THE SCOT – TAX COLLECTOR OR PHARISEE? By Brian Mark Hennessy
The Scot, as Father David Kinnear Glenday is often called, was once just plain “David” to me, a likeable, witty classmate and a friend. We were last together at the Comboni Missionary Order’s seminary at Mirfield in Yorkshire, England, in the 1960s. We have had quite different lives since those days. David went on to become a Comboni Missionary priest in Uganda. At various times, he was also the United Kingdom’s Provincial Superior, the Provincial Superior of the Order in the Philippines Province, the Superior General of the Order – and latterly the General Secretary of the Union of Superiors General in Rome. The Scot now spends a good deal of his time giving lectures and sermons and arranging and attending conferences. The gregarious, chummy personality that once he was as a youth has clearly been sustained and, undoubtedly, he is most suitable for his current role.
My life was different. I was sexually abused by a priest at the Mirfield Seminary at the time David was also there. I was locked into the infirmary and seriously assaulted twice a day for a fortnight under the pretence of “medical inspections”. I do not know whether or not David was abused in those years. It is not impossible that he was – for countless boys were abused by that priest from the 1950s until 1969 – when the continuous reports of abused seminarians had become so great in number that the Order eventually decided to do something about it. The only punishment for the priest who abused me and so many others for more than a decade was the prize of being sent to an Italian parish in the diocese of Como, Italy, where, presumably, he had access to even more children.
There were other Comboni Missionaries who also abused seminarians in that establishment– as both David and I well know. Their only punishment was being sent to the Missions in Africa where, presumably, they also continued, unchecked and unfettered, their abuse of yet countless other children. Who knows how many other priests of the Order were abusing children in those days – but one thing is certain, the local Provincial, the Vicar General and the Superior General of the Order did know. David Glenday, when he was both a Provincial and when he was Superior General would certainly have known also as he would have had access to the Order’s “Secret Archive” which is held at both the provincial and curia locations of the Order.
In my career, I became a Civil Servant, a Royal Air Force Officer, cultivated my vines, almond and olive trees in Cyprus for a couple of decades, trained German Pointer gundogs and then worked for an international company in London Docklands. Like David, I did end up in the Philippines for some five years also, but not at the same time as him. It all sounds good, but my life was somewhat tumultuous internally as I continuously tried to make sense of it. My path in life was quite different from that of David, but strangely they were also linked at the opposite ends of the same spectrum of the Comboni Order’s history of clerical sexual abuse. They are also paths, which in the half century since we last met, have never veered close to, nor been able to come to terms with each other.
Nevertheless, whilst not having met David since we were school-friends, I follow the comings and goings of the Scot on the internet fairly often and have noticed that he has themes in his events and sermons that he likes to go back to now and then. One is Luke 18:9-14, the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evil-doers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ Christ said, “I tell you that this tax collector, rather than the Pharisee, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
I sometimes wonder to myself which of these two men does David think that he is: the humble tax gatherer or the arrogant Pharisee. He cannot be both – at least, not at the same time. Of course I would not presume to judge what is in David’s heart and soul – only the Scot can do that. However, I do know many of the things that David – and also his confreres in the Comboni Missionary Order have said and done when confronted with allegations of child sexual abuse. It follows that that same question – are you the Pharisee or the Tax Gatherer – must be posed, not only to David, but to his confreres also. I have to caution David that he and his colleagues must give themselves an honest answer and that to do so, they must recall their individual record where it comes to Child Sexual Abuse. To assist those entwined in this story, I recount the following passages, made by Comboni Missionary spokespersons, from the United Kingdom press for their reflection: –
> “We are concerned and very dismayed to hear of the alleged incidents of sexual and physical abuse”. (Dewsbury Reporter Sep 2013).
> “We have great sadness and regret at the allegations. Given the passage of time of almost half a century, we will never know the truth of what happened”. (Huddersfield Daily Examiner Oct 2014, BBC Leeds and West Yorkshire Oct 2014)
> “There was no evidence of a culture of abuse at the Mirfield seminary”. (Observer Oct 2014)
> “There are priests alive today who were at Mirfield at the time of the alleged abuse, but they have no knowledge of the abuse”. (Observer Oct 2014)
> “The abuse had not been proven”. (BBC Leeds and West Yorkshire Oct 2014)
> “As the allegations related to matters alleged to have occurred around fifty years ago – and the Verona Fathers are unable to identify their insurers from that period – having received legal advice, they decided to explore whether an early negotiated settlement of the claims may be possible in order to keep legal costs to a minimum”. (Greenock Telegraph Nov 2014).
> “We are dismayed by allegations of abuse and have co-operated with Police enquiries – but will not acknowledge that any of the men had been abused despite damages having been awarded”. (Mail On-Line Feb 2015).
> “We know that anyone subjected to abusive behaviour will experience suffering and we are dismayed to think that such suffering may have been caused to youngsters who attended our junior seminary. If that is the case, we are deeply sorry to anyone who has been hurt in this way”. ( The Observer Oct 2014, Mail On-Line Feb 2015)
> “Everything happened an incredibly long time ago and two of the priests who were accused are now deceased. My clients simply don’t know what happened at Mirfield and don’t feel that it can be established now. – There are three other pending cases of alleged sexual abuse of Mirfield pupils by priests”. (The Telegraph, 14th May 2015)
> “It was with great sadness and regret that the Verona Fathers learned that a number of allegations of historical abuse had been made relating to our former junior seminary, St Peter’s, located in Mirfield, West Yorkshire. We condemn unreservedly any action which causes harm or distress to others, particularly children. We know that anyone subjected to abusive behaviour will experience suffering and we are dismayed to think that such suffering may have been caused to youngsters who attended our junior seminary. If that is the case, we are deeply sorry to anyone who was hurt whilst they were in our care at Mirfield and our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families.” ( The Telegraph, 14th May 2015)
Well the average reader might think, that those comments all sound pretty reasonable for the most part. The problem is that those carefully constructed and sanitized words were dished up for the press to deliberately suggest the Order’s total ignorance and hence, reasonable denial of the abuse. Their deep sorrow “if” it had ever happened suggests that it might not have done. Without saying so directly, those statements also suggested that the Victims of the abuse might be dishonest. However, those Victims know that their accounts of the abuse are true simply because it happened to them – and there are things in life that you do not forget however many years have intervened. Moreover, yes, there may be priests alive today in the Order who were at Mirfield at the time of the abuse who knew nothing of the abuse. That statement to the press was nothing other than a wily subterfuge for there are also priests alive today in the Order who were at Mirfield at the time of the abuse, or soon afterwards, who do know of the abuse and have admitted that they had been told of the abuse! The most stunning miss-match in all those words to the press is that the Order has never actually and directly expressed to the very victims of that abuse their apparent dismay, regret and sorrow for all the suffering and hurt that was inflicted upon them. The Comboni Order has maintained absolute and impregnable silence on such sentiments and have refused all attempts to have a dialogue. There is more yet that must be considered:
> In 1996, following the initial allegations made by a Victim against Father Romano Nardo, a letter was received by his Solicitors from the Comboni Missionary Order to the effect that “the Comboni Missionary Order regarded that they had no legal obligation to compensate the Victim “even if they were minded to do so” because they were prevented from doing so by Charity Commission Rules and that the (United Kingdom) Taxpayers should compensate him.
> In 1997, a Victim received a letter from the Comboni Missionary Order through his solicitors, in which it was conveyed that an Inquiry had taken place and that it had found that the priest alleged to have committed sexual abuse had “acted inappropriately” and that he had expressed regret for the hurt caused to the Victim and had admitted the allegations. Incredibly, the letter from the Verona Fathers’ Solicitors, also announced that the Verona Fathers nevertheless felt that the abuser would be able to return to active ministry in Africa in only a month.
>The words “acted inappropriately” above were David Glenday’s euphemism for the priest’s washing of the 13 year old boy’s naked genitals in a “baptismal rite”, sharing the priests bed nightly and laying upon the priest’s naked body followed by the ritual of the priest breathing the life of the “Spirit” into the boy’s open mouth. This too was in the same room that the priest routinely heard the boy’s confession – and the same room where, on one deeply sacrilegious occasion, punishable with the greatest severity under Canon Law, that the same priest placed his stole around the boy’s neck as the priest confessed to the boy….and I almost forgot, in the midst of this sordid story, the horror the boy experienced when the priest first stripped naked in front of him and the boy was confronted by the scars of a crucifix that had been carved by a sharp instrument into the priest’s naked torso – and which the young boy later tried to emulate himself so as to be closer to the God of this priest.
> In 1999, a Victim informed the West Yorkshire Police of the sexual abuse that had been committed against him by a Comboni Order priest. In response to a letter from the West Yorkshire Police to the Order, the Solicitors, speaking on behalf of the Comboni Missionary Order, stated that the priest, previously fit enough “to return to active ministry in Africa in only a month”, could not now travel to the UK “as he is worn out by many years working in Africa”. Strangely, this inability to travel, did not stop that same priest from travelling long distances to attend church ceremonies within Italy that would have taken far longer than a flight to the United Kingdom. The Order maintained also that this priest was psychologically unable to face the “prospect of a protracted police investigation.” That in itself is no excuse under European law for not travelling to be questioned for alleged sexual offences against children, nevertheless, this Italian Order is able to hide behind the Italian statute of limitations for those alleged offences. I should point out, however, that the Order is bound by their own Code of Conduct and Canon Law to report the sexual abuses by this priest to the Vatican, but they appear not to have done so.
> In 2001, a Victim expressed to the Comboni Missionary Order his wish to meet his abuser in a spirit of conciliation. In a letter from Father Martin Devenish on 11 December 2001, the Victim was informed that his Abuser’s psychologist “felt it would not be convenient to receive the Victim”. In that letter, Father Devenish also stated, without having been asked, that the Comboni Missionaries were a “Mendicant Order” and were too poor to pay costs. (The total assets of the Order in some 40 or so countries have been calculated, nevertheless, to be well in excess of 500,000,000 Pounds Sterling).
> In 2006, a Victim of Father Domenico Valmaggia, wrote to the Comboni Missionary Provincial in an effort to trace Father Valmaggia. He received no reply and so he rang the Provincial Superior, Father John Troy, who said that Father Valmaggia was old and most probably dead. The Victim was provided with no assitance to trace Father Valmaggia by Father John Troy in 2006. At that time, documentation regarding Father Valmaggia existed at both the Provincial and the Roman Curia levels. The inaction of Father John Troy in this regard, at a time when Father Valmaggia was still alive, led to the failure of the Victim to be able to meet Valmaggia, discuss the abuse and record his responses in evidence. Father Valmaggia’s location was known to the Order, however, and when he subsequently died in 2011, his death was published in an official document of the Order.
> In 2010, following a meeting of a Victim with the Safeguarding Co-ordinator of the Wrexham Diocese, the latter agreed to arrange a meeting with Father John Clark, who was, at that time, nominated as the UK Comboni Missionary Safeguarding Co-Ordinator. The purpose was for the Victim to seek an acknowledgement that the abuse had taken place and to obtain a formal apology. The meeting subsequently took place and Father John Clark agreed that such a letter of acknowledgement of the abuse and an apology would be forthcoming and that he would consult Father Martin Devenish on the matter. No letter conveying an apology or acknowledgement was ever received. A letter was received from the Superior General of the Comboni Missionary Order later in 2010, however, in which he unconcernedly conveyed little other than “at the end of the day, we are all in God’s hands.”
> In 2011, a Victim of abuse went to Rome to see members of the Curia personally to report the abuses perpetrated against him. The Victim claims that he informed both the Vicar General of the Order, Father Alberto Pelluchi and the General Bursar of the Order, Dr Brother Danielle Giusti. Subsequently, in November 2011, the Victim received a letter from Father Alberto Pelluchi stating that the Order denied all knowledge of any abuse perpetrated at the Mirfield Seminary and noted specifically that Father Robert Hicks, Father John Clark and Mr J M McGovern had stated that they had no knowledge of any cases of abuse. The letter went on to say that Father Pelluchi had conducted a full and exhaustive investigation into the allegations at Mirfield made by the Victim, but that he had never heard or known of any cases of abuse in the Order “ever”, and that the Victim was clearly “deluded”.
> In February 2012, a Victim of abuse by both Fathers Valmaggia and Pinkman, wrote to Father Devenish, the Provincial Superior of the Comboni Missionary Order. He received no reply and so he wrote again in November 2012. He received a response from Father Martin Devenish eventually on 13th December 2012 in which the latter stated that Father Fraser “categorically” denied being informed about or was aware of any allegations of abuse by Father Pinkman. (Nevertheless, Father Fraser has admitted in a conversation that he did learn of Father Pinkman’s abuse later).
> Also in February 2012, that same Victim of abuse by both Fathers Valmaggia and Pinkman, informed Father Devenish, the Provincial Superior of the Comboni Missionary Order, that he had told Father Hicks of his abuse during confession. Father Devenish stated that Father Hicks “vehemently” denied a knowledge of any allegation against Father Pinkman. (Yet again, Father Hicks had already stated in a separate conversation that he knew of abuse by Father Pinkman).
> In 2013, a Victim received a letter from Kathy Perrin , Solicitor, on behalf of the Comboni Missionary Order, in which she attempted to dissuade him from taking action by communicating that “I note you intend to make a report to the police …However such an investigation may be difficult in this case given Fathers Pinkman and Valmaggia are deceased”.
> In 2014, a Victim of both Fathers Domenico Valmaggia and John Pinkman, tried to establish dialogue with the Order on behalf of the “Mirfield 12” group of Victims. During the discussion, it was suggested by Father Robert Hicks that the sole reason for the allegations of abuse by the “Mirfield 12” was to extract money from the Comboni Missionary Order”.
> In 2014 a Victim, in a state of despair, wrote: “ I have done enough striving and fighting for justice. I am tired of the whole sordid mess. It was in this vein that I rang Rome and asked to speak with Sanchez, the Superior General of the Comboni Missionary Order. I explained to the receptionist and then a priest, who I was. I was then informed a couple of minutes later that Sanchez would ring me back. The call never came. I rang again and once again was informed he would ring me back. The call never came. I rang back a third time and was told that he was out. I asked to speak to a priest that spoke English and the phone was put down on me. It was subsequently put down on me the several calls that I made after that”. Being ignored and having the phone put down on me came across as insulting – and I became quite emotional. I had built myself up to offer a hand of peace – an opportunity to leave all this behind, an opportunity to meet Nardo (the Victim’s abuser), and I suspect that there are people who would never understand this – but an opportunity to offer forgiveness to him. That never happened. I was shut out once again.”
> A Victim, following his attempts to contact the Superior General Sanchez of the Order, made a telephone call to Father Robert Hicks in 2014. He thought “naively”, he recollects, that if he explained to Father Hicks his intentions, that he would relay them to Sanchez. Father Hicks made it clear that he could not talk to him and the Victim was told, “I am not allowed to talk to you and that anyway my dinner is on the table and is going cold”. When the Victim protested that he was trying to extend a hand of friendship to the Order, Father Robert Hicks said that he should ring back and speak to Father Martin Devenish, the Provincial Superior.
> A Victim, in a telephone call in 2014 to Father David Glenday, who fills a post at the Vatican, was told by the latter that he was not allowed to talk to him, with the words, “I can listen, but I cannot answer”.
> A Victim in a telephone call in 2014 to Father Martin Devenish was told by the latter that if the Victim rang him again, he would be reported to the Police for harassment.
> At the end of 2014, A Victim, who at the time of writing, is in the process of litigation against the Comboni Missionary Order Priest who relentlessly abused him when he was a child at Mirfield, received a Greeting Card from his Abuser, in which the Abuser wished him a Happy New Year and extended to him his best wishes in the legal case against himself, the Abuser. The only source of the address of the Victim would have been in legal documents forwarded to the Comboni Missionary Order, one of whose members must have passed the information onto the Abuser. This is in direct contradiction of the Comboni Missionary Order’s Code of Conduct and must be seen as a deliberate attempt to suborn or influence the Victim into abandoning his suit.
> Following a visit of a Victim of child sexual abuse to Verona in April 2015 – in order to meet his Abuser, Father Romano Nardo, and obtain an apology from him for the abuse and the Order for his years of harmful treatment, the Comboni Missionary Order stated that they would be sending a letter to the Victim to inform him that they intended to sue him. The Order’s lawyer subsequently preferred charges in the Criminal Court of Verona against the Victim of Child Abuse for trespass, stalking and interfering in the life of the priest accused of child sexual abuse. The Judge threw out the charges as baseless. The Comboni Order appealed to the Court for a review. The Appeal Court threw out the charges once more as baseless. The innocent Victim subsequently had to pay a large sum of money for his legal defence at the Court.
> That same Victim in Verona was threatened with the Police for visiting the Order’s Mother House – and the Vice Superior of the House shouted to the Victim as he left that he, the Victim, and all the other Victims were “money grabbers”.
> In December 2015, a Victim of Child abuse at the Mirfield seminary forwarded the Comboni Missionary Order a 170 page document entitled: “A Text Book For Institutions On How Not To Manage Allegations Of Child Sexual Abuse – And Why The Comboni Missionary Religous Order Of Verona, Italy, Will Deny Allegations Of 1,000 Sexual Crimes Committed Against Boy Seminarians In Their Care At Mirfield, Yorkshire, England. (There has been no response from the Order)!
> On behalf of the Victims of the Mirfield Seminary, a copy of the 170-page document mentioned above was delivered by hand to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican in January 2016 by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols. (There has been no response from the Vatican)!
I liked David when he was a lad and I would probably find him quite entertaining even now – but, the record above is not all that good is it? So I must repeat for David the Scot the questions that he and his confreres in the Comboni Missionary Order must each ask of themselves: “Are they the image of the Disciple on the Mount who pushed the child away, or do they believe in the image of Christ, who cherished the innocence of each and every child and who said, “Suffer not little children to come unto me”? Are they the Good Samaritan, or are they the Priest who passed by on the other side of the road? Are they the humble Tax Gatherer who prayed and repented with a bowed head , or are they the Pharisee who, with his head held high, chuntered tediously and arrogantly of his good deeds?