Pope Francis’ trip to Chile & Peru Needs To Restore Trust In The Catholic Church by Joshua J. McElwee – Followed by a Commentary by Brian Mark Hennessy ( A member of the Comboni Survivor Group)

Pope Francis’ trip to Chile & Peru Needs To Restore

Trust In The Catholic Church

 

Extracts from a National Catholic Reporter Article by Vatican correspondent

Joshua J. McElwee

 

The pope is preparing to embark on a trip to Chile and Peru that may shift the focus from politics to problems inside the church community. Local observers and prominent expatriate voices say attention during the Jan. 15-21 visit may center on how Francis can help the Chilean church regain trustworthiness after a recent spate of cases of clergy sexual abuse. Complicating that possibility, observers say, is Francis’ own record on the abuse issue, especially his 2015 appointment of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid of Osorno, Chile. Barros has been accused of covering up abuse by a prominent priest in the 1980s and ’90s.

Mario Paredes, who has advised both the Vatican and the U.S. bishops on Latin American issues for decades, told National Catholic Reporter that he hoped the pope could help Chile’s hierarchy “restore the credibility that in recent years it has lost. No matter how you look at it, those cases have been horrendous, scandalous, and the church has lost credibility,” said Paredes, a Chile native who is now CEO of Advocate Community Partners, a network of primary care physicians in New York City. “I expect that he will make a strong appeal for a church that is really transparent and truthful.”

But Jesuit Fr. Antonio Delfau, the former longtime editor of the Jesuit ‘Mensaje’ magazine, said the Barros appointment undercuts what Francis might be able to achieve while in the country. “One of the bishops appointed by this pope is a bishop that is questioned not only by the people of the place, but also by most of the other bishops,” said Delfau, now based in Rome as the assistant to the Jesuit curia’s general treasurer. “That’s a big problem.” Barros, who served as the head of Chile’s military diocese until Francis moved him to the small southern city of Osorno in 2015, has been accused of protecting Fr. Fernando Karadima, who was sentenced by the Vatican to a life of prayer and penance in 2011. Though Barros was not implicated in Karadima’s canonical trial, victims say the bishop destroyed incriminating correspondence from the priest. Other victims claim Barros was even a witness to some of the sexual abuse.

Captured on video speaking to a Chilean in the crowd at a May 2015 general audience at the Vatican, the pope said people were judging Barros “without any evidence” and even said the allegations against the bishop were being orchestrated by “lefties.” “Osorno suffers, yes, but for being foolish, because they do not open their hearts to what God says, and instead get carried away by all this silliness,” Francis said. José Andrés Murillo, executive director of ‘Para la Confianza’, a Chilean foundation that helps survivors of sexual abuse, said people in Osorno were “completely shocked” when the video of that encounter was made public by a local news channel in October 2015. “They expected from the pope a reaction of compassion or comprehension,” but instead “received this very aggressive reaction,” Murillo said. “What the people are feeling toward the pope I think is not anger,” he said. “It is sadness. Why can the pope not comprehend the concerns of the people?”

Francis will be visiting Chile Jan. 15-18 before heading on to northern neighbour Peru through Jan. 21. His schedule in both countries follows a familiar format: He will spend his nights in the countries’ respective capitals of Santiago and Lima, but travel to different cities on successive days. As usual, the pope will meet with the nations’ presidents, Michelle Bachelet in Chile and Pedro Kuczynski in Peru; speak to the bishops in each country; and host encounters with young people and priests and religious. Murillo suggested that local attention in Chile may be drawn most to Francis’ Jan. 16 meeting with the country’s bishops and to a possible, but yet unconfirmed, meeting with survivors of sexual abuse. “The most important word I think the bishops should hear from the pope is to listen to the people, listen to normal Catholics,” Murillo said. “The bishops only hear people who say what they want to hear. They don’t accept the crisis that they are suffering. And they think they are not in a crisis.” Asked about a possible meeting with survivors, Murillo responded simply: “This is what Jesus would do.” The pope, he said, should “not only have a meeting with victims … but demonstrate that he is on the same side as the victims and not on the same side as the aggressors.”

 

 

Why Survivors Of Sexual Abuse By Priests

Doubt The Commitment Of The Catholic Church

By Brian Mark Hennessy – Comboni Survivor Group

(The ‘Comboni Survivor Group’ are ‘Core Participants’ in the United Kingdom Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse)

The above article raises specific concerns about Bishop Juan Barros Madrid of Osorno and thereby poses more wide-sweeping questions about the commitment of the Catholic Church to the challenging issues of child sexual abuse. For some victims it poses additional and worrying questions about the underlying true nature of Pope Francis’ position on that issue also. No one could reasonably doubt the Pope’s abject horror at the thought of the sexual violation of children. However, there has been a creeping suspicion amongst many victims of clerical abuse that this Pope’s early stance on the issue (at the time of and soon after his election) will not be followed through with any meaningful action. The most remembered comments of this Pope are his indictment, ‘There is no place in the Church for Clerics who abuse children!’ and his address on the same issue on the occasion of his visit to the United States, ‘God Weeps!’ Those messages gave hope to the survivors of sexual abuse that their suffering was understood and was about to be recognized. It has not worked out quite like that. The misery of their life-long psychological disorientation and their loss of Hope and Faith has not been assuaged – and they no longer look to the Catholic Church for a future that will be brighter.

The appointment and later defence by Pope Francis of Bishop Juan Barros Madrid of Osorno, Chile, is a matter of concern, but there have been other examples of the Pope going back on his promises. Most notably was the lack of follow through on his proposed establishment of a Tribunal to examine Bishops and Religious Superiors who covered up sexual crimes and who had given safe haven to clerics who had committed abuse. He allowed other prelates, including Cardinals, to quietly resign after a filial chat. I cannot recall any Bishops being removed from their thrones, albeit there may have been some of whom I am unaware. There was one Archbishop who was summoned to Rome to be tried at a Tribunal of the Holy Rota for his own contemporary abuse of children – but he died of a heart attack awaiting trial. The predictable conspiracy theories of Borgia-style malevolence have surrounded that incident.

From the standpoint of the Comboni Survivors, the Group is aware of at least 25 seminarians who were sexually abused by Comboni Missionary Order priests and a lay brother at the Stillington and Mirfield seminaries in Yorkshire and the London Elstree seminary between the early 1960’s to the beginning of the 1980’s. Not all the priests accused of abuse in those years have been named publicly by survivors, but their names are known to the Group and their movements to new locations are constantly tracked. One, named Padre Romano Nardo, is held at a secret location to prevent the knowledge of his whereabouts becoming known to the Comboni Survivor Group. Those priests openly accused of abuse have been the subject of credible statements which were provided by a dozen seminarians and other witnesses – some of whom are now ordained clergy. Additional statements were made to the West Yorkshire Police who determined the statements to be both credible and consistent. There are just over 40 such statements in all. The total number of individual sexual assaults on these seminarians has been calculated to have been in the region of 1000, albeit the precise figure will never be known. Admittedly, that is a frighteningly high figure, but as some of those seminarians claim to have been abused almost routinely night after night and week after week during term times over periods as long as two years, it can be understood that the final count will be very significant. Nevertheless, whatever the exact figure may be, each case was an undoubted serious crime in its own right. A document detailing this abuse was collated over a period of two to three years from those witness statements and by interviews. The Comboni Missionary Order’s response to the document and some subsequent civil actions was simple. They said it all happened so long ago that the truth cannot now be determined – if it ever happened at all.

The former Chair of the UK Catholic Safeguarding Commission approached the Order on a number of occasions to ask them to adopt a more conciliatory manner with the Victims, but the Comboni Order would have none of it and refused all dialogue. Ultimately, a copy of the document was taken by hand of Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster to Rome and handed by him in person to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). He did so, according to one source, because he considered the Comboni Missionary Order’s response to the matter to be ‘foolish’. That was two years ago – and there has been no response from CDF to date. Why? Well, apparently, there are so many other cases awaiting study at the Vatican that CDF cannot cope. They have been so overwhelmed that they cannot even acknowledge a receipt of the documents sent to them – besides which, the Prefect of CDF, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller once explained, he did not consider it necessary anyway. That was the moment, some readers will recall, when Marie Collins resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. (That Commission has since fallen into a state of temporary abeyance, I should add, and there is yet no sign of it being re-constituted). Moreover, the Pope has intimated himself in the last couple of weeks that the

Vatican lay ‘civil service’ is an immovable log jam of retrenched incompetence (my paraphrase). That inspires me with no confidence that I will receive a response in my natural life span – and so I am taking much exercise, have abandoned red meat and I am drinking no alcohol in an attempt to extend it. It is no secret that I firmly believe that the early natural death of Victims is what the Catholic Church hopes for – if you get my reasoning.

Whilst there is no answer to why there is a delay in the response in CDF responding that I can reasonably provide, there may be other factors affecting that delay. For instance, three consecutive Superior Generals of the Italian Comboni Missionary Order, based in Rome, have now had audiences with this Pope. One of those is currently the Secretary General of the Union Of Superiors General working within the Vatican walls (as does another Bishop belonging to the Comboni Order). I have to ask whether or not these Comboni hierarchs, three of whom have shown varying degrees of hostility to the Victims, have whispered into the ear of this Pope something akin to what they have also published in the UK press: “It all happened so long ago that the truth cannot now be determined – if it ever happened at all”.

Some readers might be surprised that I would even begin to suggest that a Catholic Order would abandon the charitable and caring Gospel message of Christ, but one member of the Comboni Survivor Group has suffered outright public hostility from the Order very recently. The circumstance, much publicized in the Italian press at the time, was the occasion of a visit of a former child Victim of abuse to see his abuser to gain understanding of the reason why he had been selected for the abuse. That Victim believed, hopefully, that his understanding and subsequent forgiveness of the priest concerned would put his own mind at rest. He did indeed meet the priest who apologized for the hurt inflicted on the former 14 year old – and the victim did forgive him in return. A ‘happy ending’ appeared to be the result of this interaction – until the former Victim opened his mail one morning in North Wales and was greeted with a Court Summons from the Criminal Court of Verona in Italy for ‘trespassing, stalking and interfering in the life of the priest’ (who had abused him when he was a young teenager)! The action had been taken, presumably, at the behest of the Comboni’s new Superior General – whose metaphorical finger prints were all over the wording of the summons. Ultimately, the Judge ruled that there was no evidence for any of the charges and dismissed the case. The hostile Comboni Order, suffering a large dose of unwarranted ‘chagrin’, appealed. The astute, wise and most judicious Appeal Judge again dismissed the case as baseless – adding that the Victim was to be commended for forgiving the childhood abuse perpetrated by the priest!

The implication of the Judge’s dismissal of the Appeal was that since the original charges were dismissed as baseless, the subsequent appeal by the Comboni Order was tantamount to making false allegations – and that was, ‘per se’ illegal. Nevertheless, the Victim ended up paying for expensive Court fees for his defence counsel at the two trial cases at Verona Criminal Tribunal. A third trial is now in the offing, but this time it will be the Comboni Order in the dock for making false allegations against the Victim! In due course we will see how that one is adjudicated!

The Comboni Missionary Order has some 1,500 members across the world – working mostly in Africa and South America. Historically, it is known that as far back as the mid 1900s it was the reckless custom of the Comboni Order to send priests, accused of child sexual abuse in Europe, to the mission territories where those priests again had unfettered access to countless minors. One was even placed in charge of the Ugandan Catholic Scout Movement! From observations of the movements of some other of their priests accused of abuse in recent years, that custom appears not to have ceased. Indeed, in the last decade, one attempt of the Order to send to Uganda a priest who had acknowledged that he had sexually abused a child was halted only following an intervention by a member of the Comboni Survivor Group itself.

Regrettably, experience has taught Survivors that the Comboni Missionary Order has learned nothing from the clerical sexual abuse scandal that has been revealed to the world in recent decades. Whilst the Order will be able to produce documents and Codes of Conduct that include child safeguarding policies, their words and actions demonstrate that those policies exist only to demonstrate ‘theoretical’ compliance. Indeed, their last Code of Conduct that I was able to read, clearly stated on multiple occasions that the reputation of the Order must be considered at all times in order to avoid ‘scandal’ – a word that appeared 19 times in the text. It is clear to see that far from any Comboni Order engagement with rectifying past errors relating to the issues of child sexual abuse, the hidden reality is starkly different.

The Comboni Missionaries, being the largest Italian Religious Order and being based in Rome, have a lot of clout around the world and in the Vatican. Victims have no similar avenue of outreach. Their faith in the Vatican’s ability to even acknowledge receipt of a document outlining countless numbers of the most abhorrent crimes committed by humanity was dashed long ago. They have, in their hearts and minds, only the truth and the psychological scars of the abuse that they suffered. Those same Victims have also come to doubt that any of the public words uttered by this Pope, once seen by them as their hopeful Champion, are meaningful or even part of a consistent, church-wide crusade against a dreadful evil that besets not just the Roman Catholic Church, but all humanity. Paradoxically to all expectations, it is the United Nations and the national, civil jurisdictions of the World that are leading the charge against the evil of child sexual abuse – and not any of the dominant world Religions – which have hardly started to play the game of ‘catch up’!

 

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Seattle Archdiocese Settles Suit Alleging It Helped A Serial Sex Abuser Get A Public School Job – by Dan Morris-Young – with a question from Brian Mark Hennessy

Seattle Archdiocese Settles Suit Alleging It Helped A Serial Sex Abuser Get A Public School Job

 

by  Dan Morris-Young – National Catholic Reporter – 29 September 2017

 

The Seattle Archdiocese has agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle a sex-abuse lawsuit that charged that church authorities had not only neglected to report a known abuser to authorities, but helped him secure employment in the public school system. In a release on the website of the Seattle-based law firm Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala, attorney Jason P. Amala stated: “Our law firm has represented hundreds of abuse survivors, but I cannot think of another case where the defendant removed a known abuser from their private school system and then actively helped him get a job in the public school system.” Listed as “M.R.” in court documents, the plaintiff was a student at now-closed Parkland Elementary School in the Franklin Pierce School District headquartered in Tacoma. He was abused as a sixth-grader there during the 1981-82 school year by Edward Courtney, a former Christian Brother of Ireland, it was stated in a brief August 29th archdiocesan media release. According to the release, “the bankrupt Christian Brothers” were also named in the suit.

Courtney has a well-documented history of sexually abusing children, and his name was among 77 priests, brothers, deacons and a nun named in January 2016 by the Seattle Archdiocese as having been credibly accused of child sex abuse. While the settlement closes the suit by “M.R.” filed in 2015, a second suit by a former Parkland Elementary student was filed in 2016 alleging abuse by Courtney during the same period as M.R. That proceeding is ongoing, according to the law firm and other news reports. According to a February, 2016 Los Angeles Times story, Courtney, who would now be 82, “sold his Seattle-area home in 2013 and signed a sales document notarized in Honolulu. His phone number and address are listed in the Honolulu phone book.” “According to court records,” the Times reported, “the Catholic schoolteacher was a cross-country serial molester, accused of abusing at least 50 children and teens from New York to Chicago and Seattle over three decades.”

While admitting “no direct knowledge of the allegations in these lawsuits,” a Sept. 28 statement by the Seattle-area leader of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said the organization applauded “the two victims who filed suits for pursuing these claims” and underscored the importance of mandatory reporters. “Mandatory reporters are on the front lines of defending children, and when they fail to do their job, they should be held accountable to civil and criminal law,” stated SNAP’s Mary Dispenza. In the Seattle archdiocesan statement, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain said he hopes the settlement will bring closure and assist the survivor in his healing process. “The safety of children and all vulnerable populations in our care is our highest priority,” Sartain is quoted as saying.

Query by Brian Mark Hennessy of the Comboni Survivors Group:

How can Archbishop Sartain find the gall to say that “The safety of children and all vulnerable populations in our care is our highest priority,” – when his Archdiocese found a new appointment for this known serial sex offender at a school? It beggars belief!

A Message to IICSA from Brian Mark Hennessy of the Comboni Survivor Group

A Message to IICSA from Brian Mark Hennessy

of the Comboni Survivor Group:

 

The United Kingdom Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) must be clear and steadfast in it’s goals. The effects of the Inquiry must be felt far into the future. In order that that goal is achieved IICSA must be certain that the Information they gather now will achieve the purpose for which it was devised. They are not constrained by a monetary budget. The United Kigdom Government will pay the cost whatever the cost. Time is no Constraint. That is set out in the Constitution of the Inquiry by Parliament. If they fail to cover all aspects of the history of child abuse now, then they will fail children in the future. Any area of abuse today and in the past will continue unless investigated now. All Civil organizations, Religious Creeds, Civil and Religious Institutes must be investigated and put “on notice” now that they will be watched into the future – that they may be called to give evidence and to be examined – and that if they ever fail in years to come – the recriminations of the Judicial processes of the United Kingdom will be most thorough and severe – and ultimately – their very survival will be questioned.

 

The Royal Commission – Australia’s Inquiry – An Update

 

Distributed by Australia’s BLM Abuse News Blog

 

As Australia is the news through the IICSA child migrant investigation, the work being undertaken by the Royal Commission (RC) in considering issues relating to abuse across many different organisations in Australia should not be forgotten. We summarise below its most recent work, much of which is of relevance irrespective of the jurisdiction in which an organisation finds itself.

Hearings

A series of final hearings are taking place to inquire into the current policies and procedures of 10 institutions in relation to child protection and child-safe standards, including responding to allegations of child sexual abuse. These hearings will, amongst other matters, consider the responses to and implementation of, recommendations which have been made to date by the Royal Commission. It is reasonable to expect the inquiries in England & Wales and Scotland to ask similar questions, and to expect to see consideration being made by UK based organisations of the recommendations made in Australia. These are all available on the Royal Commission website.

A further hearing will meanwhile commence on 27 March to consider the nature, cause and impact of child sexual abuse in institutions. This will consider the nature of child sexual abuse and related matters in institutional contexts in Australia, and how community understanding of abuse has changed over time. It will also look at the extent of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts historically and in contemporary Australia, and challenges to identification and prevention. It will consider if the factors that contribute to the risk of child sexual abuse in institutional contexts are:

  • Factors that make all children vulnerable to sexual abuse and heighten the vulnerability of particular groups of children to sexual abuse
  • Factors that may contribute to people sexually abusing children in institutional contexts
  • Institution-specific factors that may contribute to child sexual abuse.

 

It will also consider the impacts of child sexual abuse and institutional responses on survivors, both in childhood and throughout their adult lives, their families and supporters, and the wider community.

Research reports

Many good reports have already been published and we have previously commented on some of these in our blogs. The most recent are:

Disability and child sexual abuse in institutional contexts – The most reliable data suggests that between nine and 14 in every 100 children with disability are likely to experience sexual abuse. Children with a disability can be vulnerable to sexual abuse due to various factors including the locations and people with whom they spend time, the need for greater physical assistance and attitudes that children with disabilities are less competent and less likely to tell. The report includes recommendations for strategies to prevent future abuse.

 

The role of organisational culture in child sexual abuse in institutional contexts – This report looks at literature and some of the RC case study reports. It found that cultural factors associated with “total institutions” and “macho cultures” may be more conducive to the perpetration of child sexual abuse. This was because they were more likely to conduct their own investigations into allegations of child sexual abuse, rather than referring alleged perpetrators to authorities; to forbid children from retaining personal items and discourage the building of relationships with peers; to promote secrecy and withholding of information from children, staff and others, and/or command children to engage in or refrain from behaviours that make abuse possible and reporting less likely.

 

Children and young people’s views about their safety in residential care – Most of the children and young people who participated in this research described feeling unsafe in residential care due to bullying, harassment and the threat of sexual assault. The report’s conclusions include that children felt safest in residential care when it felt like home, for example when they were in a clean and welcoming environment, where they were able to celebrate events, and were well supervised by adults. To be safe, participants needed their residential care to offer stability and predictability. Many of the young people interviewed described their time in residential care as chaotic, found it difficult to feel settled and spoke of the high turnover of staff. Children were provided with a sense of safety when their residential care provided routine, fair rules and the ability to be heard during decision-making. Residential care felt most safe when adults and institutions took children and young people’s safety seriously and had proactive strategies in place to protect children from harm.

 

Grooming and child sexual abuse in institutional contexts – This report concludes that grooming can involve a range of behaviours that target not only children, but also others involved in gaining access to the child’s life including parents and caregivers and staff in institutional settings. Grooming is often an incremental process which involves three stages – gaining access to the victim; initiating and maintaining the abuse; and concealing the abuse. The best way to identify and prevent grooming and child sexual abuse may be through the development and implementation of policies and procedures, particularly codes of conduct, to prevent and identify such behaviours and through developing an organisational culture that prioritises child safety.

 

Consultations:

 

Criminal Justice – Submissions to a consultation on criminal justice have been published and a seminar heard to discuss the content of the submissions. As part of this consultation a draft Bill has been published which address some issues relating to evidence. The benefit of cross jurisdictional considerations can be seen by the fact that this bill is based in part on laws in England & Wales which allow for much greater admissibility of tendency and coincidence evidence and for more joint trials.

 

Records and record keeping – Following a consultation last year, 40 submissions have been published which comment upon this issue. Five key principles have been determined, they are:

  • Creating and keeping accurate records is in the best interest of children.
  • Accurate records must be created about all decisions and incidents affecting child protection.
  • Records relevant to child sexual abuse must be appropriately maintained.
  • Records relevant to child sexual abuse must only be disposed of subject to law or policy.
  • Individuals’ rights to access and amend records about them can only be restricted in accordance with law.

 

 

Case study reports

The following reports have been published:

Jehovah’s Witnesses – Although the RC only heard evidence from two victims as well as institutional witnesses, it examined evidence from case files held which recorded allegations, reports or complaints by 1006 members of the organisation. The RC found children are not adequately protected from the risk of child sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witness organisation and it did not believe the organisation responded adequately to allegations of child sexual abuse. It considered the Jehovah’s Witness organisation relied on outdated policies and practices to respond to allegations of child sexual abuse which were not subject to ongoing and continuous review. This included the two-witness rule in cases of child sexual abuse which, the RC considered, showed a serious lack of understanding of the nature of child sexual abuse. It noted the rule, which was relied on, and applied inflexibly was devised more than 2,000 years ago.

 

Yeshiva Bondi and Yeshivah Melbourne – This inquiry looked at the response of the Yeshivah Centre Bondi and the Yeshivah College in Melbourne to allegations of child sexual abuse. In particular, consideration was made of the influence of Jewish (or ‘halachic’) law on the responses of the institutions to child sexual abuse allegations and the experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse and their families and the community’s response to them. Consideration was made of the impact of a Jewish law, known as mesirah, which forbids a Jew from informing upon, or handing over another Jew to a secular authority (particularly where criminal conduct is alleged). Even though there had been an advisory resolution in 2010 noting this did not apply to child sexual abuse there was some discouragement within the community to report abuse and a lack of supportive leadership for victims of abuse.

 

Sporting clubs – This report looked at allegations linked to certain football, tennis and cricket clubs. The RC heard evidence from a female football player who had been repeatedly raped by her coach; from a female tennis player sexually abused by her coach in the late 1990s; and from three male cricket players who had been sexually abused in the 1980s and 1990s. The RC gave its opinion on the steps taken by each of these sports clubs in response to the allegations and also looked at the wider policies and procedures of national sporting organisations. It singled out the website ‘Play By The Rules’, which is administered in part by the Australian Sports Commission and which promotes child protection in sport, as a very valuable and effective resource. It provides information, tools and free online training to assist administrators, coaches, officials, players and spectators to manage child safety issues in sport.

 

The Church of England Boys’ Society and the Anglican Dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney – The report concluded that most CEBS (a boys youth group) branches could operate in an autonomous and unregulated way and that abuse often occurred on camps, sailing and fishing trips as well as overnight stays at rectories and private residences. As a result a culture developed in which perpetrators had easy access to boys and opportunities to sexually abuse those boys. There were networks of sexual perpetrators at CEBS who had knowledge of each other’s sexual offending against boys and in some instances facilitated the sexual abuse of children. Systemic failures were also identified including child sexual abuse being treated as one-off offences, or isolated incidents of aberrant behaviour and historically, allegations of child sexual abuse not being reported to the police either at all or in a timely way. There was limited information-sharing between the dioceses about allegations of child sexual abuse; a lack of child protection policies and procedures within CEBS; and a lack of consistent record-keeping about complaints in CEBS at a national and state level. The report also identified minimisation of the offending, a focus on protecting the reputation of the church, dioceses, CEBS and individual clergy and links not being made at a national level in the Anglican Church regarding the possibility of a network of perpetrators within CEBS.

 

Geelong Grammar School – Evidence was heard from 13 former students who reported sexual abuse between 1956 and 1989. The report comments upon the different acts or omissions of the school at the times of reporting of abuse. It also concludes that before 1994, Geelong Grammar had no formal systems, policies and procedures in place dealing specifically with child sexual abuse, or to prevent child abuse. Although policies are now in place, there is no system to either monitor the success of the policies or capture how often teachers are reporting allegations, in accordance with the policies and procedures.

 

Brisbane Grammar School and St Paul’s School – The report considers specific incidents of abuse and the response, or lack of response to disclosure. Amongst other findings are that the head teacher did not achieve his most fundamental obligation, which was to ensure that students under his care were kept safe.

RG Dance and the Australian Institute of Music – We have already commented on this report in our earlier blog.

Submissions in a number of investigations have also now been made publically available.

 

Comboni Missionaries and Clerical “Alternative Information” in a World Replete with Injustice. By Brian Mark Hennessy

Comboni Missionaries and Clerical “Alternative Information” in a World Replete with Injustice.

By Brian Mark Hennessy

It is essential that the Mirfield Seminary Victims of child sexual abuse hold on to what they have – which is their knowledge of the “Truth” of the punitive, degrading and cruel sexual abuse that was perpetrated upon them by members of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, when they were child seminarians in their care. Their “Truth” opens the doors of their right to “Justice”.  They must never waver and nor be afraid to tell it. “Justice” and “Truth” are bedfellows and are dependent on each other. You cannot have one without the other.

They must also hold on to those dear to them who are the only reliable sources of their strength and stability. There is nothing else and no one else out there that can provide their turbulent lives with a secure anchor. They must do that because in this harsh world there are few constant friends. Even those to whom you once entrusted your youth and your future hopes may betray you – as the Apostle Peter betrayed Christ in his most dire moment.

In like vein, the trust that Mirfield Victims of child sexual abuse once had in the Priests and the Hierarchy of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, has been traitorously dashed also. The latter have refused to engage with the Victims in any meaningful way. To put it simply, they just do not care to quell the tempestuous storms and havoc that sexual abuse has created in the minds of those whom they betrayed.

The Combonis at Saint Peter Claver’s Seminary in Mirfield in the 1960’s and 70’s ignored the abuse when it was happening – and so why would they have heed of it now. “It all happened such a long time ago” they have often and vaguely repeated in recent years, “that simply nobody can establish the truth now”.

That is far from the true “truth”, however, for the abuse was largely reported at the time that it took place – and there are Comboni Priests alive today who have given witness to the truth of the abuse.  The sad fact is that if a concerted hierarchy states a lie often enough and with consistency – then that lie replaces the truth in the ears of both unwitting listeners and, eventually, the tellers also. So it is that in the course of time the Combonis have come to believe their own lies.

The worst of the effects of the Combonis’ “new truth”, that emanates from their distortions and denials of the “old truth”, is that these shameful, so-called clerics have destroyed their Victims’ lives. They have achieved this by their silence which is broken only by the disarming “alternative information” of the new “political speak” that they haplessly invented long before did Donald Trump. Such deliberate compulsive “dishonesty” is about as malevolent and cruel a reaction to the Victims’ injuries that could be inflicted.

In a hostile and vindictive way, silence destroys the Victims by forcing them to either give up or to become adversaries. Both outcomes are destructive to the Victims. They can win neither battle because their injuries have been inflicted already – and those wounds are the cause of inexhaustible, constant, complex and profound mental suffering – and even despair. The Combonis’ devastating and contemptuous silence, compounds that suffering – and those clerics appear to know it, welcome it and ignore it.

The Combonis’ disdain of the Victims is not fantasy. What was it that the Vice Superior and Superior of the Verona Mother House said to one Victim when less than two years ago he asked why it was that the Order was protecting a known, self-confessed, paedophile priest within their walls? There was no denial – and they responded variously, “We all make mistakes”, “He is being looked after” and “You are all money grabbers”.

The suffering of the Victims has no effect on the Combonis’ Hierarchy because they are remote and aloof. They do not feel the pain of the Victims’ hurt. Their silence and refusal to have dialogue with them has built up within them a systemic immunity to the Victims’ pain. They turn a deaf ear to the cries of Victims because, in the long run, they know well that you cannot feel remorse nor care for those for whom you have no thoughts. Victims’ cries for help and healing can become less than the sounds of whispers in the howling gale of self-deceit that they have fanned.

At Verona again, the Superior told the Victim, “We don’t want you to meet anybody here…We have nothing to say to you…Rather than concentrating on an apology you should look towards the future…It does not pay for you to be in Verona because you will not see anybody…You will be waiting in vain for an apology.”

Thus, in a disarmingly apathetic and incurious manner, the Combonis of Verona dusted their fleeting thoughts of a Victim off their cassock sleeves as if he were the occasional, irritable, noisy insect that momentarily catches their notice on a warm summer’s eventide dusk. As the slighted Victim left their Mother house in disbelief of their heartless disdain for him, the clergy within murmured their Vespers and praised the Lord. They then continued to watch the sun set over the ancient walled citadel of Verona across the valley to the West. They felt safe again after the Victim had left – and were contented in the false comfort that they were the righteous ones of the God who is constantly in the litany of the utterances of their lips.

They are wrong – and they are pitifully disillusioned. Their assumption that a Just God will overlook their injustices because they continually mouth His Holy name each Liturgical Hour of the day is a grave deception of self-conceit. They persist in their own self-delusion with an arrogance that amounts to both psychotic mental and spiritual blindness.

They fear the Victims. They fear to see their faces before them and they fear to see the stares of accusation in their eyes. They fear to hear their voices raised against them. They do not wish to be in the same space as a Victim. In such proximity, they might sense the tenuous emanations of their suffering and hear the silent outpouring of the inner grief of their hearts and minds. Such propinquity would make them feel ill at ease, perplexed and bewildered. It might even give them scruples and make an alarming dent in their arrogant, clericalist, self-perception of righteousness. It just would not do at all to be the subjects of such alarming and unnerving juxta-positioning.

So, they keep their distance, refuse to meet the Victims, refuse to hear them and put them out of their minds as best they can. Personal contact is for them a frightening prospect. Thus, to save themselves from buckling under the strength and conviction of the “Truth” that they might confront in the gaze of a Victim, they hire a lawyer.

In doing so, they close their hearts to the Victims’ distant, silent existence. Such remoteness is their safety net. It allows their self-deceit to thrive happily in their self-made, moral vacuum. Thus, from Matins to Compline daily, they carry on with their psalm recitations in the vain hope that their God is even remotely listening to them.

Yet, also, they must surely conceal the fear that their God is not listening at all to their brand of “alternative information”. Despite their “shut down” of the simple logic that must constantly  whisper in their ears that their Omniscient God has already well discerned the “Truth” that gives rise to the constant cries of Victims, they continue to don their vacant masks of false contentment. They stick it out in the certainty that one by one the victims, like them, will end their days in an earthen grave – and will there-on-in remain silent. They play the face-saving, callous and hard-bitten predictability of the “waiting game”.

This Mirfield Memories site has many devolved purposes, but the original principle purpose of it was to provide a forum for Victims to unburden their hearts, minds and souls by telling their stories to their past seminarian confreres who once, alongside them, experienced the un-loving regime of Saint Peter Claver’s Seminary in Mirfield. We must not forget, however, that child sexual abuse also took place at Stillington and Elstree. Those stories yet remain to be told.

Some dozen or so ex-seminarians have so far unburdened themselves publicly and told their stories. Another dozen of them have shared their experiences with a core of us – and have benefitted from the fraternity that that engenders. Yet another dozen are known to a very few of us, for they have not yet overcome the struggles involved in casting off the burdens of their painful silence.

Whilst the Comboni Missionary Order remains in contemptuous denial of the truths that they have known for some five decades, these struggling, and as-yet silent Victims of child sexual abuse, live lives that have been brutally blighted by the blatant blasphemy – the “magnum mendacium” –  of the Hierarchy of an Order of Religious men who with sacrilegious desecration deny Christ – not just thrice – but with consistent apparent ease.

Meanwhile, these lone, suffering Victims of Comboni child sexual abuse who are still out there in the wilderness must forever hold on to the “truth” of the debased, cruel and punitive abuse that they once suffered. We, their fellow victims, extend to them a hand of warm understanding friendship. We stand before them as witnesses to the undeniable fact that child sexual abuse was perpetrated at the Comboni Missionary Order’s United Kingdom seminaries by callous adult, paedophile clerics who took advantage of the youthful innocence of young boys who trusted and idolised them – and aspired to be one of them.

Those silent victims of abuse have no need to feel alone for we have belief in the untold truth that is hidden in their hearts. We, of necessity, also remain the Truth and Justice adversaries of all the silent, abused children of Stillington, Mirfield and Elstree. That role was cast upon us by an Order of Catholic Clerics, the Comboni Missionaries of Verona, Italy, who remain in grievous moral denial of God’s “Truth” and who are yet to find enlightenment and humble, Gospel-based leadership in a world replete with injustice.

Experts tell Australian abuse panel church must look at clerical culture

Experts tell Australian abuse panel church must look at clerical culture

U.S. Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle, who served as a canon lawyer at the Vatican nunciature in Washington and spent decades working with abuse victims, told members of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that he hoped their report would have a profound effect in the Vatican. He urged the commissioners to prioritize care for the victims.

see:     https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/experts-tell-australian-abuse-panel-church-must-look-clerical-culture

From the Comboni Survivor Group to Alexis Jay, the Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child sexual Abuse.

 

Professor Alexis Jay OBE – Chair

Independent Inquiry into Child sexual Abuse

Milbank Tower

London

Our ref: DE/IICSA 25 November 2016

Dear Professor Jay

Open letter

We, (the Forde Park Survivor Group, the Stanhope Castle Survivor Group and the Comboni Survivor Group, Survivors of Organised and Institutional Abuse, F13, F25 and F35) wish to raise with you our shared concerns regarding this Inquiry, its apparent lack of direction, lack of discernible progress and its failure to allow and support Survivors in participating in this Inquiry. Together we represent over 20% of Survivor core participants in the IICSA. Our voices matter and we will be heard.

We start by saying clearly that we want the IICSA to continue, to work effectively and to succeed. But that support is not offered blindly or unconditionally. Thus far, we feel that the IICSA has seriously and repeatedly failed to live up to its promise to put Survivors at the heart of this Inquiry.

This Inquiry was set up by the former Home Secretary Theresa May, now Prime Minister, who described the Inquiry as a “once in a generation opportunity” to expose what went wrong in institutions and public bodies and to prevent it from happening again. In opening the Inquiry it was said that Survivors of child sexual abuse should be “at the centre of this Inquiry” and that “their views would inform the Inquiry throughout”. Survivors need to be allowed to take their place at the “centre of the Inquiry.”

Our wish, which we believe is shared by all Survivors, is that this statutory Inquiry achieves its aims of discovering the true extent of child sexual abuse that was permitted to take place in the past and ensuring that children are properly protected in the future. To do this, the Inquiry has to thoroughly investigate what happened in the past, as it is only by recognising and acknowledging 2

the past that we as a society can move forward and implement the lessons learned from the past so that children can be protected from organised and institutional abuse in the future.

However, despite the Inquiry having been established over two years ago, we have not seen or felt any progress. The Inquiry seems to be under constant threat and constant criticism. Rarely does a day go by without resignations of lawyers and comments in the press stating that the Inquiry is not fit for purpose or suggesting that it is falling apart at the seams.

Let us be clear, the members of our groups, and those who look to our groups to represent their experiences, are ready and willing to participate. Our lawyers have not resigned despite working without funding for up to a year. Our groups are not falling apart at the seams, despite the heavy stresses that this Inquiry has placed upon our members.

Survivors have been waiting for years, if not decades, for an inquiry such as this to take place; and once established, for that inquiry to start tackling the issues of enduring concern; to determinedly seek out the lessons from the past and begin to put into place the measures that will protect children from abuse in the future.

We have been told that you, the Chair, are conducting a review of the Inquiry and have promised that the views of Survivors will be taken into account before any changes are made to the investigations.

We wish to confirm that, as regards any proposed changes to the Inquiry, whilst Survivors will listen and consider any review of the Inquiry, we will not agree in advance without full and proper consultation to any modification or reduction in scope of the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference or Scope of investigations.

The Inquiry has been besieged by criticism and beset by resignations from many lawyers working within the Inquiry. To all intents and purposes the Inquiry appears to have stagnated. The press and the media coverage all point to problems with management, systems and engagement.

Neither Survivors nor their lawyers are being kept up to date as to any progress or about the possible future shape of the Inquiry. For many of us, this repeats the way that the police and the civil and criminal justice systems treated us after being abused. For many of us, the on-going problems with the Inquiry bring back the memories of the way we were abused and the way that we were treated after reporting that abuse.

All of us have been abused and then ignored or side-lined. The apparent mess being created by this Inquiry and the constant suggestions that the Inquiry is too broad or too unwieldy, with a stream of Chair appointments and resignations as well as lawyer appointments and resignations, is adding to our pain and the pain of other Survivors. ‘Here we go again’ we say and with good reason. 3

The press appear to be fascinated with the drama from within the Inquiry and the House of Commons seems to be treating the Inquiry as a political football. Indeed, on 21 November 2016 in the House of Commons, Sarah Newton, a junior Home Office minster, was forced to reiterate that she was “confident, as is the prime minister, as is the home secretary, in the ability of Professor Jay to lead this inquiry,” and that “She [you] has a distinguished career in social work and a longstanding dedication to child protection” after urgent questions were raised by other MPs regarding the current state of the Inquiry. The Home Affairs Select Committee continued its criticisms of the Inquiry yesterday.

Occasionally there is a statement from the Inquiry stating that Survivors are integral to the Inquiry process when in fact we are being left in the dark about what is happening and what will happen in the future. So we say, with good reason, that we are being ignored and side-lined once again.

Assertions that the Inquiry is taking on board, and will take on board, the opinion of Survivors have so far been nothing more than words. We ask you to make that sentiment and intention real and not just a platitude.

What we require is a firm and clear statement from you, and the Inquiry team, setting out what has gone wrong and laying down a clear path for the future progress of this Inquiry.

Conclusion

Professor Jay, we know that you have only been in the post for a short time, and that the task before you is a very large one. We want you to succeed, we are willing you to succeed, we want nothing more than to support you, but you must urgently give us reasons to have faith and for that support to continue.

What is required is a full hearing where the Chair of the Inquiry can properly address the criticisms that have been made and set out the scope and future dates of the Inquiry’s work. Such a meeting would allow Survivors and their representatives a chance to publicly state our concerns, in the clearest terms, and to have those concerns heard and addressed.

We are not happy, we are not satisfied, and we want to say so publicly.

However, we also want to say publicly that we want to support you. We want to give you the chance to show us that you understand why we are unhappy and to demonstrate to us that you have a clear road map and are determined to get to the destination of uncovering the truth and previous failings to start the process of healing and to protect children in the future. 4

We ask you to urgently schedule a hearing at which all of us can attempt to lance the boil of dissatisfaction and thereafter to recommit ourselves to the shared goals of truth, recovery and future child protection.

Signed on behalf of

Forde Park Survivors Stanhope Castle Survivors Comboni Survivors

Survivors

 

SUPPORTING AND ENDORSING THE WORK OF SNAP — by Brian Mark Hennessy

SUPPORTING AND ENDORSING THE WORK OF SNAP  —  by Brian Mark Hennessy

 

SNAP, the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, will be well known to most readers of this Blog as it is the world’s oldest and largest support group for persons abused by priests – but not only priests of the Catholic Church. It has also provided a place of focus to nuns, rabbis, bishops and Protestant ministers. Their basic quest is to urge “every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Catholic churches or institutions to protect kids” by calling the police, getting help by calling therapists, exposing wrongdoers by calling law enforcement agencies, getting justice by calling attorneys, and being comforted by calling support groups like theirs”.

The Comboni Survivors Group support these aims wholeheartedly – as this is the only way that children will be safer, adults will recover from the traumatic and long-term impacts of childhood abuse, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred, the truth will surface, lessons can be learned and safeguards can be put in place to protect the children of the future. In order to achieve these aims – and to encourage participation – an essential ingredient of the process is total and permanent confidentiality

The aims of SNAP are, indeed, also very closely aligned to those that the United Kingdom’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse also fosters. The ultimate aims of both are to relieve suffering, examine wrongdoing and bring institutions that have failed to protect children to full public account. That is why the Comboni Survivors Group (also known as “The Mirfield 12”) have given their full support to that Inquiry and why they have fully supported the “Truth” Project” that is associated with the Inquiry and which legally provides them with total anonymity. Indeed, the Comboni Survivor Group are also dignified as victims by being granted “Core Participant Status” within that Inquiry. This grants the Group a range of privileges that includes anonymity and a formal role, defined by legislation, in the Inquiry. They also have special rights in the Inquiry process which include receiving disclosure documentation, being represented and making legal submissions, suggesting questions and receiving advance notice of the Inquiry’s Report.

It is with some alarm, therefore, that a report by Brian Roewe, in the National Catholic Reporter on 2nd September 2016, stated that a “St. Louis federal judge levied sanctions last week against the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests for resisting a court order to turn over documents containing victim information”. SNAP had resisted the Order, it seems, as it had genuine concerns that to hand over the documents would have given rise to serious issues about survivor confidentiality going forward. The judge enforced the sanctions, which included a hefty fine, against SNAP after determining that SNAP had refused to comply with the court order and, in so doing, “had been willful and in bad faith.”

Brian Roewe further explained that David Clohessy, representing SNAP, had said that the order had worried the organization’s members. He had explained that he considered the pursuit of the documents was “part of an escalating campaign to discredit us and defund us” and to prevent victims, witnesses and law enforcement officials from seeking SNAP’s help”.

Lorenz-Moser, acting on behalf of SNAP, added that SNAP had turned over between 600 and 700 pages of documentation that included internal communications, but had omitted or redacted those concerning victims and advocacy work on their part. “If victims are scared that they don’t have confidentiality or their names might be disclosed to their abuser or to others, or that their private communications might be disclosed, they don’t come forward. Not only do they not come forward, but they don’t seek services that they need, they don’t feel protected, they don’t report crimes, and they don’t end up in a position to be able to vindicate themselves, and to stop the abuser from abusing other people,” she said.

The UK Comboni Survivor Group are not competent to comment on the niceties of US State Law. Yet, we do insist that any Justice procedure in any land should, in its pursuit of justice, examine the serious effects that any legally enforced disclosure of documentation relating to a vulnerable victim of abuse might have on that victim. Documentation, such as an abused victim’s voluntary statement, are made by the victim with an expectancy of absolute confidentiality. I suggest that it would be essential that a qualified medical doctor, cognizant of the effects that disclosure might have on the victim, be called as a witness before any such disclosure is made legally binding. An organization such as SNAP, should be able, without penalty, to honour the expectancy of confidentiality of a vulnerable victim of abuse – unless that victim has rescinded confidentiality – and medical evidence supports that is safe for the victim so to rescind it.

Written by Brian Mark Hennessy