Comboni Missionaries (Missionari Comboniani)
Many of the priest who were at Mirfield during the abuse scandals of the Sixties and early Seventies were not child abusers. However, some of them were actively involved in the cover-up. Others, still, were not child sexual abusers and were not involved in the cover-up but knew what was happening and failed to report it to the police.
Others, still, simply didn’t know about it at all.
Most of the boys abused didn’t tell anyone about it at the time – even their best friends. There are incidents, now, of best friends only learning that they were abused around the same time at Mirfield by the same Comboni Missionary priests.
However, some boys did report the sexual abuse to various members of the Comboni Missionaries.
So, why would individual Comboni Missionaries cover-up the sexual abuse of boys as young as 11 by predatory priests? Self-preservation of the Order and of their fellow priests would be good answers to this question.
Vow of Obedience
The Vow they took of Obedience is the Ordination Vow most strictly adhered to by Comboni Missionaries and other Orders. It is absolute.
It has been drilled into them from an early age, as it was with we seminarians, that the Laws of God outranked the Laws of Man, that God ia a higher authority and that, therefore, his laws should be obeyed before the Laws of Man.
Somehow, that has got twisted into following the Laws and Dictates of the Order above the Laws of Man. As far as I know they haven’t yet made the Superior General of the Comboni Missionaries, and other orders, infalible.
However, they may as well be as Comboni Missionaries and other Orders follow their dictats ‘religiously’ (sic).
Let’s not call it abuse. Let’s call it statutory rape of a minor – as that is what it is in many cases. Many Comboni Missionaries have connived to cover-up multiple statutory rapes of young boys as young as 11 by serial rapists.
When the Abuse was Reported and to Whom
Mick Palmer and Ben Berrell
In 1965 or 1966, Ben Berrell, one the Junior Boys, told a friend that Fr Pinkman had abused him. Somehow, and Ben doesn’t remember how, the information came to the attention of Mick Palmer, who was in the Seniors then.
Mick came to talk to Ben and said that they should report it. As luck would have it, the head of the Comboni Missionaries in the UK, Father Bresciani, the Father Provincial, was due to pay a visit to St Peter Claver College seminary in Mifield. They bided their time.
When Father Bresciani came there, Mick Palmer went to see him to tell him of the abuse by Father John Pinkman. When he came back he told Ben Berrell to go and see him now.
Ben went – but it was a complete waste of time. According to Ben, Father Bresciani said nothing at all. He just sat there and stared and said nothing. So Ben, got up and went. “That was a waste of time, wasn’t it” said Mick to Ben when he went back to him. “Yes it was ” said Ben. They were shocked that their stories of abuse were so coldly rejected. It made them very cynical about the church and the Comboni Missionaries afterwards.
It is not known what Fr Besciani did with this information. It is not known if he spoke to the Fr Rector at the time or to his superior, the Superior General in Italy. Whomsoever, he told (if he did) it didn’t matter. No action was taken – and the sexual abuse (let’s call it statutory rape) of young boys as young as 11 continued.
Click on Ben’s Abuse Story
According to Frank “I reported Pinkman abuse to both Hicks & Wade during confession in school year 65-66 ( I can’t narrow it down further than that). I repeated the same to Fulvi in early 66. I informed Fraser as he expelled me on last day of term in July 67 about abuse by both Pinkman & Valmaggia.
“It was in confession I told Fulvi. He was sympathetic where the other two were cold. Hicks delivered a spiel about my mind not being up to seminarian standard for suggesting anything untoward was afoot with Pinkman.
“Wade just squirmed and simply gave me a few Hail-Marys. He didn’t want to know.
“Fulvi promised nothing but encouraged me to continue my (already started) defiance of Pinkman’s instructions to visit his room. I had a bit of faith in him that he would intervene & that remained so until my departure in 67.
“Fraser did his nut, called me a liar and kicked me out of his office”.
Father John Fraser recently told Jim Kirby in a phone call that he didn’t know about Father John Pinkman till many years later.
Click on Frank’s Abuse Story
Whilst Father Hicks, Father Fulvi and Father Wade were told about the abuse in confession and the secrecy of the Convession Box meant that they could not repeat, or take action, on what they had heard in the Confession Box, for something as serious as this they could have asked Frank if he would like to come and see them outside of the Confession Box to repeat what he had told them there.
Their failure to do this in the 1965/66 school year meant that Father John Pinkman could safely continue his abuse till he went in 1967/68 and Father Valmaggia could continue to abuse young boys as young as 11 till the abuse was reported to Father Robert Hicks in 1969.
Their failure to ask Frank to come and see them and repeat what he said in the Confessional Box meant that many, many young lads’ lives were ruined.
Anthony Smith went to see Father Rector, Father Giacomo Ambrogio, in around November 1966, with another boy whose name he forgets, to tell him of his abuse by Father John Pinkman.
Said Anthony, “Basically I told him Pinkman had been getting me alone and touching me up and rubbing himself sexually against me and kissing me. The Rector didn’t say anything at all and certainly didn’t act on it. I knew nothing would happen and I didn’t go to see him again”.
Pinkman continued to abuse boys at St Peter Claver College seminary until late 1967.
Father Enrico Fulvi – by Jim Kirby and Anthony Summers
In early 1967 some of the Senior Boys (mainly those in 4th year), got together and decided that they didn’t want what happened to them at Father John Pinkman’s hands, in the Juniors, to happen to the current set of Junior boys. Pinkman was a monster who was a serial preyer on young boys as young as 11 (see Abuse Stories). His victims were legion.
It may have been triggered by knowledge of an incident affecting a current junior Boy.
They decided that they would put a stop to it and report it to their current Spiritual Director, Fr Luciano Fulvi, the go-to guy for the boys in matters of the soul. This was a very brave thing to do. Rather than all go (which might have been better as it happens). They decided that two of the senior boys would go to Father Fulvi to report Fr Pinkman. They drew straws and the two guys who drew the shortest straws were Jim Kirby and Anthony Summers.
They went to see Fr Fulvi and told him all about the abuse that happened at the hands of Father Pinkman. They thought that he would take action. They were astonished at what he said to them.
He told them that they must never tell anyone what they had just told him. Indeed they were told never even to speak toeach other about it. He told them that they didn’t know if Father Pinkman had used the sacrament of Confession to absolve himself of his sins.
One doesn’t know if Fr Fulvi ever passed that information on to his superiors, i.e. Fr Rector, Father John Fraser, or told the rest of the priests there.
All we know was that Anthony Summers, one of the boys who reported it, was summarily called into Fr Fraser’s Office at the end of term prior to the Easter holidays and expelled from St Peter Claver College. After being there for 4 years, his vocation was suddenly over.
Father Fulvi was tragically hacked to death many years later in the Missions in Africa, by a group of five boys, incuding his own 18-year-old cook and houseboy. They are now serving long sentences for murder.
Meanwhile serial abuser, Fr John Pinkman, remained on at the seminary at Mirfield in his position of Head of the Junior Boys. The fox remained in charge of the chicken coop.
Click on Jim’s Abuse Story
Here is Martin’s Tale.
“In 1969, a friend of mine, Eamon Crowe, ran up to me and said that Fr Robert Hicks (or Bob Hicks as he was called) wanted to see me in his room. I went to see him in his room which was just above the main entrance. Father Hicks asked me to tell him what had happened about Father Valmaggia. I told him that Fr Domenico Valmaggia had touched my balls and asked me to cough, when I had flu, in the dormitory.
“I saw the vein in Fr Hicks’ forehead pulsing away in fury and he said something along the lines of “that man interfering with my boys”. I tried to make light of the situation saying “It was a long time ago and it was nothing”. That only seemed to make Fr Hicks even more angry. He talked about “That evil man” like an Old Testament Prophet. The matter of Father Valmaggia interfering with boys at the seminary meant more to him than it did to me because he wanted to take action and called other witnesses.
“Father Hicks ended our meeting saying that he wouldn’t stand for this, telling me that everything was fine and I could go.
“I believe Father Valmaggia was slung out of the seminary that very night, although as we at the seminary know, the Comboni Missionaries look after their own. It was known the next morning that Father Valmaggia was gone. I think the boys who cleaned the Fathers’ rooms had seen Father Valmaggia’s room empty and the prefects in charge of cleaning had probably been told by Father Hicks that Father Valmaggia had gone.
“However, we all knew that Father Valmaggia had gone without any notice and he simply disappeared and nothing was ever said about him again and I never heard anything further of him.
Said Jim, “I also, on my own, told Wade about Valmaggia. I didn’t go into description with Wade as he really didn’t want the embarrassment of it hearing it but he understood. He told me to avoid going to Valmaggia. That was almost impossible”.
Jim continued to be abused by Father Domenico Valmaggia.
Brian reported the abuse to Father Troy and a Cardinal.
Further details are awaited.
Click on Brian’s Abuse Story
Joe Colby reported the abuse to Father Enrico Fulvi, Father Anthony Wade and Father Eric Grace.
Further details are awaited
As well as reporting it to the Father Provincial, Father Bresicani, Mick Palmer also reported the abuse to Father John Fraser. Further details are awaited.
As well as reporting the abuse to Father Robert Hicks, Martin Millar also reported it to Father John Fraser. Further details are awaited.
Eamon Crowe reported the abuse to Father Robert Hicks in 1969.
Abuse Reporting to Comboni Missionaries
The full Reportage List as to who reported the abuse and to whom is as follows:-
V – Valmaggia
P – Pinkman
N – Nardo
>> V2/Hennessy>5 reports>3 family>1Troy>1 Cardinal
>> V3/Kirby> 1 report> 1 Wade
>> P1/Colby> 3 reports> 1 Fulvi> 1Wade> 1 Grace
>> P6/Kirby> 4 reports> 1 Fulvi> 1 Summers> 1 Bickers> 1 Barnes
>> V6/G McLaughlin> 1 report> 1 M McLaughlin
>> V7/Palmer> 5 reports> 1 Bresciani> 1 Mother> 1 Fraser> 1 Burns> 1 O’Neill
>> P7/Palmer> 3 reports> 1 Bresciani> 1 Mother> 1 Fraser
>> P8/Berrell> 2 reports> 1 Bresciani> 1 Father
>> V8/O’Neill> 2 reports> 1 Bresciani> 1 M Palmer
>> V9/Millar> 2 reports> 1 Fraser> 1 Hicks
>> V10/Skullen> 1 report> 1 Mother
>> V11/Millar> 1 report> 1 Hicks
>> V12/Crowe> 2 reports> 1 Hicks> 1 Mother
>> V13/Crowe> 2 reports> 1 Hicks> 1 Mother
>> N1/M McLaughlin> 2 reports> 1 Brother> 1 Mulroy
>>N2/Derek Farrell >1 report
>>N3/Father General>1 Report
>>N4/Verona Bishops x 2> 2 reports