BY BRIAN MARK HENNESSY – A Member of the Comboni Survivor Group
It was about 57 years ago when I was locked in the infirmary for two weeks and abused twice a day by Valmaggia – following my few weeks in hospital. I was discharged from hospital because I was well enough again to re-enter my normal routines at Mirfield – despite some residual discomfort. It was Valmaggia’s choice – and not mine – to be confined to the infirmary. It was Valmaggia’s choice to abuse me twice a day in the guise of medical inspections.
He already had a long record of abuse stretching back to Stillington. Despite that record of abuse – I was not visited in the infirmary for the two weeks by anyone in authority at Mirfield to see if I was OK – nor was any other pupil allowed to visit. Valmaggia was given free rein to do as he pleased. The Comboni Hierarchy are all complicit because they already knew that Valmaggia was capable of and that he had sexually abused others.
Yes – it all happened a long time ago – and Yes Valmaggia died about 20 years ago – after the Combonis released him from the Oder and allowed him to be incardinated into to a parish at Como where he would have had access to more children.
Mark had long reported his abuse by Nardo before Mark went to Verona. He was brushed aside by the UK Provincial and by the Verona Superior with comments like ‘We all make mistakes’ . Clerics in authority – up to Superior General level (who personally authorised every posting to the Missions) then intended to send Nardo back to Uganda where he ran a school. The others of us have probably met with similar levels of resistance or examples of being fobbed off. Chris has documented his struggles via the UK Hierarchy route in detail.
In the Comboni Rules in existence – certainly up to a few years ago – those who abused in the Northern hemisphere were simply rapped over the knuckles and sent on to another location – mostly to the missions – to get them out of the way. Pinkman admitted this as much in the History of the Comboni Order that he wrote:- in which a conversation between the Superior General and the UK Provincial was recorded to the effect that:- worthy clerics should be able go to the Missions and not just be held back – because the priority was that those who ‘misbehaved’ in Europe were sent to the Missions to get them out of the way.
We have many other examples we could sight – but my general point is that whilst most of those who abused us are now dead – we must never accept that we should ‘move on’ – because it is the ORDER and it’s HIERARCHY itself that has and still does simply ‘move abusive clerics on’ today – and Nardo is just one quite recent example of an attempt to send him back to the Missions where he founded and ran a school – and would have been able to avoid prosecution and scrutiny – and continue to abuse children.
I do not have a copy of the latest Comboni Code of Conduct and so I am not up to date – but I anticipate that it has not changed much. The previous three editions are broadly the same and the changes are cosmetic and do not solve the basic issue that these clerics should have NO contact with any children whatsoever – have committed Civil Crimes – and indeed should have been handed over to Civil Police authorities in the jurisdiction in which they offended.
My point is that we are right NOT to ‘move on’ – because the Combonis have not changed. Our issues are also about the Order and the role of Provincials and the Superior General and not just the individual child sexual abusers. We need to make this abundantly clear in any conversations we have at the Vatican or anywhere else – whether those conversations are with Scicluna, the Pope or any cleric of the Curia and worldwide Hierarchy.
The Comboni’s Hierarchy is as much to blame as the individual Child Abuse Offenders – who should all have been handed over to law enforcement officers for the crimes they committed – and not ‘tolerated’ and just shunted off somewhere else.. The Vatican Curia is also responsible for their decades – indeed millennia – of failure.
The Pope, I understand (correct me if I am wrong) has now determined that cases of abuse should always be referred to the Civil authorities – if I have understood the latest announcements correctly. This should be extended to all past cases where the offender is still alive – and not just new cases. There can be no ‘time expired’ crimes of child sexual abuse washing around in the Vatican Curia – Dioceses or Religious Institutions!
Perhaps Scicluna could be asked to verify this situation for us. I don’t appear to have contact details for him. But at any rate – the methodology of the Superior Generals and the Provincial Superiors are very valid targets of our focus. They are the powers that have blocked us for the past 20 odd years of struggle (however many years it is I cannot remember)! They need to be forced by the POPE to appologise wholeheartedly and publicly for fobbing us off in matters concerning wherever their clerics have committed abuse and in whatever part of the world they have then sent them in the hope that their record of abuse will be unknown. Such announcements in each case (dioceses and Religious institutions) should be compulsory worldwide if not already fully made.
That should all be part of our message to the POPE – and that must for the basis of the fullest apology that is given to us by the Comboni Hierarchy. We must not ‘move on’ until then.
(I must have had a bad dream about the Combonis last night – as this all came flashing into my mind as I woke up)!
Forgive any grammar and spelling issues!
Brian Mark Hennessy