The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) — by Brian Mark Hennessey

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) — by Brian Mark Hennessey

The Mirfield 12 Group of child aspirants to the priesthood, (referred to as “Comboni Survivors” henceforward in this article), who have made historical allegations of sexual abuse that was perpetrated by clerics of the Comboni Missionary Order against them at their seminary boarding school at Mirfield in Yorkshire in the 1960s and 70s, have committed themselves to seek “core participation” at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). The Inquiry has also become commonly known as the “Goddard Inquiry” after the appointment of Justice Lowell Goddard of the New Zealand Judiciary as the Chair-person. The format of the investigation will be broken down into a number of groupings, one of which will examine abuse in institutions of the Roman Catholic Church.

The formulation of the Inquiry process had a rocky start within the Home Office. This is not particularly surprising given the very broad range of institutions which had failed in one way or another in managing historic cases of child abuse. Mark Murray, a leading member of the Comboni Survivors, participated in Home Office Meetings during this difficult process. He was not alone – as many groups of Survivors were dissatisfied at the initial, concentrated objectives of the Inquiry which favoured extensive participation of the major public institutions at the expense of Survivors – and the Government was forced by public opinion to have a re-think. The resultant balance of the re-adjustments made is still regarded as unsatisfactory by many Survivor Groups – but slowly the views of Survivors, who want a greater level of participation even now, are still being pressed. The Comboni Survivors are confident that the Inquiry will make further adjustments in favour of Survivors – who are the ones who have suffered severly at the hands of institutions’ neglect – rather than focusing the Inquiry specifically and almost exclusively upon those very same institutions. The Survivors must be heard extensively and loudly.

Besides the difficulties that have and are being experienced in achieveing the right balance of the Inquiry so that all participants can be satisfied at the end of the day, there are many detractors who are both vocal and negative. Some claim, rather extraordinarily in a cart before the horse attitude, that we should have the recommendations from the Government now, before the investigation. They pour scorn on the claims of Survivor Groups over the extent of the abuse and they suggest campaigners to be obsessive panic-mongerers who are “corroding” child/adult relationships”. They pour scorn also on the Inquiry itself which, they suggest, is not about justice, but about therapy. The Comboni Survivors do not agree with these views, but they counsel the Goddard Inquiry that the final format agreed between the Inquiry, Institutions and Survivors must demonstrate beyond doubt that the balance of the Inqury is finely set so as to silence, unremittingly, their detractors.

As a group, the Comboni Survivors welcome the Inquiry and wish it well. They are committed to the Truth Project, the participation in which they regard to be a moral duty for the future understanding and the benefit of Government and Institutions which have the need of formulating both policies and practices for the protection of the Nation’s children.

They believe also that core-participation for Survivors must be extended, because institutions that have failed in the past will continue to fail in the future. That has been the experience of the members of the Comboni Survivors to this day. The Comboni Missionary Order, after half a century of failings, are as resolute today as they were in the past to refute the initial historical reports made to them, cast doubt on the veracity of Survivors’ allegations, deny dialogue and refuse apologies. They have adopted a policy of total silence in the belief that their silence will give them the security of perrenial unaccountability. This is both un-Christian and deplorably un-just to Survivors. The Comboni Survivors look to the Goddard Inquiry for the total accountability of the Comboni Missionary Order Institution that has unjustly maligned them in a manner that amounts to both re-victimisation and hierarchical discrimination.

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