Questions for the new Comboni Missionaries Superior General

Comboni Missionaries Superior General

The new Superior General of the Comboni Missionaries will be elected this week. The Mirfield 12 hope that he will make a clean break with the past and own up to the crimes of sexual abuse of minors and will take steps to work with the abused to make sure it can never happen again.

Here are some questions for the Comboni Missionaries and the new Superior General:-

1. Was Clerical child abuse discussed at General Chapter XVIII?

2. Why was Father Pinkman moved on after accusations of child abuse at Mirfield.

3. Why was Father Valmaggia moved on and thrown out of the Order to a parish in Como after accusations of child abuse?

4. Why was Father Romano Nardo brought back from Uganda in the Nineties after accusations of child abuse by Mark Murray? Why was Mark told that he would never be allowed near children again? Why were these accusations never reported to the police? Why will the Comboni Missionaries not allow West Yorkshire police permission to speak interview him?

5. What do they think of Pope Francis’s latest statement in the USA last week when he said that “The crimes of sexual abuse against children cannot be repeated” and that bishops who cover up sexual abuse of minors will be prosecuted? Do they agree with the Pope? Will they follow his instructions on the matter?

6. Will the new Superior General acknowledge that abuse took place? Will he apologise for it? Will he work with the victims to make sure it can never happen again? Will he pass over all the information that they have about the sexual abuse on their files to Italian and UK police?

Comboni Missionaries General Chapter XVIII Vote for Superior General

Comboni Missionaries General Chapter XVIII

A momentous event is taking place for the Comboni Missionaries (ex-Verona Fathers) in Rome this month.

They are having their their seldom held General Chapter when representatives of all the 1,700 Comboni Missionaries will be in Rome to look at where they have been, where they are now, and where they want to be in the future.

This is only the 18th General Chapter that they have held in their history of well over a hundred years.

It is a period of introspection for them.

Chapter General Council to Elect New Superior General

At this momentous occasion they will also elect a new Superior General, i.e. a new head of the Order.

For the Compboni Missionaries, it is like a Vatican Council and an election of a new Pope all rolled into one.

The present Superior General, Father Enrico Sanchez, will be stepping down. He, as well as other previous Superior Generals, like the UK’s own Father David Glenday, will assist in the preparations and voting for the office of the new Superior General.

Child Abuse at Seminary in Mirfield

It is not known whether the Comboni Missionaries will be talking about their history of Sexual Child Abuse of Minors at their seminary in Mirfield, Yorkshire during the Sixties and Seventies at their General Chapter and any new response to it.

Pope Francis said just this week in te USA “The crimes of sexual abuse against children cannot be repeated” and wants to punish bishops who have covered up sexual abuse of minors.

However, so far, the Comboni MIssionaries have snubbed and defied Pope Francis’s instructions and have failed to even acknowledge that sexual abuse took place, never mind apologised for it.

Comboni Missionaries Cover-Up of Sexual Abuse

They are also continuing to cover up the sexual abuse, hiding out Father Romano Nardo at their house in Verona and refusing permission for West Yorkshire Police to interview him.

Defying Pope Francis may come back to haunt them.

However, if they elect a new Superior General who is untainted by the crimes of the past and the cover-up of what Pope Francis calls ‘crimes’, they have an opportunity to move forward in tandem with Pope Francis and the rest of the Catholic Church.

New Comboni Missionaries Superior General

The Mifield 12, who received payouts of £120,000 last year from the Comboni Missionaries, and the others whose cases are current, are calling on the Comboni Missionaries to use this General Chapter, and the election of a new Superior General, to take this opportunity to put the past behind them.

Representatives of the Mirfield 12, and the others, are willing to meet the new Superior General at his earliest convenience to help put the stain of child sexual abuse behind them and to work out new processes that make sure that this can never happen again.

We wish the Comboni Missionaries good fortune in their choice of their new Superior General. This may be the most important election they have ever had and opportunity to move in step with Pope Francis and the Catholic Church.

The future doesn’t bear thinking about if they don’t take this opportunity to change direction.

Abuse Victims Ask Comboni Missionaries to Turn New Chapter

Comboni Missionaries and Sexual Child Abuse

The Comboni Missionaries worldwide have gathered in Rome for their XV111th General Chapter. It is taking place from August 29th to October 4th.

The 72 capitular representatives, 45 of whom are from Europe, 14 from the Americas and 13 from Africa, are representing over 1,700 Comboni Missionaries scattered throughout the world.

On September 29th and 30th they will elect their new supreme leader, the Superior General.

Comboni Missionary Seminary in Mirfield

Last year, the Comboni Missionaries paid out £120,000 (€166,000) to 12 men who claimed they were abused as children at the Comboni Missionaries seminary in Mirfield, England in the 1960s and 1970s.

They claim that they were 11 years old to 15 years old when they were repeatedly abused by three Comboni Missionaries, Fr John Pinkman, Father Domenico Valmaggia and Father Romano Nardo and a lay teacher, Michael Riddle, at the seminary. There are several other outstanding claims.

The men claim that the Comboni Missionaries have never admitted the abuse and have never apologised for it.

Indeed, they claim that there has been a cover-up of the abuse, even though those accused were sent away from the seminary or brought home from the missions in Africa when the accusations were first made at the time.

Father Romano Nardo and Yorkshire Police

Mark Murray went to Verona to confront his abuser, Father Roman Nardo, in the Comboni Missionaries house in Verona earlier this year.

Father Nardo had been brought home from the missions in Uganda when Mark first made his accusations in the mid-Nineties and Mark was told that he would be kept away from children.

UK police want to interview Father Nardo but have been refused permission by the Order who say he is not in good enough health to answer their questions.

The UK police say that they are satisfied that a crime has been committed and that they would have sought the arrest two of those Comboni Missionaries accused of abuse, Fr Pinkman from Liverpool and Fr Valmaggia from Como if they had been still alive.

They have been trying for years to extradite Father Nardo, who is from Pordenone, but to no avail.

Comboni Missionaries Chapter XVIII Election Council

Now Mark, and the others who were abused are asking that the Comboni Missionaries start afresh and elect someone who has been untainted by the abuse and subsequent cover-up.

Said Mark, “Pope Francis has apologised for the abuse in the Catholic Church and has demanded that others take action.

“However, the Comboni Missionaries have refused to even admit that any abuse took place and refuse to apologise to those to whom they had a duty of care”.

Pope Francis, Comboni Missionaries and Child Sexual Anuse

In his recent visit to the USA, Pope Francis said “The crimes of sexual abuse against children cannot be repeated.”

Said Gerry McLaughlin, another of the Mirfield 12, “We ask the Comboni Missionaries to make a clean break with the past and elect someone who has been untainted by the abuse and the subsequent cover-up.

“We ask them to elect someone who follows Pope Francis’s teaching on child abuse and who will work with the abused to make sure that the ‘crime of sexual abuse of children’ cannot happen again as Pope Francis wishes.

“The Mirfield 12 would ask that the new Superior General meets with them at his earliest convenience to discuss how we can all move forward in resolving the abuse issues at Mirfield”.

Mick Wainhouse – From Mirfield to Mercenary via the Paras

Mick Wainhouse

I wrote this a few years ago with Terry Aspinall, an ex-mercenary who wrote the book Soldiers of Fortune.

It is about Mick Wainhouse who started at Mirfield in 1963 before being expelled in 5th year. Many of you will know him.

He joined the Paras who took part in the Bloody Sunday killings and was booted out and jailed for robbing a sub-post office in Northern ireland.

He then became a mercenary in Angola with his close Para friend ‘Colonel Callan’, Costas Georgiou.

Here is his story – From Missionary to Mercenary.

First Contact with Jim Kirby

First Contact

I put my name down with Friends Reunited for St. Peter Claver’s College, Mirfield.

It’s funny but I always thought that I would be in touch with those I’d met at the college again. I don’t know why I thought that as there was no internet in those days and I had completely lost touch with all of those who didn’t live in the same town as me. In fact, Id’ lost touch with even some of those who lived in Greenock.

But I knew I would be in touch with them again.

Jim Kirby

There were a few emails exchanged through Friends Reunited but the first major contact was when I arranged to talk to Jim Kirby on the phone.

He had actually been in the year above me and, to be honest, I didn’t really remember anything about him beyond his name.

However, when I talked to him on the phone it was my first real contact with anyone from that past life for around 35 years.

It was great talking to him.

The last time we had spoken man hadn’t yet landed on the moon, Celtic hadn’t won the European Cup and the Beatles hadn’t released Sergeant Pepper.

Those events were now quite ancient history and yet they hadn’t occurred last time we had met.

What Did You Want to be Dad?

What Did You Want to be Dad?

The other day I was watching TV when my 13-year-old daughter asked me “What did you want to be when you were young Dad”?

I had a quick think to when I was 7 or 8. “ A footballer” I replied. “I wanted to play for Scotland”.

“But after that” she asked not wanting childish sporting fantasies to be counted. “I wanted to be a priest” I replied. “Why would you want to be a priest?” she asked, a little askance.

“I wanted to help people” I replied. “I wanted to help Africans. I wanted to bring them God”.

She didn’t seem impressed by that. So far it was just one of those conversations. It was what she asked next that hit me. “What did you want to do after that” she asked.

I thought for a few moments. She expected me to come up with something else. I thought I would too.

No answer came.

“Nothing” I replied.

Bolt From the Blue

It hit me like a bolt of lightning. I was 53 years old. I now realised that I didn’t want to be anything after the age of 13.

How much does that explain?

It was like a thunderbolt out of the blue from a simple question.

I had gone through secondary school without a goal in mind. There was nothing I particularly wanted to do. I knew that I would have to do something. I was told that this was OK, that it was better to go to University with no particular career in mind, to keep an open mind.

I did go to University. I didn’t particularly like it. It was like the curate’s egg, good in parts – but I couldn’t be bothered studying. In the end I couldn’t be bothered to even go to many of the classes.

All Clear

It all became clear.

Why would I?

I didn’t want to be anything. I didn’t want to go to the ‘theatres or cinemas’ that a university degree would buy me a ticket into. I knew I had to do something. It’s just that I had no real passion for the opportunities that were presenting themselves.

I passed the Maths exam but failed the English and the Economics. As I had seldom gone to any of the classes in the second half of the year I was surprised that I had even passed my main subject Maths. You could do re-sits. I had had to pass one of the other two at the re-sits. I could go forward with passing one of those and re-sitting the exam for the other one in second year.

Summer Holiday Resits

I stayed up at my grandparents over the summer holidays so that I could study without being distracted my my ten brothers and sisters. The only problem was that I didn’t study much. I couldn’t be bothered. I know it was important. I knew that it was crucial to my career. But I just couldn’t do it.

I did go up to the room to study, but you could take a horse to water but you couldn’t make it drink – and I didn’t drink much water that summer at all.

I did a little near the end. I went up to do the re-sits at the university. You had to do three essays altogether. The first one I did pretty well, I thought. In fact I thought I had done it particularly well.

I didn’t know which of the other two I would do first. They were going to be a more difficult proposition but I was sure that I could do it. It would have been a case, in football terms, of having an early lead and then doing enough in the second half to hold on to that lead.

However, I couldn’t be bothered. I couldn’t even be bothered to start the questions or make any attempt at them. I took a decision then.

I wouldn’t do them. I knew exactly what it meant. I knew that my university career was over. It had always been expected that I would go to university and do well. I had expected it too.

All Over

However, it was now over. I couldn’t leave till the first hour of the three-hour exam was up so I spent the next twenty minutes doing this game of letters that I had made up where basically football teams are allocated a letter and score goals in a knockout or league competition based on how often their letter appears in a text half line. I used the exam paper as the text.

The marker of the paper must have got a surprise. On the first three pages would have been a very well answered question. When he or she would have turned over they would have found an indecipherable jumble of letters and numbers.

I left after the first hour was up, handing in my truncated paper.

What Had I done?

I remember sitting in Glasgow Central Station pondering on what I had just done. I knew that my university career was over. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to plonk a university degree in front of potential employers to help me get a good job. I knew exactly what I had done. But my main emotion as I sat there on the station bench was not a feeling of fear. It was a feeling of exhilaration.

I knew life would be more difficult now. But I was pleased. I had quit education. I had got a monkey off my back. I was no longer flogging a horse that had long since perished. I would now have to drive in fifth gear.

I didn’t really understand it at the time. Why did I quit? Why did I not want to study? Why was I exhilarated by leaving university?

I didn’t understand the answer to that question till my 13-year-old daughter’s question 35 years later.

Our Greatest Benefactor

Our Greatest Benefactor

There was one series of events that I found bizarre whilst I was there. I remember one time Tea was interrupted by a guy, Mr. Hughes, who came in the refectory door. He would probably have been in his thirties or forties. He walked in and stood on one of the steps down into the refectory and held up a huge see-through bag of what looked like sweets without their wrappers on.

Suddenly all the boys and priests in the refectory burst into applause and cheers for this guy.

“What is going on?” I enquired of one of the guys from third year.

“He’s our biggest benefactor” he replied.

Broken Sweets

I never did get to the bottom of all this. The sum of his benefaction seemed to be that he worked in a sweet factory and he brought sweets from there to us. However, none of the sweets had wrappers on them, although they were all well-known brands and the other thing is that they were all misshapen, crushed or were just parts of the normal product.

They really fawned on this guy. In my perspective, even as an eleven year old, these were reject products and were probably rescued before they were dumped in some bin at the sweet factory.

However, nobody seemed to want to take this on board. It seems that the ovation he got, although not quite orchestrated, the boys all knew what to do.

He was always known to everyone as ‘our greatest benefactor’. I did ask if he actually contributed anything more than reject sweets but nobody seemed to know. My strong hunch was that he didn’t.

A Protestant

One other thing always mentioned about him was that he was a Protestant. It was said that despite that he still gave to ‘the’ church. It was always assumed that Protestants were in darkness. Any of them who did us a favour was always assumed to be in the process of being led to the truth by God.

It would be interesting to find out this guy’s perspective of it all. Was he just a kind hearted guy who worked at a sweet factory and who thought that it would be better to rescue reject sweets that were about to be binned and bring them over to the local boys school? Or was he wavering on the verge of conversion to the true faith. One feels that the latter was a long shot.

I don’t know what he thought happened to them. I presume that he thought that they would be immediately divided out amongst the boys.

Removed for Special Occasions

After he had gone the sweets were immediately taken away. At special occasions in the future we would receive a single mangled caramel wafer or whatever it was. I always noticed that what was passed out to us didn’t seem to match what was given in.

It always happens in any strict regime where the rulers have absolute power that ‘output’ tends to get siphoned off by those in the ruling classes. I have no idea whether the Fathers were gorging themselves on reject chocolate bars, but I do know that we got less than the sum of the whole.