Comboni Missionaries and Pope Francis on Clerical Abuse

 Comboni Missionaries

By Brian Hennessy

In early 2012, Danny Sullivan was appointed as the Chairman of NCSC following the resignation of Baroness Patricia Scotland. In June 2014, he attended the Mass in Santa Marta, presided over by Pope Francis, and he listened to the Homily in which the new Pope demonstrated, in abundantly clear language, his sorrow at the failings of the Catholic Church in the pressing matter of Child Sexual Abuse.

He heard the Pope seek forgiveness of the victims of abuse for their suffering, for the failure of Church leaders to understand their torment or to believe their complaints and reports of abuse.

He stated categorically that there was no place for any cleric in the Church who had committed such “diabolical” acts.

Pope Francis, a practical diocesan Shepherd all his life, untainted by the dogmatic and defensive rituals of the Roman Curia, took responsibility in a way that none of his predecessors had done – and he set a new tone by outlining his determination to act comprehensively and speedily to rectify the issues that had, quite literally, brought the once mighty Roman Catholic Church to its knees by a loss of credibility and respectability – and the loss of the demonstrable practice of its basic virtues of love and charity that had always been its declared mission.

Sins of the Fathers

It so happened that in mid October, just a short while after that homily of Pope Francis, that an article, “Sins of the Fathers”, written by Catherine Deveney, appeared in the UK’s mainstream Daily Newspaper, The Observer.

The text recorded details of the trauma and suffering that clerical sexual abuse, perpetrated by Priests of the Comboni Missionary Order against child seminarians, had been caused to the victims during the abuse and throughout their subsequent lifetimes.

Missionari Comboniani

The article also highlighted the “response” by the spokespersons of the Comboni Missionary Order.

That response was significant in that it was diametrically opposed to everything that Pope Francis had said.

The Comboni Missionary Order cast doubt on the veracity of the signed victim and witness’s statements of more than a dozen ex-seminarians who had been in their care.

They stated, in effect, that the small payments made to those who had lodged a legal case against the Order were not compensation, but merely a “business” arrangement.

They stated that, in contradiction of the claims by the victims that the fully documented reports, said to have been made to Priests and Superiors by the victims at the time of the abuse, were untrue.

Comboni Missionaries View of Mirfield12

One priest, to whom historic reports had been made, claimed, in a conversation face to face with one of the victims that the complaints that had been made were only about “money” – and he had emphasised that point by rubbing his thumb and forefinger together in a grubby and insulting denial.

Three other priests have refused to speak to a Victim who was trying to establish a dialogue with members of the Order.

That same Victim has been denied, by the Superior General of the Comboni Missionary Order, the request by the West Yorkshire Police for the extradition to the United Kingdom of a priest of the Order to face charges of child sexual abuse.

Danny Sullivan

A week later, in a letter to the same Observer Newspaper, Danny Sullivan, the Chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, commented on the Observer article, “Sins of the Fathers” with a caution, which, in retrospect, appears both scathing and mocking. He said that the response by members of the Comboni Missionary Order to the Child Sexual Abuse Victims, predated upon by Priests of that Order, demonstrated just how far the Clerics of the Catholic Church had yet to travel to get their act in order (my paraphrase).

Danny Sullivan does not lead an organisation opposed to the Catholic Church, nor is he seeking to trample upon everything for which the Catholic Church stands.

He heads up an organisation that works on behalf of UK Catholicism – in an organisation set up by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales – to promote the safeguarding of children in line with the principles of the Cumberlege Commission Report “Safeguarding with Confidence” (July 2007).

That Commission was set up in response to Lord Nolan’s Report, “A Programme For Action” (2001) – and his later “Final Report” – which has been adopted worldwide as the “gold standard” for child safeguarding.

Child Sexual Abuse of Minors and Vulnerable Adults

We know where Danny Sullivan stands on matters of Child Sexual Abuse of Minors and Vulnerable Adults.

We, ‘The Mirfield 12’, stand beside Danny and his aims. Danny Sullivan also stands shoulder to shoulder with Pope Francis. Presumably, even Padre Enrique Sanchez would concede that Pope Francis is on the side of God!

Yet, we remain totally mystified as to where the Superior General of the Comboni Missionary Order, Padre Enrique Sanchez himself, stands!

There is an old maxim – “If you are not for us, then you are against us”! Presumably, by deduction, Padre Enrique Sanchez will be able to work out in his own mind with whom we think that he and his entourage stand!

Suffice it to say, that if Padre Enrique Sanchez and his confreres do not yet know right from wrong and good from bad – and are unable to discern truth from lies – then both he – and, individually, they – are in the wrong job!

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