Chris’s Story

My Fiery Comboni Missionaries Visitations

I only recently became aware of the litigation and compensation that ensued following abuse of eleven men at St. Peter Claver College, run by the Comboni Missionaries (Missionari Comboniani in Italian), during the 1960s and 1970s. After learning of this I researched a little and found this blog.

I too attended St. Peter Claver College which was run by the then Verona Fathers (now Comboni Missionaries) between September 1971 and October 1973 and was abused in a number of ways including sexually.

The recent blogs and desperately sad, imparted information regarding sexual abuse by Father Enrico Valmaggia and Father Romano Nardo for me is excruciatingly painful to read. However, it did not end with their departure.

A lay teacher of the Comboni Missionaries, who no doubt will have met his maker by now, was guilty of the same evil, unlawful and life-changing act upon me.

Suffered Alone and in Silence

Until three weeks ago and consequently for the last forty years, I had thought that this particular abuse said something about me at that time. For the first time in my life I now realise that this was very much not the case.

It was endemic and sustained long after the departure of the two so called priests. I was convinced that no one would believe my experiences at the hands of this man as I have no proof. However, put simply and truthfully, those experiences really did happen.

This with other physical and mental abuse and the strong, instilled sense of isolation meant for me a life journey that has been difficult and at times suicidal.

Comboni Missionaries Seminary

I knew when I went to the Comboni Missionaries seminary at Mirfield that I was gay. Indeed I had already told my late Mother. In the 1960s/70s acceptance and tolerance was not prevalent and was most certainly not a possibility in a Catholic Missionary Junior Seminary.

Unfortunately, this acceptance of being was not allowed to exist. For me at the time what was more important was learning to find a way to exist in what I perceived at the time to be a “testing” environment.

I had been taught that Jesus would want me to be altruistic. Put other people first. So that’s what I did. I put me and my sexual preference at the very bottom of the pile in everything I did. From those days at Mirfield and for nearly thirty years, my days were full of lies concerning my sexual preference, and disgust and fear at what had happened to me all those years ago.

Sexual and Physical Abuse

It was to be a double edged sword. The sexual and physical abuse I suffered whilst I adopted this altruistic nature at the Comboni Missionaries seminary at Mirfield led me to not trust men at all for many years.

Consequently it made male relationships for me as a gay man much less likely and complicated.

Got Married

Eventually as a 22 year old young man I married. The lack of trusting men was not changed in having this heterosexual relationship but I saw it as a good option. Judged in that light at the time it was a positive outcome of this abuse. A woman would not hurt me.

This former abused young boy became a young man that abused himself by putting himself in a situation that led eventually to a mental break down, two suicide attempts, a broken marriage, and affected my 26 year old daughter who experienced a broken home. Mark Murray so rightly says: this abuse permeates into other people’s lives on life’s journey.

Civilly Partnered

Having written all this, it’s important for me to relate that I’m extraordinarily lucky. I’ve been happily Civilly Partnered for some time to a man who I love hugely. My relationship with my daughter is probably the best it’s been and I have had a successful career. My former wife and I are on friendly speaking terms.

It’s also important for me to tell all of this because there’s a need in me to empathise and to say “I believe you because it happened to me and I understand how you feel.” In some ways this feels like a crass and inadequate statement. But now knowing that others were subject to similar life changing trauma has helped me.

I have no intention of pursuing any kind of litigation. As others have said – it would not change anything and money could not compensate for what has been a tainted life with many years of inner sadness.

As for an apology from the Comboni Missionaries order – even if it were forthcoming, I would not trust it as being authentic. How could I when they still disregard honest, broken men’s pleas.

Chris Speight

One response to “Chris’s Story

  1. Thank you Chris, stick with us, we have them on the back foot now.
    They are going to be fully exposed and punished.

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