Comboni Missionaries Slammed in The Tablet Catholic Newspaper

Comboni Missionaries

The Tablet newspaper, which has been on the go since 1840, is the 2nd oldest newspaper in Britain after The Spectator, It is the main Catholic Newspaper in the UK.

Today it publishes an article which slams the Comboni Missionaries for their attitude to those who were abused by Comboni MIssionary priests at their seminary in Mirfield, Yorkshire.

It said that 12 ex-seminarians are calling on the Comboni Missionaries to acknowledge and apologise for the abuse that took place at Mirfield in the Sixties and Seventies.

Archbishops

One of the ex-seminarians, Brian Hannessy, has documented more than 1,000 instances of the abuse, and the Comboni Missionaries reaction to it, and has sent the 157-page document to all the Archbishops in the UK as well as the heads of religious communities.

Hennessy said that the Comboni Missionaries had not followed their own procedures when abuse was reported.

The Comboni Missionaries paid out £120,000 to the group of 12 but said that this was not an admission of guilt.

Hennessy told The Tablet that the cover up of abuse “has run so deep in the veins of the hierarchy of that religious order that it has resulted in the hierarchical re-victimisation and discrimination of the victims of child sexual abuse that was committed by depraved members of their order”.

Comboni Fathers

Jim Kirby told the Tablet that all the abused wanted was an apology from the Comboni Missionaries and for them to admit that they had failed in their duty of care to the boys at their seminary in Mirfield.

He told The Tablet “We want them to meet us and to treat us properly and with respect. So far we have been fobbed off and we have been insulted. Some of us have been told by priests that we are ‘only in it for the money’.”

He continued, “It would help if the Comboni fathers would stop saying this was all a long time ago, and the priests are dead: they’re not all dead, and the ones who are still alive should be brought to court, but in the meantime it would mean so much if they just invited us to meet them and said, guys, we’re sorry; not only for what happened all those years ago, but for failing to face up to it in the years since. What’s happened has added insult to injury, and now is the moment when it has to stop.”

To read the whole article click on The Tablet Article on the Comboni Missionaries Abuse

It seems that the Comboni MIssionaries were not available for comment.

Dropped from the Verona Fathers Football Team

Dropped from the Football Team

As I said, at the end of the interrogation Pinkie added insult to injury – or rather he added injury to injury. He told me that I would no longer be selected for the football team. I had been a member of the Championship winning team the previous year. I had played my part in the triumph.

However, that didn’t count for anything. There were other considerations.

That was a severe blow. I mean it was a really severe blow. I loved playing for the team – but the conditions of playing were no longer acceptable.

I must say that, at the time, I didn’t really piece it all together. I couldn’t work out why Pinkie had turned against me. It was about half way through the season that I got suddenly dropped – maybe a little before half way.

Announcing the Team

I remember that Pinkie would come to the junior recreation hall to read out the team. I was the only one who didn’t crowd round to hear it. I got on with whatever I was doing before. I did keep my ears opened. I hoped against hope that one week I might hear my name called out. After all, the second season wasn’t going so well and we were falling behind in the Championship.

Perhaps Pinkie might have a change of heart and pick me. Although I didn’t come over to hear the team news I used to keep my ear open and listen to Pinkie as he dramatically read out the team one by one.

Each week as the team was read out and with each name that was read out it was a like a dagger through my heart. Even when nine and ten names had been read out and they weren’t mine I still retained a hope.

But each week was the same. I wouldn’t say I was the best, age for age, in the team but there were people in the team in my position who would not have said that they were as good as me. People wondered why I was no longer picked.

“You’ll probably get picked this week” they would say.

No Chance

One week, as everybody went over to hear the team news, a guy that I was playing draughts with got up to go over and said to me “are you not going over? You might be in the team”.

Pinkie had actually picked me the week before for our one and only second team game. Not only that, he had picked me as captain. Whilst the first team had lost we hammered the second team and I scored a load of goals. From memory I think we won 8-1 and I got five of them. Perhaps my period of exclusion was over. Perhaps my performance might get me back in the team.

I didn’t go over. I didn’t dare think I would be in the team. But I listened very intently as the team was read out one by one. Maybe Pinkie had a heart after all. It would be great to come back into the team. It would be great, to be frank, not to be generally an ‘excludee’ with Pinkie.

However, my name was not read out that day. In fact it was never read out again. My punishment was final. My exclusion was sine die.

Even when I was in the seniors and was still eligible to play I wasn’t picked. It was even more painful that the guy from third year that they picked was nowhere near as good as I was, to my mind. He even said that himself and he was even a bit guilty about it.

Father Pinkman and My Interrogation

This is the follow-up to Father Pinkman Accused Me of Leading the Great Escape

It was published recently.

Third Degree

This was not the end of it though.

Soon afterwards, I got called up to Pinkie’s room. He started the grilling over again. I had to tell him who was going to be in the Great Escape.

Again and again I told him I knew nothing about it. I started to cry again and I kept on crying and crying and the tears were running down my face in streams.

On and on went the interrogation. He said he would only stop and let me go when I had told him everything.

I had nothing to tell, though.

“I know that someone is organising it” he said. There was no way out for me as I had nothing to tell him.

Capitulating Under Interrogation

Eventually, after what seemed like ages he said “If it’s not you who is leading it who is it then?”.

“I don’t know” I said crying relentlessly.

“Is it Locke and McGinnis” he asked.

They were my two best friends.

Here was a way out. I could say it was them and the pain would stop. The interrogation would be over and I could go free. I could escape with just one word.

But I couldn’t do that I also thought. It wasn’t them (It only ever existed in Pinkie’s fevered brain).

“No” I said.

“It is them isn’t it” he said. “You’re not telling me because they are your friends”.

Oh my God, the interrogation fever was being turned up again. “Oh no!” I thought.

“It is them isn’t it, Locke and McGinnis”.

Surrender

“Yes” I said and in one fell swoop I was free – except that my two best friends never spoke to me in a friendly way ever again after they had been brought up and grilled like me.

Pinkie even told them that it was I that had accused them. I denied it but they never believed me.

When I’ve read of supposed miscarriages of justice where the accused has made a full confession and then retracted it saying that he was under duress to confess I am as cynical as the next man.

But when I think back that is exactly what I did. I was under such duress that when given the opportunity to finger my two best friends I did just that, so that the grilling could stop and I could leave the room.

Biggest Regret

Perhaps that is my greatest regret of all the time that I was there. I cracked and got my best friends into trouble. They never knew the circumstances of it. After all, I had denied it and so could not go back and tell them what had actually happened.

Locke got expelled at the end of the term and never came back. I was never friendly with Frank McGinnis again who had been my best friend for the best part of two years. He never spoke to me again. We were never friends again and I had to make a new set of friends in third year. I later found that he had been expelled in summer 1967 – at the end of the term after I got suspended for a year.

Even though I was under intense pressure I still should not have cracked. I was a boy of 12, though, being psychologically tortured by a cruel psycho who sexually preyed on boys as young as eleven and who was scorned by me as he saw it. I state this in my own defence.

But in my heart of hearts I should still not have cracked and ‘handed over’ two innocent friends.

Difficult Year

The rest of second year was quite difficult as I had to hang around with people that I hadn’t been all that friendly with before. If truthful, I had to hang around with people who nobody had been all that friendly with before.

And I got constant reminders from my two ex-best friends whenever I bumped into them – which was frequently. Locke took it particularly badly. I think that Frank McGinnis might have eventually forgiven me but I think he wanted to show solidarity with Francis Locke who was slightly more dominant of the two.

Meeting Francis Locke Again

Several years late I was invited to Allanton in Dumfries where the Verona Fathers had a seminary for boys who joined at a later age. This invitation was both for new boys and for boys who had left the college previously but who might be interested in coming back. There was only two boys there that I knew – and one of them was Francis Locke.

He hadn’t forgotten. He didn’t say anything but he was not over friendly and spent most of the time with the other guy who neither of us had been particularly friendly with when at The College. He spoke to me when I spoke to him but there was no warmth. Indeed there was no warmth when he first saw me for the first time in several years. Not even a smile.

What treachery it must have seemed in his eyes and for no reason that he could see. What a wicked boy I must have been to him.

I never got the opportunity to explain to them – and even if I had done I’m not sure it was a good enough explanation.

Fingered

I never thought of it then but there must have been someone else who fingered me in the first place. Pinkie wouldn’t have made it up. He really did believe this ridiculous story. Someone must have given it to him.

Was it some other poor boy in the same circumstance as I was that he was interrogating? That’s possible but that boy would not have been the person who put it into his mind.

One of the ‘in crowd’ must have told him this lie.

Why?

Perhaps it was to please him. We know already from my days as one of his ‘spies’ that this was an area that he gave some thought to. Could one of the boys have come up with this cock and bull story just to curry favour with him?

I’ll never know who was the one who decided to put me in the frame as the guy masterminding the Great Escape, or why they did it.

The Final Straw

As I got up to leave the room Pinkie looked towards me and I could see he was about to say something else. I could see the venom in his eyes.

“Just one more thing” he said. “You won’t ever be getting picked again for the school football team” he said with more than a little satisfaction.

He couldn’t have picked anything that could have hurt me more. And what’s more he must have known it.

I went into the room as an innocent twelve year old and I left it robbed of my favourite hour and a half of the week – and without any friends.

Father Wade – Our Question on Sex Threw Him Completely

Father Anthony Wade

By Martin Millar

Cherished MOBsters,

I want to begin by paying a special tribute to all the Mirfield Old Boys who have taken such pains in dedicating themselves to the cause of achieving justice and closure in regard to the abuse suffered.

As I listened to Mark Murray speaking on Radio 5 yesterday, I learned more of the man in 25 minutes than in the intervening years since the 2009 reunion.

With the support of people like Brian Hennessy, Gerry McLaughlin and all of the other men involved in the ‘settlement’ and subsequent battles for justice, Mark has soared in spirit and mind.

I look forward to further news coverage with keen interest.

La lutta continua!

Scripture Studies

On another note, and sharing a funny memory, I’d like to recount the tale of my attempt to introduce some risque humour into Fr Wade’s boring Scripture Studies classes.

We were always pressing him to allow us to discuss things like the Church’s attitude towards pre- and extra-marital sex, abortion, recreational drug use and all manner of things that had nothing to do with the Maccabees, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, and Our Sweet Lord.

Birds and the Bees

He always prevaricated and would digress into topics that interested him, primarily whether or not the going was good at Haydock Park, Aintree or Royal Ascot.

Ambrose Mulroy always perked up at these points as he was really into the gees.

Finally, after relentless pressure, Wade agreed to have a Q&A session about the birds and the bees, and instructed us to organise a box of anonymous questions, any and all of which he solemnly promised to answer.

Tommy O’Donnell, Ambrose, Dave Harrigan, and possibly Angus Murray got together to write some questions.

Questions for Father Wade

I hit on a corker, and my mates were duly impressed:

‘Do girls masturbate and if so, how?’

Come the session, Wade proceeded to put his hand in the box and pulled out the screwed up pieces of paper. The first and second ones he picked were completely innocuous and he gave his usual anodyne responses.

Then we knew we had hit gold as he took the next one out. His pallor, unhealthily pale on one of his good days, went white, his jaw locked open, his hands trembling as he scanned the words.

He fumbled about not knowing what to do or say.

Great Victory

‘Read it to us father’.
‘I can’t’.
‘Why not?’

Long silence.

He got up and walked out of the class. We had won a great victory! We had taken the piss out of our pompous and ignorant teacher! Hah hah.

Science Teacher

The thing is, it was a genuine question, as well as a prank.

The only person who we could get a straight answer from to our questions about sex was a brilliant science teacher from one of the local Catholic secondary schools.

I’ve forgotten his name, but I do remember his lessons being hands-on and very stimulating.

PLEASE KEEP THIS BLOG ALIVE

Martin Millar (1968-72)

I’m Behind You says Mirfield Legend Jim Coffey

Jim Coffey

I have just seen and signed the petition, of which I was unaware – better late than never I suppose.

I have followed the brilliant, regular updates by you and so many others and finally get around to adding my tuppenceworth.

I was at Mirfield from 1960 when the college opened until 1966 when I progressed to Sunningdale, finally leaving in 1969.

I have always regarded my Mirfield days as essentially happy ones and a very formative time in my long and interesting life.

To now find that, like many other memories this, too, is devalued and corrupted by terrible events and cover-ups is to say the least a major blow.

Full Moral Support

I could go on but probably this is enough for the moment, except perhaps to say that you and Mark and Brian and all the others have my full moral support in your efforts to achieve apologies, compensation and – in whatever way possible – reconciliation.

I particularly appreciate the appeals for happy Mirfield memories and will try to respond in due course.

Father Pinkman Accused me of Leading the Great Escape

Leader of The Great Escape

Someone had told me about it. I can’t remember whom (it might have been Leo Murphy). I was in 2nd year at the time. The Boy told me that Pinkie thought that someone was trying to organise some great escape from The College. Supposedly I was the ringleader.

It was so ridiculous that I just said something to that effect and didn’t think any more of it. I was in 2nd year. If had wanted to go home I could just have stayed at home the last time I was home for Summer, Christmas or Easter. So could the other boys in the supposed ‘escape plot’.

Why would I, ‘the mastermind’, be putting so much thought into the Great Escape when I could simply stay home next time I was there? Why would I also arrange a mass breakout and escape? Why wouldn’t I just go on my own? Everyone could make their own decisions.

Many Miles from Home

It would be different if we were in our first term there and our ‘homesick’ letters were being ripped up.

For God’s sake I had to get myself 400 miles to Glasgow and then another 26 miles to Greenock after that. And I had to do it without any money. Even boys who lived just 20 miles away hadn’t made it.

It just didn’t make any sense at all.

I wrote it off.

Father Pinkman’s Approach

That was extremely stupid.

One evening Pinkie grabbed me and took me into the Form 1 / Form 2 classroom area. He said he had been ‘reliably informed’ that there was going to be a mass escape. Not only that, I was the ‘brains’ behind it and had been planning it for a while.

I mean, let’s forget, for a minute, that this was in a democratic and free country called Great Britain and that this was a school where anybody was free to leave or stay as they wished.

This wasn’t a prison camp in Nazi Germany or a Gulag in the Soviet Union. This was a bloody school in Yorkshire where boys who had volunteered to train for the priesthood were schooled.

The Accused

Let’s forget all that.

When he accused me, I, of course, denied it as it was absolute rubbish. Pinkie refused to accept this at all. He had completely reliable information. This was ‘a fact’ and there was no point in denying it.

He wanted to know the names of the people who were involved and when it was to take place. Of course, I couldn’t give him this information as it didn’t exist.

He was determined to have it. He launched into a diatribe about me being a ‘bad boy’ etc. I can’t remember now all that was said but it was constant like an interrogation, and I remember bursting into tears and sobbing uncontrollably.

This didn’t stop him though. He continued the interrogation. He went on and on demanding the names as I continued to sob and sob, but he wouldn’t stop. “I’m not letting you go until you tell me” he said. It was incessant. It really was like an interrogation. He was completely heartless. He was completely cruel. All he wanted was the information and I could go.

Father Grace Enters

Suddenly, someone burst in the door. It was Fr. Grace. He was a highly respected priest and he went on to become Fr. Rector later. He had been a ‘convert’ from the Anglican religion. He was not one of those people who had been taken away as a boy of eleven and trained for the priesthood but had seen a bit of ‘the other life’. He was highly respected amongst The Boys.

He was the English Literature teacher and damned good at it.

“What’s going on here”, he demanded in a very concerned and raised authoritative voice. I suspect now he might have been listening outside for a few moments.

Pinkie made some excuse but it was clear that Fr. Grace didn’t believe him. He seemed quite contemptious of him. One had always thought that the priests would always stick together – but that wasn’t what was happening here.

Fr. Grace asked me to explain what had been happening but I just said “Nothing”.

Sent Pinkman on His Way

He must have thought that Pinkie’s presence was intimidating me (which it most certainly was). He turned to Pinkie and sent him on his way, to go to his room.

Looking back on this and looking through the eyes of an adult it is obvious that Fr. Grace was well above Pinkie in the pecking order. Pinkie must have been around 23 or 24 and Fr. Grace must have been about 15-20 years older.

I don’t know what Fr. Grace thought was going on but he sure as hell knew something was up – and he knew it was Pinkie’s fault and not mine.

Father Grace Asked Again

When Pinkie was gone he asked me again what had happened.

“Nothing” I replied.

“Come on, you can tell me. I can make sure that if you tell me that he won’t give you any problems again”.

“Nothing” I said.

He tried to convince me that he would make sure I would be all right if I told him what had happened.

Could Have Done for Pinkman

This should have been my moment. Looking back on it now, if I had spilled the beans it might have preempted events by at least a year. I might even have survived at The College. I might even have become a priest.

But I didn’t believe him. In my world Pinkie was the king. He was supreme. What he said went. Reporting him to another priest would be tantamount to ‘vocational suicide’ as I saw it.

I did think about it. My judgment, though, was that Fr. Grace couldn’t stop the all-powerful (in our eyes) Pinkie.

Horrible Wrong

I was wrong. Horribly wrong.

There was nothing Fr Grace could do. I could see he wanted to. He ruffled my hair in a fatherly way which made me sob even more. It was perhaps the first and only tactile kindness I had been shown in my whole time at the college by a priest. I burst into tears.

“OK, off you go then” he said.

I went upstairs to go to the toilet.

Guess who came in?

Yes, you’ve guessed it. It was Pinkie rubbing his hands together very animatedly.

Taken Aback

“Not you again!” I said with disbelief at the reappearance of my tormentor while bursting into further tears.

That really was more than you could say to a priest but I was getting beyond reason expecting my ordeal to start again.

Surprisingly, Pinkie seemed a bit taken aback and on the defensive. He wasn’t the aggressive tormentor of a few minutes ago.

Needed to Know

He wanted to know just one thing. “What did you tell Fr. Grace?”

“Nothing”, I said.

“Are you sure” he said.

“Yes” I said with exasperation expecting a telling off.

“Good” said Pinkie and slunk off through the toilet door.

If I had only known. I had him by throat and didn’t realise it. He knew it though. That’s why, even though he had been sent scuttling off to his room, he had to stick around to know what I had said.

He knew the game could well have been up for him. He needed desperately to know.

However, I had told Fr. Grace nothing – and Pinkie had survived.

English & Welsh Bishops Receive Comboni Missionaries Abuse Document

Conference of Bishops

Members of the Conference of Bishops of England and Wales have a received a copy of Brian Hennessy’s Document on the Comboni Missionaries Reaction to Clerical Sexual Abuse accusations.

The contention of this document is that the Comboni Missionary Order has committed hierarchical victimisation of a group of ex-seminarians by failing to report paedophile priests of their Order to law enforcement agencies:

–  have failed to follow the procedures of Nolan, Cumberlege and safeguarding procrdures,

–  have failed to follow the instructions of Canon Law and

–  have failed to follow the Order’s own Code of Conduct.

In doing so they failed to acknowledge the suffering of Victims and refused to have any dialogue with them and have even been openly hostile to some victims even knowing that at least one of those victims was suicidal.

La Repubblica

The leading Italian newspaper La Repubbluca has reported these incidents on both their TV and copy news outlets and are now in the process of lobbying the Vatican on these issues.

In the United Kingdom the story has already been covered by the BBC, Channel 4, the Telegraph and the Times – and an hour long documentary film is in consideration of being made for a major tv news outlet.

The document calls for action at many levels: CDF at the Vatican, the Pontifical Commission on Child Abuse, the Bishops Conferences of England&Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, and at national and Regional civil/political levels.

The Group of ex-seminarians have also been represented on the Home Office Committees that have contributed to establishing the format and TORs of the forthcoming committee into the conduct of institutions in relation to child abuse – and will be participating in the forthcoming Inquiry.

Comboni Missionary Order

There should be no doubt that the Bishops of the British Isles will be challenged by the media for their views on these matters and any lack of clear decision or direction will meet with a degree of derision.

This would be unfortunate given that the Bishops’ conferences have given such a clear and outstanding lead through Nolan and Cumberlege and the consequent safeguarding procedures now in place.

Regrettably the Comboni Missionary Order have ignored every guidance and rule that pertains to child abuse.

The Bishops of the British Isles are called upon, therefore, to make an example of the Order and take action in accordance with the recommendations in Chapter 10 of the attached document -or otherwise be held to account by the British public for any inaction or obfuscation.

by Brian Hennessy

Comment

I think that most people will agree that Brian has produced a fantastic, and very detailed, document which gets to the heart of the matter. It shows how the Comboni Missionaries have not followed their own procedures nor those of the Catholic Church.

It documents all the incidents of abuse that he can and all the abusers. It will be a powerful document in the coming days.

It will be very useful when the Home Office Panel for Organisational Clerical Abuse sits and this document is presented to them.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to Brian for taking the time out of his life to put all of this together in support of Mark Murray’s achievements and of others.