United Kingdom. A number of the Victims have raised the failures of the Comboni Missionaries to respond in accordance with due diligence to the Victims with their Members of Parliament. The British Government Minister, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, is aware of the treatment dealt to the Victims by the Comboni Missionaries and has instructed that members of the “Mirfield 12” be invited to the Home Office in London to give their views on the qualities of the individual to be selected by the Home Sevretary as the Chairman of the new Government Inquiry established to review the manner in which institutions, such as the Comboni Missionaries, have met their obligations to the Victims of Child Abuse. The “Mirfield 12” are ‘seriously serious” about extracting proper redress from the Comboni Missionaries – and why not – for it seems that the Pope, the British Government and the UN agree with us!

3 responses to “Comboni Missionaries UK – A Culture of Abuse and Cover-Up

  1. “TOCCA E SI MUORE” — as is written on signs near the electric railway lines in Italy.

    The previous posting has reminded me of the one sermon that i can recall from my time at Mirfield.

    The sermon was delivered by Father Robert Hicks. He compared the Italian sign on the railway to associating and mixing intimately with teenage girls.

    The catalyst for the sermon was a group of young women that had been seen, on several occasions, at the back entrance to Mirfield.

    The translation for ‘TOCCA E SI MUORE’ is ‘TOUCH AND YOU DIE’

    How many children have been sexually touched by priests whist they were at Mirfield.

    I know from my life, that When you are sexually abused by a priest a part of you dies. A part of your childhood is taken away, and later on in life that part is very difficult to connect with.

    How many children at Mirfield have had parts of their life taken away by abusive touching priests. Many. A few teenage girls wanting to talk with some teenage lads is not comparable to the ‘touching’ of priests.

    I have never heard a sermon about the loss to children’s lives caused by “Touching Priests”

    It is terribly sad.


  2. No Point in dancing in the shadows. Tell it as it is. The more it is dressed up in a way that is smoke and mirrors the more the Comboni Missionaries will shoot down the hole and do the normal trick of ” it didn’t happen or let’s not talk about it, therefore it will ease my conscience therefore it did not happen”. I received a miserable seven thousand five hundred pounds for my abuse. The Comboni Missionaries would not even give me an additional one thousand pounds so that I could attend attend clinical counselling. Please don’t pray for me I don’t need your hollow prayers or sentiments. When I read that the “Reverend Hicks” said that we were doing this for the money I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Time for the Comboni Missionaries to get down to the core question ” why do I get up each morning and do what i do”. You are either a fraud or authentic. I think most of the Comboni Missionaries live in a world where they love the adulation for the “great work” they do. If you buy into the party line of the Comboni Missionaries then fraud you are. If you take a step back you will hear a faint echo of a young man who set out in the world to do do great and amazing things, This comment is not meant for the priests to feel comfortable it is meant to finally face who you are as a person a “fraud or authentic”

  3. This is an excellent account Brian. There is no doubt that a culture of abuse was very much part & parcel of everyday life with the Comboni Missionaries at Mirfield. There was no notion of any ‘duty of care’ towards the children in their care. Leaving aside the fact they were priests they were also the only adults on the premises. Failures as human-beings, no moral compass and now no remorse. That any priest would put his organisations reputation, & his own privileged position within it, before the endangered welfare of 11 &12 year-old children is despicable. I call on the Comboni Missionaries, Verona Fathers to do 3 decent things. ‘Shut up shop’, send Fr Nardo back to the UK to be questioned by West Yorkshire Police & accept this invitation to become active in the healing process of the former seminarians you damaged. Frank McGinnis

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