What the UK Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse Doesn’t Want to Know – by Brian Mark Hennessy

What the UK Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse Doesn’t Want to Know
by Brian Mark Hennessy

We need to be clear about this matter. Pope Francis has stated many things in the past about the sexual abuse of children by clerics. Surviving victims of clerical sexual abuse all remember clearly his words in the Vatican’s Santa Marta where he stated to an international gathering that “There is no place in the Church for Clerics who abused children”. They remember his words spoken on his trip to the United States of America: “God weeps”. They remember the day when he promulgated the establishment of a Vatican Tribunal which would hold Bishops accountable for their failure to take action against those clerics within their dioceses who had abused children. They remember his establishment of a Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Surviving victims of clerical sexual abuse have welcomed every pronouncement that Pope Francis has made in the past concerning his abhorrence of child sexual abuse. Now, however, Victims rightly ask what genuine steps forward have been made by the Roman Curia and the Diocesan Bishops of the world. What future difference will Pope Francis’ latest comment, “Sexual Abuse by Priests is an Absolute Monstrosity” achieve? In truth, most Surviving Victims now have little faith in any tangible change being achieved whatsoever – but is that fair? Is the Pope the problem?

Let us be candid for a moment: there have been some changes. For instance, a fellow Jesuit of Pope Francis, Father Hans Zollner, who is the Academic Vice Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, has made great strides in the education of clerics (including all newly appointed Bishops) in order to illuminate both the psychological and spiritual implications for both victims of abuse and the clerics who abuse them. He has held worldwide symposiums on the issues and has gathered both students and scholars together in Rome to share and spread their ideas and knowledge to the corners of the Catholic World. There are others, of course – and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston who presides over the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Children is another example. His major beef has been with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for their ineptitude in the handling of child sexual abuse cases – and starving his Commission of adequate funds. Pope Francis recently made a shrewd and telling move concerning O’Malley when he appointed him in January of this year as a full Board Member of the Congeregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – presumably to shake it up a bit and help O’Malley make some leeway with the Pontifical Commission. Francis also got rid of Cardinal Muller, who severely and unjustifiably criticized the film Spotlight, as head of CDF, and who more recently stated that it was inappropriate for members of CDF to write back to Victims of clerical child sexual abuse who had written to him about their experiences.

Nevertheless, despite the historic retrenchment in dicasteries of the Roman Curia such as CDF, it is a fact that Catholic dioceses and scholastic institutions throughout most of the globe now have clear guidelines on the issues and procedures that are essential for the care and protection of children. We hope, with an appropriate degree of discomforting past expectation, that they will follow the procedures they have so carefully devised. Happily, the lay Catholic Church is miles ahead of their clerics and is holding them to account in the most effective way known to them – leaving church pews and collection plates ever more empty. That is one certain factor that will concentrate a clerical mind steadfastly on the essentials.
To be equally fair, however, and the Pope is right about this also, the entrenched and often pernicious arrogance of “clericalism” still treads upon the stone flagstones of religious houses and monasteries. There are many mitred and scarlet scull-capped heads within the Church that have an entrenched “mightier than thou” view of their dignity. Indeed, within some global religious structures there is both a perverse and pervasive resistance to any change in the “status quo”. Some even rage against criticism and all outside interference. Moreover, some Church institutions have adopted not just a false morality which is misguided by a conscience that is incompatible with Gospel-based Christianity, but they regard themselves as virtually autonomous structures beyond the reach of Pope and Curia. Unconscionably, it is the Roman Curia structures of the Catholic Church that have allowed this to happen by their failure to subject these Church institutions to any form of internal moral audit.

So what are these institutions that, in practical day to day terms, are even beyond the reach of Popes, Cardinals and Bishops – institutions with such a degree of autonomy that they are able to pay smiling and pious lip-service to the Pope, Curia and Canons of the Church, but, still smiling, lend a deaf ear and carry on as if Pope, Curia and Canons hardly exist at all. Quite simply, they are the Religious Orders of the Catholic Church. These institutions elect their own leaders, write their own Rules, interpret those Rules how they wish, have no geographical interference from – nor owe any allegiance to Bishops, Archbshops and Cardinals. More importantly – in practical terms, they are accountable to no one. Yes, upon the foundation of these Religious Institutions, (mostly many years back in history), their “Rule” would have been approved by the Vatican Congregation for the Religious. Then on in, unless something most exceptional and catastrophically irreligious comes to public attention, they will not be monitored in anything they do.

Yet, these Religious Societies, Congregations, Orders – however they describe themselves – have a total number of members close to one million – which is three times the number of the Catholic diocesan clergy in the world. They manage countless thousands of teaching establishments, hospitals, hospices, youth clubs and youth movements – and remote mission stations in third world countries throughout the globe. They undertake these tasks with children and vulnerable adults on trust – but so many of them falsely belie that trust.

In the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse which recently published its findings, of the ten Religious Orders that were investigated, on average about 14% of their total members were alleged to have committed acts of child abuse. In one Religious Order that figure of abusing Religious clerics was 40.4% – and in another three Orders the figures were over 20%. These shocking statistics cannot be extrapolated to Religious Orders throughout the world, but it appears to be apparent that in some Orders, or perhaps in some communities within Orders, the self-indulgent abuse of minors can become “endemic” to an extent that is not mirrored within the diocesan priesthood. There has to be a reason for this. I cannot make judgements and give witness about all Religious Orders within the Catholic Church, but I can make comment about one Order that I know well.

In the case of the Comboni Missionary Order (previously known as the Verona Fathers) who operated the Mirfield Seminary in Yorkshire, England, from 1960 to the early 1980s, the permanent community of male Religious numbered, at any one time, about ten to twelve Religious including both priests and lay brothers – and for a relatively brief period of time also one layman. Those accused of the sexual abuse of the seminarians there totalled 4 Religious priests, one Religious lay brother under vows and one lay teacher. That is a total of six members of staff against whom allegations of child abuse were made. The numbers are not great, but it has been calculated that something in the region of 1000 incidents of child sexual abuse, each incident a crime in its own right, were perpetrated by those few individuals. Most boys remained silent about the abuse at the time, unaware in their immaturity, what was being perpetrated against them. Within that period, however, some 26 reports of abuse, from amongst the 20 abused boys who have made statements, were reported to members of the Order. In the case of one of the priests 10 reports are claimed to have been made, but no action was taken on those reports for three years. That priest was ultimately incardinated in an Italian parish – where, presumably, he had access to more children. In the case of the second priest, the first reports were made in 1965, but it was not until 1969, following continuous reports, that action was taken against him. After a brief sojourn in London, that priest was sent to Uganda (where he organized Catholic boy Scouts) and then he was transferred to a Mission in South Africa. Another of the priests, when discovered was also sent to the Missions immediately upon discovery – and a fourth followed suit similarly.

Curiously, the pattern of the percentage of the number of Religious at Mirfield who were abusing children was between 10 and 20% of them at any one time – about the same as the average 14% reported in the investigations of the Australian Royal Commission. Another feature in common between Mirfield in England and the Religious Communities in Australia where abuse occurred, is that the abuse was often reported at the time, but no resultant action was taken to protect those children from further abuse. In both cases, thousands of miles apart, reports were made, but ignored. Additionally, it is known in both the Mirfield and Australian cases that often further reports were made to more senior clergy further up the hierarchy, but those reports were also ignored. In the case of some of the abuse at Mirfield, it is known that not only the Provincial Superior of the Order was made aware of the abuse, but also the Superior General of the Order in Italy had been informed. Again no action, as it is even laid out in their own Code of Conduct, was taken – and nor were reports made in accordance with Canon Law to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Nor were reports made to the Civil Police as they were required so to do under the Common Law Act of Misprision that was current at that time. Finally, many of the Religious clerics against whom a modicum of action was eventually taken to stave off an outcry, were simply moved on to another community where they could continue to abuse yet more children. The clear fact of this evidence is that not only was abuse of young seminarians allowed to continue unchecked for years at the seminary, but another eight priests in the Order at the seminary and hierarchy to whom reports of abuse were made did nothing about it at all. Practically speaking, the whole community was complicit in the abuse for years on end.
The lessons to be learned from many multitudes of investigated cases of clerical child sexual abuse within Religious Communities are legion, but the pervasive themes surround a distorted sense of “self” in terms of what they stand for and their dignity – both as individuals and collectively. There is a Canon which in essence states that the Roman Church must never be brought into disrepute. There has probably never been a Canon more misused than this – but misinterpreted it was to ensure that clerical miscreants were protected. To achieve this aim, attention was focused on whom they needed to protect and what damage limitation was required in order to deflect unwelcome criticism. The tactics they utilized both then and today were denial, silence, suggestions that the victim was the instigator, refusal to accept that any harm was done, demanding the silence of the victim, even the expulsion of victims and witnesses on the grounds that they were unsuitable, sending victims away for psychiatric evaluation and causing them to become isolated. Such behaviour is manifestly a concept of elitism in which the abuser’s status must remain intact and unchanged, whilst the abused is made an outcast and is considered to be unworthy.
For a child who has grown up to understand that the abuser could do no wrong such tactics aimed at the self-preservation of the “community” are devastating. The rejection by and isolation of the victim from the very person they once trusted implicitly and from the broader community at large, becomes, in psychological terms, critically and often permanently damaging. For an Institution, Religious or otherwise, which routinely adopts such tactics for their own self-preservation, there is another dimension to the obvious cruel arrogance of their tactics. That is that they themselves have to unlearn the very basic concepts of their Christian morality and substitute it with a newly learned false conscience that absolves them from the shame and guilt of their cruelty. These practices are the basis of arrogant “clericalism” and it is a rife facet of Catholicism about which Pope Francis has been severely critical.
In comparison with the Religious Institutions, it is fairly well established that the Catholic diocesan clergy of most Countries in the developed world are getting their act together. Admittedly, that is not true in the case of all countries as the less developed parts of the globe, specifically in Asia and Africa, often still have cultural difficulties in communicating the issues related to child abuse. Nevertheless, the Jesuit, Father Hans Zollner at the Vatican’s Gregorian University is actively trying to address these issues.

Notwithstanding his efforts, however, the Roman Curia has a blind spot – and that is the Religious Orders of the Church. Specifically, we are not talking of the historic Religious Orders – the Benedictines, Carthusians, Carmelites, Dominicans etc who mostly live in closed or semi-closed communities. The Vatican blind spot is the unaccountable conduct of the multitude of Religious Societies that globe-trot the world running missions, schools, medical facilities and youth organizations.
Sadly – and this is not an after-thought, but a deliberate statement – the United Kingdom’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has learned nothing from the Catholic world around them. Rather, they have ignored the facts of the Australian Inquiry – and others – and in investigating only the Diocesan Church structures and one historic “monastic” Order of the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom (the Benedictines), they have blinded themselves, as has the Vatican, to the most pressing issue that confronts the problem of child abuse within the Catholic Church. That issue is the autonomous nature of the Religious Societies that roam the globe. Those Societies have total autonomy from the Diocesan Bishops – who are largely beginning to get a grip on the issues and are active in putting robust measures in place to protect children and adequately deal with the perpetrators of abuse.

However, the Superior Generals of the Religious Societies have the same authority over their members as have the Bishops over their diocesan clergy – but they report to no equivalent of a Bishops’ Conference where an Archbishop, who often has a direct input with the Vatican, holds sway. The Religious Societies have only one global institution in which they participate and that is the Union of Superiors’ General at the Vatican in Rome. That Union’s General Secretary, Father David Glenday, was a contemporary of most of the child victims of sexual abuse at the Comboni Missionary Order’s Seminary in Yorkshire England. He is also a former Superior General of the Comboni Missionary Order. He wrote that Order’s Code of Conduct to which that Order merely pays lip service. He was also involved directly in a failure to report an instance of clerical sexual abuse to the Vatican and providing the abusing cleric with immunity from civil prosecution. Considering those facts, he is probably the least appropriate person to be giving guidance to the worlds Superior Generals on matters concerning the sexual abuse of children in Catholic institutions.
By not determining the Comboni Missionary Order to be a “Case Study” in the UK Inquiry and insisting on the presence of Father David Glenday, a British citizen before her Inquiry, Professor Alexis Jay is ignoring the lessons to be learned from the modus operandi of the multitudinous Religious Institutions that roam the Catholic Church throughout the world – and who also work within the United Kingdom. Those institutions control 75% of all the clerics of the global Roman Catholic Church. As such, those same global Religious Orders have control over the thousands upon thousands of Catholic educational and welfare institutions that they sponsor and directly administer – and the millions of young Catholics who attend them. A direct consequence of the decision made by Professor Alexis Jay to exclude the Comboni Missionary Order from a Case Study by the Inquiry is that the validity of the IICSA Findings in the Roman Catholic Church Investigation will be numerically reduced to a mere 25% of their full potential. That is unacceptable.

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WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MORAL CONSCIENCE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH? by Brian Mark Hennessy

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MORAL CONSCIENCE

OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH?

 

Mark Twain once said, A clear conscience is the sure sign of a bad memory”! He was being mischievous of course. His intention was not to utter a literal truism, but to say something that we all learn in childhood, sometimes painfully, which is that now and then “our clear conscience” is a matter of convenient, feigned memory loss to cover an inconvenient known truth. When I was a Boy Scout, getting caught up a tree trying to rescue a non-existent cat whilst in the act of “scrumping” apples was where I learned that lesson. The problem is, when it comes to “conscience” many people do not truly understand what it is and how we each came to have one?

What is a fundamental truth is that we were not born with an inherited “conscience”. There is no “conscience” gene implanted within us by an extraterrestrial “being”. The cerebrum, which is the inherited genetic organ of our intelligence, nevertheless, has a part to play in forming “conscience” because it is integral to the sense of our “consciousness” and gradually provides us with an awareness of “self” and “other” as we grow in early childhood. Our cerebral ability to observe and learn assists us in the assimilation of our environment, including our physical surroundings, our parents, extended family and the boundaries that exist in all interactions, both mental and physical during play, education and within society at large.

In the process we understand gradually what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior and what are the limits beyond which we should not go. The learning process is continuous and it includes the norms of behavior in a complete and complex culture – down to whether or not it is appropriate to drive on the right or the left hand side of the road. Abstract aspects of culture are also learned – as for example the necessity to tell the “Truth” – and that necessity comes from an awareness that you will not be accepted by society if you are unreliable. “Truth”, indeed, is so fundamental to co-existence and good order within a society that an individual or group will be rapidly and permanently ostracized from other networks of interacting individuals within a community if an act of lying or deception is exposed. Implicitly, therefore, each person’s unique conscience is a learned “rule book”. Of course, in different cultures with different social mores and religious norms – whole groups of individuals will have a distinct set of conventions that have a bearing on their collective “conscience”, but they will also have a more general code of conduct, influenced by universal humanity. That code has been specifically devised to ensure our essential adaptation as individuals to living within a safe and harmonious extended society. In this context, the conscience is not specifically a vehicle of moral discernment, but a guide to the essential needs of “survival” in a complex world.

The position of the Catholic Church on “conscience” is not at odds with the above as a “general” theory. St Thomas Aquinas said in his “Summa Theologiae” – if I can deduce anything he said to a few words – that conscience is the “learned habits of the mind”. The Church today regards conscience as a “remarkable and distinctly human facility of our reason”. However, they emphasise one aspect of “conscience” by suggesting that its function is primarily to enable individuals to make “moral” judgements – and it is thus a reminder to us of the difference between good and evil. The proof of that pudding, they claim, is that we have a “guilty conscience” if we knowingly choose what they consider to be the “immoral” option. The Catholic Church further believes that an already formed set of learned habits may be faulty, even immoral, and thus each Catholic, in his or her own way, must take dutiful steps to form a new “moral” conscience in the light of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the examples of the Saints and Martyrs. Individuals can do that by learning and taking to heart the “moral” law, as found in the authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church. This forms an objective “moral conscience”, they claim.

Currently, in the United Kingdom, the Government is endeavoring to increase the numbers of “non-faith” or “other faith” children within Catholic Schools. The Catholic Church’s current robust determination to maintain Catholic Faith Schools primarily for Catholic children – coupled with the historic priority they have given to teaching the Catechism – should be understood as a major part of the Church Hierarchy’s aim to ensure that Catholic “consciences” are specifically formed in the light of their teachings alone. The Catholic Hierarchy perceives, correctly of course, that exclusivity of Catholic children in their schools is the only way that they will be able to ensure each individual child’s continued membership in the Church in the future. If you are a sceptic – it will ensure their future financial support also. It would not be a surprise to learn that this is a model that the Catholic Church mirrors throughout the world. Being that children are unable to make a choice about their own schooling, the process is rightly described as “indoctrination” – but then the complete process of all choices of parenting can be seen in the same vein.

Conversely, I should of course note in passing, that if the moral habits of the mind can be learned, then they can also be un-learned – and replaced over time by what the Catholic Church would most probably describe as “immoral” or “evil” habits. In any such a process of transition there will be continuous inner conflict until one set of norms dominates the mind. Such conflict is manifest in the minds of many today, particularly the youth of this world, who seek to throw off the shackles of Catholic Church teachings in order to embrace their perceived or true, innate natures. Examples of individuals who, out of necessity need to embark on this process of painful conscience re-orientation, are homosexual gays and lesbians and transgender persons.

Now we are getting to the “nitty gritty” of this tome – and that is that there are many matters of universal concern where the Catholic Church and the Civil jurisdictions of this world appear to be polarized at the opposite ends of a spectrum on moral issues. This should not happen in an increasingly “joined up” intellectual and scientific world with global institutions that have clearly defined aims in the matter of Human Rights. Nevertheless, a case in point are the differences between how the Catholic Church and the civil institutions of this world manage, in practice, the grave matter of child sexual abuse. I say “manage in practice” quite deliberately because, despite what the Pope or Vatican might declare publicly, many Bishops and hierarchs of Religious Orders often manage such issues with blatant indifference – not just to the will of civil jurisdictions, but of the Pope also.

There are many examples I could give, but I state once again the most obvious example that relates to this blog. Namely, whereas Pope Francis states that there is no place for clerics who abuse children in the Catholic Church, the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona Italy have given sanctuary to and protected a known, alleged paedophile priest for two decades within their Italian Religious House at Verona – and have no intention of handing him over to the UK Civil Legal Jurisdiction – namely the UK Crown Prosecution Service – who want to question this cleric regarding his alleged crimes. Such arrogance cannot be classified as a “difference of opinion” on how to pursue the matter. The startling and profound disjunct in attitude of this Catholic Church Religious Order, with the expressed will of both Pope and State jurisdictions at every level from the UN Human Rights Committee right down to the civil law authorities, is bulldozing a growing chasm right within the Catholic Church itself. There, the relatively small Hierarchical, Clerical Church is at extreme odds with the vastly more numerous Lay Catholic Church.

The Clerics will always blame the “secularization” of the lay church for this upheaval, no doubt, but that is clutching at straws. To quote Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea, an American psychologist who has been working with abused children for thirty years: “Church officials lied, denied and projected blame on victims, parents of victims, a sexually liberated and sexualized culture, bad apple priests, the ’60s, the media. They had seen the enemy and it was not them”. The unsurprising result of this sad state of “moral blindness” is that there is a profound mistrust amongst the Catholic Church lay community of the ability of clerics to “care for their kids” and appropriately deal with predator priests. This situation has provoked many lay Catholics into walking away from the Catholic Church. The growing “mistrust” of clerics – and not just those guilty of abusing children, but also the complicit superiors who have hidden the abuse from sight – has caused a rupture and a broadening “schism” between Catholic clerics and Catholic laity.

The distinction between the two groups (clerical and lay) of the Catholic Church is very much more fundamental than having been caused by the process of “secularization”. It comes back to the formation of “conscience” – and the conscience that drives the Catholic Hierarchical Clerical Church forward has become warped by an arrogant and immoral self-belief in their function, worth and stature within the Universal Catholic Church itself. They have literally “self-taught” themselves a “false conscience” by mutually reinforcing their perceived, but misconceived, unique status within the Church – and this has created within their consciences a false sense of impunity from all criticism. In their minds, they have become “above” the law.

St Thomas Aquinas, one of their undisputed Doctors of Church theology, if not the most significant, does not agree. Perhaps the modern-day clerics of the Church need to revise their knowledge of his Summa Theologiae in the light of his declaration that “due obedience is to be given to the civilian power when there is no moral issue that precludes so doing”. In the discussion of a moral issue in the case of child sexual abuse, the need to report the matter to the civil authorities is not a matter of debate, but an overwhelming necessity. The neglect so to do within the Catholic Church points to a lack of moral self-scrutiny within the Church regarding one of the most essential elements of universal harmony, which is the need to be open and to tell the “Truth”. Implicit within the process of telling the “Truth” is the process of providing “Justice” where crimes have been committed. The forgotten victims in this matter are the young, gullible, innocent children who were cruelly abused by subversive and powerful, adult, paedophile priests who continue to be given “Sanctuary” within the walls of Religious Orders and Diocesan Bishops’ domains.

The often-appalling lack of management by Bishops and Religious hierarchs of the criminal, clerical, child sexual abusers in their midst – their failure to accept the necessity to subject these criminals to the justice procedures of civil jurisdictions and their harsh and often belittling treatment of the Survivors of child sexual abuse are the root causes for the increasing lack of trust and alienation that the lay Church has for the Hierarchical Clerical Church. If it is a fact that “conscience is learned” – then it is starkly evident that the Catholic Church Clerical Hierarchy, as a whole, has been found to have substituted the Scripture’s moral laws of truth, humility, justice, charity and the cherishment of infants with their own brand of elitist, false morality – which is based on narcissistic impunity, arrogance and sometimes avarice too. This lack of “Truth” within the Church has ostracized the Hierarchical Clerical Church from the broader World Society. As I mentioned above, “Truth” is so essential to co-existence and good order within a society that an individual or group will be ostracized permanently if any untruthfulness or deceit is exposed. That goes for institutions such as the Catholic Church as well. So, how has the Catholic Church come to this miserable state of losing its “moral conscience”?

Well, if you think of the Catholic Church as the amorphous, top-down stucture that it is, then it opens up a number of possibilities for analysis. Firstly, the Vatican does not consider itself to be accountable to anyone on this earth. It is not a “trading nation”, but it has an unending source of money garnered annually from donations and from undisclosed, but significant worldwide investments in property and other portfolios. It is a closed and secretive establishment that makes all its own rules without having to rub off the hard edges in negotiations with other societies and individuals who are not members of its own elite institution. It has a dogmatic set of Rules that are to be obeyed implicitly by its followers. In effect, as it is without a process of open, two-sided litigation, it decides who is “in” and who is “out” by having a useful tool for those who do not fully agree with them – and it is called “excommunication”. In effect, at the top end, it is akin to an exclusive “rich men’s only” club in which the top job is put to the vote of a small number of just seventy or so male “Cardinals” – appointed solely by the whim of the previous Pope out of its global half a million exclusively male priest followers. The latter, in turn, administer the needs of a world-wide lay membership of some 1.2 billion adherents – who, somewhat surprisingly, if you think about it, have no say whatsoever. The perpetuation of such a “club” depends on absolute loyalty. When that loyalty is threatened, as it has been, by attempts to cover up the corruption within the walls of the Hierarchical Clerical Church by deceit – then the tail of that Church, (id est: the 1.2 billion laypersons), will either start to wag more and more furiously until the head wonders why – or they will simply hand in their membership cards.

For the moment, loyalty is ebbing away fast because non-clerical ordinary folk like me treasure our kids and our grand-kids – and we have scant regard for those who would abuse them. We have even less regard for those in the Hierarchy of the Church who would rather protect their criminal paedophiles and lie to us than do anything more positive about it. They do so at their peril, for like it or not, the 1.2 billion supporters of their extravagant lifestyles have already started to walk away from their Church doors – and they will keep walking, in the short term at least, because they hold out no hope of determined reform. Eventually, if they still see no change, they will readily pull the plug and stand by whilst the Church goes down the Vatican’s drain into the Tiber.

How did we come to such a moment? The answer is simple: the Catholic Hierarchical Clerical Church has failed in their ability to discern their moral conscience. Their pretence of having a “clear conscience” will not do. It is a moment for choices – and there is only one choice that will save them. That is to start the process to unlearn that “grotesque conscience” that they have acquired and which is devoid of any concept of Christian, Scriptural morality – and start the process of re-learning a “moral conscience”, based on the Gospels of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all over again and from the very, very beginning.

THE COMFORT AND DISCOMFORT OF BEING ON THE SAME PAGE – by Brian Mark Hennessy

THE COMFORT AND DISCOMFORT OF BEING ON THE SAME PAGE – by Brian Mark Hennessy

“While Churches fail to deliver the messages of the Gospels by their example, rather than by their hollow words, the People of God will walk away from them. They will both seek and find their Redemption elsewhere, in direct good works and help for the poor, destitute, old, sick and those in need of comfort in the countless corners of this world which suffer from war, strife and natural disasters. In this day and age, Christians of all creeds are less and less prepared to have their contributions to the needy of the world “creamed off” to allow clerics to live a life of relative luxury, fight legal cases against the victims of clerical sexual abuse – and indulge in corruption – which is the only word that can aptly define both child abuse and the protection of paedophiles by the Heads of Religious Orders and Bishops of Dioceses. So the children of God are already walking away from Church doors and they will continue to walk. They know that men who live in palaces are not pricked by the suffering at their doors and that they live a life that is in denial of the humble life of the Gospels that they preach. The People of God will only start to listen again when Bishops vacate their palaces, when the profane and excessive material wealth of the Church is sold and all the proceeds are given to the poor and needy. They will listen only when clerics of all ranks get out into their communities which they serve – and live within those communities in modest housing, in the shanty towns and in the slums of this world – and endure the same hardships, toil and longsuffering of the world’s under-privileged and impoverished peoples. That is what it will take for the people of God to start to listen again – and re-trace their steps.”

I wrote those words a year ago. However, I did not expect any clerics to take heed of what I wrote. In the last few weeks, I found it comforting that someone else said something similar in criticism of priests and bishops. His words, as reported by the National Catholic Recorder, were, “The world is tired of enchanting liars, fashionable priests and bishops. The People of God have a ‘scent’ and they retreat when they recognize narcissists, manipulators, defenders of personal causes and standard bearers of worthless crusades. It’s a horrible thing for the Church when its pastors act like princes. Yet, we need Pastors, but may they be fathers and brothers, may they be gentle, patient and merciful; may they love poverty, interior poverty, as freedom for the Lord, and exterior poverty, as well as simplicity and a modest lifestyle; may they not have the mindset of princes”.

That “someone else” was Pope Francis – and he is persistent with these themes. Last week it was reported in the UK Catholic Herald that at his weekly audience he said that, “Clergy who use their position for personal gain rather than to help those in need do not follow the spirit of Jesus who took upon himself the sufferings of others. Jesus often would rebuke such leaders and warned his followers to ‘do what they say – but not what they do’. Jesus was not a prince. It is awful for the Church when pastors become princes, far from the people, far from the poorest people. That is not the spirit of Jesus who had tenderness toward the poor, the suffering and the oppressed and whose invitation was, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus is not a master who severely imposes burdens upon others that he does not carry himself. Jesus was a pastor who was among the people and among the poor with whom he worked every day.”

I write these words in the Philippines where, in the midst of a wealthy and upward economy, poverty is still the lot of the masses – and where a multitude of underfed, barefooted children of the poor are on the streets by day and also by night for they have no bed nor shelter. There they beg and hustle and offer their limp bodies for adult abuse for a few pesos in order to survive until the next day. “Do you like me?” they ask imploringly and pitifully as you pass them in the street. The same uneducated, abandoned children watch hopelessly and helplessly as their parents die young from the result of crime or from sickness – simply because they have no funds for the basic medicine to stave off the effects of common illnesses. There, on the street, they sleep on the pavements and sniff glue to obliterate the pangs of hunger and the distress and hopelessness of neglect. The underpasses are where rejected amputees with home-made crutches find shelter, where infants of pre-school-age lead the aged blind to beg. There, countless young boys, not even in their teens, are routinely rounded up and cast into prison without charge for months for the most menial of offences such as begging or stealing a crust to stave off their hunger. Incarcerated communally with adult men, they become the prey of those intent on brutal, sexual abuse that will cast long, dark, sinister shadows over the remainder of their lives.

Yet, cheek by jowl with some of the poorest neighborhoods in Metro Manila, the smiling Cardinal Luis Tagle of the Church in the Philippines heads the richest and most cash-laden Archdiocese in the world. So much so that he was not able to remember, or even provide a close estimate, of quite how much money he did have in the coffers of his Archdiocese when asked by Stephen Sackur of the BBC in a “HardTalk” programme. He suggested, lamely, that Sackur looked on the Internet. I tried to find out myself with a bit of research. The information was not up to date – and nor was it presented by the Catholic Church – but it was garnered from the Philippine Stock Exchange by a group of disenchanted, Catholic financial experts. What was discovered was the mere tip of the ice berg. The data demonstrated that (in 2011) the Archdiocese had – as just one of its many investments, 300 million shares in banking – and together with other dioceses, the Church was within the top 100 investors in some 40 major companies engaged in such pursuits as banking, mining and construction. We do not know, however, how much more is invested in private entities, in companies outside the Philippines, in bonds, in time deposit accounts, or in real estate properties, but it is not just millions – it is billions. If you look carefully, you will also discover that at least one individual princely Bishop had both “Church:” and “private” funds of money stashed away in stock market investments.

Whilst the Cardinal was sitting on all this capital investment prior to the visit of Pope Francis in January 2015, one wonders why the Archdiocese of Manila needed to set up a fund seeking contributions from their parishioners for the repairs (that were said to have cost 200 million Pesos) for the Cardinal’s Cathedral in Intramuros (historic Manila). Yet, that is what they did. The Church will defend itself from the criticism of being “cash rich”, of course, and it will do this, most probably, by saying that in order to dispense welfare to the poor and needy of the world, it needs to produce the funds by investments to achieve it. That is a theoretical financial “truth” that I could not deny. Yet they do not divulge any details of income and expenditure – and so whether or not they do expend any money on the countless poor for housing, food, healthcare and education is not known. I could find no institutions listed, apart from two orphanages in Manila, that might fall into the category of charitable donations. On the other hand, the number of fee-paying Catholic schools in the Philippines is well over 100 – and fee-paying Catholic hospitals and clinics are also plentiful – but, they are for the wealthy – even the middle classes would struggle to afford the fees of the most of them.

The very bottom line is, of course, that being sensible with money and investing it for good causes does not require the prelates of the Philippines themselves to live like princes, it does not require them to live in grand houses like millionaires and deal privately in the financial markets, nor does it necessitate them owning vast diocesan estates – and, most certainly, it does not sanction them to grow portly whilst a multitude around them, who like street dogs, are literally scavenging through the garbage to find a bone to chew upon. I have seen them doing just that outside the popular fried chicken outlets.

So, until the cash-rich Church in the Philippines provides the laity with accurate, up-to-date financial information on how their money is being used, their Bishops can be harshly criticized with justification. After all – it is not the Bishops’ money to spend on themselves and their entourages. It is the “Church’s” money held by them in trust. The vast majority of that “Church” are the laity. Harsh criticism is especially justified when there is no evidence that any of their fabulous wealth is being utilised to alleviate the dire state of poverty outside their very church doors. In my book, that is called neglect on a scale that is equivalent to the gravest abuse of their priestly mission. If that is not the case, then I misjudge them, so let them publish the independently audited facts of their income and expenditure – both on official Church business and their private household expenses. I guess in advance that it will not be difficult to spot the cavernous, immoral disparity between their lifestyle and that of the destitute street ragamuffins who are in a state of serious physical underdevelopment for their age – due to the absence of even the most minimal of regular nourishment and healthcare.

One should note also, that whilst the Philippine Catholic Church does not condone any excesses and failures of the State, neither do they risk preaching against it in the pulpit. The reason for that is simple to understand (if you are an economist) for any Church edifice that is used to highlight matters of the conduct of the State – could be deemed by the State to be a “political entity” used for a “political statement or purpose”. That could lead to the parish or diocese being taxed on its income. It is true that the Bishop’s Conferences have made critical representations to the State in documentation in both past and present – but very few laymen will be aware of such documents. The silence of clerics in the pulpits in important moral guidance for their flock, therefore, ensures the continued liquidity of Church property – at the expense of the moral education of the populace. It is little wonder, indeed disastrous, that the vast proportion of Filippino Catholics do not make informed and cognizant moral decisions in so many pressing issues that face them in their lives today – and which are currently being reported worldwide. Such a lack of moral leadership for the sole purpose of defending “Mammom” is a part of a widespread and sinister culture of clerical self-interest – for the sake of their own preservation as a vibrant, financial institution. The result of this failure, most regrettably, is the moral decline of a whole nation which does not understand the perils that lie upon the road they willingly travel today.

In my three years in the Philippines, said to be the most Catholic country in the world, I have never seen a priest on the streets outside the doors of where I live or in the thriving city hubs. You will see them Sundays, of course, saying Mass in the local shopping malls – and of course gathering in a collection. Apart from that, they hold court only in their churches where they dictate to the desperate how they must lead their moral lives. Pope Francis certainly understood this situation in advance of his visit in January 2015. He castigated Filipino priests for failing to work for the poor in the streets. More recently he said about clerics that “Jesus is not a Master who severely imposes burdens upon others that he does not carry himself. He was a Pastor who was among the poor and He worked every day with them.” Yet, the Philippines remains a hell for countless thousands of children who are born – and then abused, physically and sexually, and then discarded by callous adults. Some parents even discard their own children because they are only able to feed a limited number of mouths. Thus, when another is born into this world, the oldest child in the family, whatever age or sex – and even before they reach their teens, are cast out to fend for themselves. Such infants are products of a ridiculous Dogma decreed by a Church that has not yet been able to grasp that God gave us a brain as well as genitals – and so this brainless Church infamously continues to claim that the use of condoms is forbidden on pain of Divine retribution.  The result is more homeless, neglected, abused, sick and wretched kids. That is Church abuse in the form of sinister dogmatic power piled upon the inexcusable abuse of neglect.

When Pope Francis came to Manila, these homeless and hungry castaway children were rounded up and bussed away out of site. The Shepherd of the Catholic Church was not allowed even to see them, let alone to walk amongst them – the most vulnerable of his flock. Cardinal Tagle did not object to their absence from the scene. He wanted to show a vibrant, cheerful and healthy Church to his guest. Neglect of street kids by the mainstream of the Philippine Church is a grave injustice that leads to both physical and psychological abuse. Yes, neglect is a form of abuse when you have a stated sacred mission to the poor – and you ignore it – and when you have the wealth to do something truly significant about it – but you do not. The Church is not listening to this Pope. Did he not state that, “There is no place in the Church for those that abuse a child.”  Yes, the Pope was talking about sexual abuse – but any abuse of children is equally reprehensible.

Dwelling for a moment on the sexual abuse of children, it has to be said also that the clerics of the Philippine Church, like so many other Bishops and Religious Orders worldwide, continue to sordidly protect and foster criminal, paedophile clerics amongst them, whilst they malevolently neglect the crimes committed against Victims by those very same errant priests. Here in the Philippines even the parents of abused children are told that the sexual abuse of “their” children is a “Church” matter and it is not for the laity to meddle in Church affairs”! I am not over simplifying! I read that exactly as stated by the Manila Diocesan Canonist in a Catholic news Bulletin in 2014. What they are saying, in fact, is that only the Clerics “are” the “Church”. Poppycock! Pope Francis would describe such a response of the Philippine Church as “Clerical arrogance and narcissistic clericalism”– but then this is Manila – it’s a long way from Rome – and, to be even more ironic, we are only talking about child victims of sexual abuse and destitute street kids – those annoying dregs of humanity who keep thrusting themselves by the thousands in our faces – and so who cares?

I fully believe that by “gut instinct” Pope Francis is on the right page – indeed the same page as all victims in this world and especially the page of victimized children. That is comforting to a degree. Yet, the Pope does not have full control of the Vatican curia – and nor the clerics in dioceses and Religious Orders. He cannot achieve all that is required, realistically, but he must at least try to ensure that the Bishops who govern the Church and the Superiors General of the Orders of the Church – are men of the Gospels – and true men in their hearts, who, with his leadership, can shake the dead wood from out the Church’s many branches. Ruthless pruning now will produce a rejuvenated tree in the new Spring. It is an urgent need – for the Church, as a clerical institution, has currently forfeited the good will of the lay Church that Christ founded. Those laymen and women are as integral to the Church as are the clerics who arrogantly and falsely claim it to be their own personal heritage and realm.  The Pope must put these clerics back in their place as servants of the Church, not it’s Masters.

For the moment, Pope Francis must face the fact that the traditional trust between clerics and laypersons has dissolved almost totally. Being on the same page as the Pope is comforting, but it is tainted by nothing other than the grave “discomfort” of knowing that what Pope Frances says – is not what his clerics deliver. The Pope must act and set out boldly and clearly, in the short time that he has, a root and branch radical reform programme. The Catholic Church must start to deliver for the most vulnerable in the Church – who are children. Whether those children are victims of sexual abuse, physical hardships, parental and clerical neglect, poverty, incarceration in prisons where they do not belong – or beatings on the streets of Manila – they must be cherished and not discarded as flotsam and jetsam amongst the turbulent seas of cruel, avaricious, selfish humanity. Make no mistake – and Pope Francis knows this well – that the latter “selfish humanity” includes, to the disgrace of the Catholic Church, so many Catholic prelates, clerics and religious who, whatever habit they wear and whatever their role in the Church, are demonstrably idle, indolent and undeserving of their daily bread.

“THE BROTHERLY CARE OF PERSONS IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS” by Brian Mark Hennessy

“THE BROTHERLY CARE OF PERSONS IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS”

(By Brian Mark Hennessy)

Call it euphemism, circumlocution or genteelism, the title of this tome is hardly what you would expect to find in a Religious Order’s Code of Conduct that deals with the subject of Child abuse. Nevertheless, that is exactly what it is – and if any reader is interested in studying it – I can make an analysis of this Code available to them. The Code was produced in 2005 by a committee of Comboni Missionaries headed by Father David Kinnear Glenday.

David was a good friend of mine when I was a young seminarian at the Comboni Missionaries’ St Peter Claver College in Mirfield, Yorkshire, England in the late 1960s. He is a Scot with a large sense of humour. I went on to the Novitiate at Sunningdale in Berkshire as I was more senior to David and I have not seen him since. After a couple of years, I left from there as I struggled to understand myself following incidents of continual sexual abuse by a priest over a period of two weeks when I was admitted to the infirmary at Mirfield – and then at Sunningdale being forced to witness meetings between a priest of the Order and a nun of a nearby convent as they expressed their love for each other – playing “footsie” beneath the table and holding hands over the table at which I also was required to sit. David, to get back to him, became the Provincial of the London Province, the Superior General of the Order and is now the General Secretary of the Union of the two hundred or so Superiors General of male Orders of the Catholic Church at the Vatican – and he is also a member of a Pontifical Commission. He is doing fine, obviously, for now – but he has certainly changed since he was the lad I knew.

It was David who, as I have already said, headed the Committee that re-wrote the Code of Conduct. He may not have invented the shamefully euphemistic title of the section dealing with matters of child sexual abuse in the Code, but he certainly was responsible for perpetualising its existence. The Code as a whole has some 24,000 words. I read it carefully and produced an analysis of the language and discovered that there was a problem of imbalance within the overall text. For example, it used the word “Truth” on just 10 occasions, but it used the word “Scandal” – in the context of avoiding it – 19 times. “Truth” and “Scandal” are hardly compatible bedfellows in the same context. It uses the word “Sin” on 47 occasions, but in all the 24,000 words of the Code, the word “crime” is not used even once. That is a remarkable omission in the context of the fact that within that Code of Conduct there is a very full chapter that deals with Child Abuse – which in international law is a “crime”. Indeed, in the document entitled, “The UN Convention Against Torture”, child abuse is described as a “form of torture on account of its cruel, degrading and punitive nature” – and the Vatican has accepted that definition. I cannot help but note that, in the context of child abuse, that “crime” may be a “sin” in theological terms, but in a document that deals with “child abuse”, the word “crime” should be used to describe it. Steeling sweets is a “sin”. Stealing innocence is a heinous, inhumane and depraved “crime”.

Why do I mention this now? Well, in the past week we have heard two people, who in my book have considerable dignity and moral authority within the Vatican, discussing this very matter of “sin” and “crime”. They came at the subject from different starting points and appeared to be saying opposite things. They were not, in fact, I am certain of it, but the problem is that those listening – who live in opposite camps of a great divide on the subject of how “clerical child abuse” should be managed in the Catholic Church – might be able to draw the conclusions that they wish for, rather than those intended by the speakers. I will explain.

Marie Collins is an Irish laywoman and a member of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors. Marie is also an abuse survivor and is confident, where some others are not, that the Commission, under the guidance of Cardinal Archbishop O’Malley of Boston is on the right track. Marie admits that they have not won all the battles that they had wished for. One such example is the disinclination of Pope Francis to authorize the establishment of a tribunal to judge whether or not negligent bishops, in the matter of managing child sexual abuse, should be dismissed. In an interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Joshua McElwee, Marie expressed some reservations about whether or not new powers to be given to the Curia Congregations would actually lead to more accountability. Where Marie was more hopeful was in the matter of advice given to new Bishops attending formation courses at the Vatican. These meetings presented the chance, Marie explained, to impress upon these new bishops from around the world “the importance of treating a perpetrator (of child sexual abuse) – not just as a sinner – but as a criminal who is a danger to children” – and that these criminals do not only harm their victims, but the entire Church around the world.

I believe that Marie was expressing the convictions of the whole Commission on these matters and what she said was most astute – for it reflects most specifically that the Bishops and Orders of the Church – like the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona Italy – show no balance in their treatment of clerics who abuse children. They smother abusing clerics with copious pious filial love whilst protecting them from the allegations of the Victims against whom the abusing clerics committed crimes. They seek to avoid – often at considerable length and cost – the criminal justice processes to which the Victims are entitled. Some, such as the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, have even attempted to defame a Victim in the Courts with criminal charges in the recent past – in their extreme anxiety to protect the Abuser from the criminal processes that the “World” demands. The Catholic Church, despite what some of its adherents seem to believe, cannot appeal to an extraterrestrial body in the basic human rights matter of child sexual abuse. Yes – forgive the cleric of their sin if he or she is contrite – but yield the cleric up to Civil Justice procedures to pay the human price that the civil legal jurisdictions of the world demand for a crime. During the process of a trial and after – yes – assist the cleric spiritually if the cleric wishes – but they have no right to protect the cleric from that process. Should they seek to protect the cleric – they also condone the crime – and that is what the Comboni Missionary Order have done: a series of their Superior Generals – from Glenday to Sanchez to Tesfaye – have condoned crimes of child sexual abuse by protecting the alleged criminal from justice.

I said there were two persons of singular dignity and moral authority at the Vatican who, in the last week, had approached this matter of sin and crime from opposite ends. The second was Pope Francis. This last week he said, “Judging and Condemning a brother who sins is wrong. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. We do not have the power to condemn a brother that errs”. Now – it would be very easy, but categorically wrong, for some eager clerics to extrapolate from that statement that, for example, it was merciful and therefore, quite right to protect an alleged paedophile priest from justice because he had already expressed sorrow for his sins. If they do believe that – they are simply kidding themselves! That is not what Pope Francis is saying at all, but he does go on to say that “Mercy expresses itself above all in forgiveness”. Again – Pope Francis is not talking specifically about the forgiveness that a Confessor imparts to a Sinner confessing. He is talking about the forgiveness by a Victim of a transgression to the very person who had transgressed against that Victim.

That leads me to reflect for a moment on the recent visit to Verona in Italy of Mark Murray, an alleged Victim of a priest, Father Romano Nardo of the Comboni Missionary Order. Mark Murray went to see his abuser at the Verona Mother House in order to understand why the priest abused him as a 14 -year-old child. He spoke quietly in the Chapel with the priest, alleged to have abused him, and that priest expressed his profound sorrow to Mark Murray – who then forgave him. That is the bountiful Christian mercy and forgiveness of which the Pope spoke.

The surprise reaction of the Comboni Missionary Order’s Superior General and Curia to Mark Murray’s visit to Verona, however, (not Father Romano’s reaction – as far as I am aware), was to allege three criminal acts against Mark Murray in the Verona Criminal Court: stalking, trespass and interference in the personal life of Father Romano Nardo. The Judge at the Tribunal Proceedings wanted to archive the allegations as they were insubstantial, but the Comboni Missionary Order insisted on an appeal against the Judge’s decision. At a subsequent hearing, the Judge threw out each of the charges stating there was no criminality involved at all in the visit of Mark Murray to his alleged abuser.

“The Christian must forgive”, the Pontiff has exhorted, “Why? Because he has been forgiven”. Mark Murray showed himself to have Christian virtues by forgiving Father Nardo. Contrary to what Pope Francis was saying, however, the Comboni Missionary Order has sought, for two decades, to protect the Alleged Abuser from rightful Justice – and now mercilessly tried to trash the Victim. This surprise reaction of the Comboni Missionary Order to try to defame a Victim of child sexual abuse, Mark Murray, with false criminal charges begs the question: To what creed do the Comboni Missionary Order adhere? Their actions are most certainly not within Christian traditions and teaching – and I sincerely doubt that Pope Francis would approve of their false, defamatory and vindictive actions. Somebody at the Vatican needs to do something about these errant priests.

 

 

 

“THERE IS NO PLACE IN THE CHURCH FOR CLERICS WHO HAVE ABUSED CHILDREN — By Brian Mark Hennessy

“THERE IS NO PLACE IN THE CHURCH FOR CLERICS

WHO HAVE ABUSED CHILDREN”

(By Brian Mark Hennessy)

With penetrating clarity and absolute authority, Pope Francis gave a speech in Santa Marta in 2014, and said that, “there is no place in the Church for clerics who have abused children”. His words rang loud, chiming bells of hope in my mind that here was a man who understood in his heart how pernicious and evil it was for an adult to abuse a child. When I now think back on his words, I feel somewhat amazed at how momentous they appeared to be about a matter which was so downright obvious to the vast majority of people in the world – and not just to parents – but to most adults who had ever given it a thought – and, of course, to the countless children who had been abused! On reflection, my surprise – and even inner joy at hearing him say it – was down to the simple, sad fact that I had never ever heard a Catholic Cleric, let alone a Pope, say it before in such a blatant and brazenly obvious way.

Pope Francis has said many other things since that time in the early few years of his papacy that have had a similar effect on me – and I presume he has prompted a like reaction in many others. It has given many hope that the Pope, who has the leadership of the Catholic Church in his hands, is truly on the path of change. This matters – not just for the Catholic Church – but for the moral guidance of many others in the world also. It suggests, in addition, that this Argentinian, non-Curial, diocesan prelate is now listening, not so much to the dogmatic, scarlet-hatted prelates that frequent the old palaces of the Vatican Curia, but to the Christian men, women and children in the streets – the people with whom he is much more familiar – and the streets he identifies as the place where he also belongs. He, and not the Curia “Old Guard”, understands that the laity are suffering the burdens of centuries of dogmatic indoctrination that has sought to compel them to live constricted and at times almost un-natural lives. The Church has historically dictated to them consistently and without offering any alleviation for their plight in the face of distressing circumstances that were not of their making. It has burdened them with demands on the decisions they make at times of misfortune – and warned defaulters of unpleasant retribution for failures.

To get his message across, the Pope has had to talk directly to his flock and over the heads of the Curia and their traditional, strictured, theological interpretation of dogma. This has been a most effective operation – for the Pope knows that his Curia dogmatists are a “turn off” in this modern age. The last thing the laity needs is a message, accompanied by the severe penalties of damnation and the eternal Bosch-like fires of Hell, which the dogmatists unstintingly attach to any failure to comply. The Pope recognizes, but the Curia do not, that for countless multitudes in this world, the achievement of the perfection postulated by theoretical dogma is often both incongruous and incompatible with the realities and the daily hardships of basic survival. Those realities are a way of living that the Curia Old Guard, imbibing and sleeping in their princely palaces, do not comprehend because for the most part, quite probably, they have never had to face and nor endure those hardships for any time much longer than a brief, afternoon pastoral visit.

Hence we now have discussions with the laity, un-envisaged before the arrival of Francis, about divorce, abortion, homosexuality and communion – and so on. Francis understands that life is a journey and that true perfection is unattainable for most. His simple message to his flock is to keep walking, even to limp and to crawl, down that road that points to perfection as best they can, within the circumstances of their individual lives, and with the constant aim, rather than any real expectancy being placed upon them, of reaching the destination.

It is regrettable, given the above, but quite unsurprising, that some of the Curial Princes of the Church are fighting a rearguard action against both the Pope and the faithful to whom he appeals. The old heads in the Curia are unaware that the vast number of the informed and educated of those admiring throngs of Francis believe that they have an undisputed and inalienable right to be able to discern what is right and wrong for themselves. Yet, the Vatican “scarlet hats”, for the most part, remain entrenched in the past and there are many of them, it seems, who are most reluctant to end their traditional ability to dictate, to scold, to ex-communicate and to damn. Who would relinquish such power, that has been invested in them for centuries, over the many millions of their followers in the world? Without the dogma-subjugated, vast throngs of believing faithful throughout the history of “Peter’s Pence”, who would, in the future, continue to fund the princely lifestyle that those prelates enjoy? The wearers of fashionable scarlet socks know that it was the big sticks of “dogma” and “everlasting fire” that maintained the Curia princes in a lifestyle of luxury in the past. So in their unwitting minds the faithful must continue to be subdued by their incomprehensible, doctrinal interpretations of “God’s Law” and kept in line by the fear of excruciating punishment. Only thus can the masses be denied the exercise of their own right to discern good and bad for themselves.

Unfortunately, for these intellectually sterile, reptilian relics of history at the Vatican, it may be an unpleasant surprise to know that the informed and educated laity both know and assert that their soul and their conscience belongs to them and to nobody else. The greater number of the faithful – which is the world’s abject poor who wearily struggle through life wondering how they will feed tomorrow the large numbers of children that they bore yesterday, in accordance with Church Rules, are forgotten. They, remain down-trodden and often de-humanised by miserable circumstances in both the foul-flooded slums and the rain-parched deserts of the world today – as did their forebears in the inescapable biblical, sore-bandaged, leper colonies. They act, for the most part, in accordance with necessity and the ungracious rules of survival rather than dogma. There is a disconnect, therefore, that has not yet penetrated the minds and the luxurious style of life of the Vatican cascades of isolated, enclaved male dignitaries that arrogantly tell the rest of the world how to behave. Thus, the Curia is, collectively, the downside to the hopeful words that the Pope utters day by day.

Those quiet, unseen Curia “dogma-worms”, secretly munching away at the paper piles left to rot in Vatican “in-trays”, leave me with an uneasy feeling that for them, the whole of Christianity is just a game of theatrical charades. It is a scene complete with its Cathedral stages, its saints, torture, blood, haloes, rites and rituals, its candles and incense, its colourful, richly embroidered, swirling costumes, its promises and its threats, its pledges and betrayals, its dogmas and its stories of angels and devils – and of purgatory, heaven and hell. It is a stage of unending drama upon which, in their minds, the curtains will never be drawn. Yet, that is a dangerous misconception for, whilst they stand still in glorifying in their eternal, fantasy world, the real world is transient – here today and gone tomorrow – and ever-changing at an alarming and increasingly hectic rate. Thus, their reluctance to deal judiciously, decisively and with alacrity with urgent matters such as the contagion of clerical child abuse within their realm has already seen, and in the future may well see a further and irreversible shift in their former fortunes. The more tardy they are in putting right the wrongs thet they have committed, condoned and hidden – the more rapid is the decline in their relevance. They sit on their fumbling hands in peril of being consigned to a chapter in the annals of history – fittingly entitled, if Edward Gibbon can be resurrected to complete his task, as: “Part Seven – The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church”.

We return, therefore, as we must, to add to this dire picture the Curia’s specific failure to provide any consistent, visible, coherent, practical outcomes to what Pope Francis said so early on in his Papacy: “There is no place in the church for clerics who have abused children”. The Comboni Survivors (known originally as the Mirfield 12) have written endlessly to prelates of the Catholic Church to act on the commitment of Pope Francis to rid the Catholic Church of all clerics who have abused children. The survivors of child sexual abuse in the seminary of the Comboni Missionary Order at Mirfield, Yorkshire, England have compiled witness allegations to some individual 1000 crimes of child sexual abuse in a volume of near 200 pages – and that evidence includes the facts of the protection of a living, allegedly paedophile priest. This volume was distributed to all the Bishops of the British Isles and to Bishops’ Conferences throughout the world. Cardinal Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster took a copy by hand to Rome and gave it to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He confirmed to me, bless his scarlet socks, sash and cap, that he had done so.

The allegations of the crimes of this paedophile priest have been buried by the Catholic Church for nigh on half a century since the Order were first aware of them. Their immediate reaction was to send him to the Missions in Uganda to get him out of the way. He stayed there for decades (hopefully he was not abusing even more innocents) until he was finally brought to account two decades ago at the insistence of one of his Victims. His admissions at that time – downplayed and reduced in correspondence to the victim as “inappropriate actions” should have been reported to the Vatican immediately. Yet, even after admissions of wrongdoing those two decades ago, the Order has continued to give him sanctuary from full investigation and arraignment before a civil or canonical court. The priest remains wanted for questioning about crimes against a child by the West Yorkshire Police in the United Kingdom. The UK Crown Prosecution Service has sought his extradition on a number of occasions. It is believed also, that the Order never reported him to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at any time in the past fifty years and so it is certain that he has never been brought before a Vatican Canonical Court. If he had been, he would have been defrocked long ago and cast out as the criminal he is alleged to be. Even then – that would have been a lenient outcome – for he would probably have received a pension from the Order (provided in their Rules for such miscreants) and also escaped the long prison sentence that any civilian court would have imposed upon him for his alleged heinous crimes.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have had the information regarding this priest, provided by the Comboni Survivor Group, in their hands for almost a year. Within the text of that document it is detailed with clarity that this living priest of the Comboni Missionary Order, who is alleged to have committed crimes of child sexual abuse in the guise of religious rituals against a young seminarian, then aged 11 years, has had no action taken against him by the Order. Almost the last words heard uttered by the Order about this priest were, “We all make mistakes!”, as if that casual, verbal shrug of the shoulders should both be the end of the matter – and the signal to the Victim that it is time for the wretchedness that has excrutiated and brutalised his psyche since childhood should now, in a flash, be forgotten. Life is not like that.

I do not expect that Pope Francis has ever heard of this case that I have related, but his Curia officials most certainly have. They have neither acknowledged receipt and nor responded. This is not just abject discourtesy to the Writer, the Victim and the Comboni Survivor Group, it is also a grievous sleight both to the Cardinal Archbishop who took the trouble to present it to them – and to the clearly expressed will of Pope Francis. The Curia is sitting on its hands – as it has done for centuries – and, therefore, they are not just a part of the historical problem in cases of child sexual abuse – they are also the current problem. Their inaction, believe me, reflects their declared independence from anything Pope Francis says and does. His Church is in the Curia’s hands. Our only remaining hope is that Pope Francis reads this blog – and then diligently undertakes the much needed firing and hiring process within the Curia. Pope Frances must ‘have done” with words of benevolent encouragement – and reveal his skills as an incisive surgeon.

UK VICTIM OF CHILD ABUSE TAKEN TO COURT BY HIS ITALIAN PRIEST ABUSER by Brian Mark Hennessy

NUK VICTIM OF CHILD ABUSE TAKEN TO COURT BY HIS ITALIAN PRIEST ABUSER

(By Brian Mark Hennessy)

Mark Murray, from St Asaph in North Wales, was a Catholic child seminarian at the Italian Comboni Missionary Order’s Seminary at Mirfield, Yorkshire, England in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Two decades ago he alleged that a priest of the Order, Father Romano Nardo, sexually abused him when he was a child. The Superior General of the Comboni Missionary Order, Father David Kinnear Glenday, (currently the General Secretary of the Union of Superiors General at the Vatican) withdrew the priest from the Missions at that time and, following an investigation, admitted in a letter, dated 17 May 1997, that the priest had “acted inappropriately” by taking the boy to his bed and teaching him to make the sign of the cross”. That statement is devoid of the alleged details of the baptismal rite of mutual purification of naked genitals in which the child was induced to participate – and it does not mention the naked child being encouraged to lie upon the naked body of the priest who “breathed the Spirit of Jesus” into the boy’s mouth. That sign of the cross, to which Glenday referred, was engraved on the priest’s torso by a sharp implement, the sight of which caused the boy to attempt to emulate it by self-mutilation in order to be closer to the God of that priest.

For the last two decades Fr Nardo has been confined to the Order’s Verona House so that he does not have access to children. (One has to ask: “Why would they do that if he had acted only “inappropriately”!) Murray, throughout this period, both through solicitors and directly, has been in touch with the Comboni Order at both United Kingdom Provincial and Roman Curia levels with requests to visit Nardo, but all these requests were refused by the previous Superior General of the Order, Father Enrique Sanchez (in post to end of 2015).

Following an investigation by the West Yorkshire Police and a number of failed attempts by the Crown Prosecution Service to extradite Nardo to the United Kingdom because of alleged incapacity, Murray, decided to go to Verona in Italy to talk to the priest in order to gain a clear understanding of the reason why he had been selected by the priest for abuse, to seek an apology and to offer forgiveness in return. Murray undertook this visit in April 2015. He spoke with Nardo quietly in the Chapel for about ten minutes. Nardo, who demonstrated that he was both physically and mentally able, apologized for Murray’s life-long suffering that he had caused him and, in return, Murray forgave him.

After Murray’s discussion with Nardo, the Vice Superior arrived at the scene and his attitude was hostile to Murray and he threatened to call the Carabinieri. He shrugged off the facts of the abuse with the comment that “We all make mistakes” and insulted Murray as he left by calling him a “Money Grabber”! Murray had not mentioned the word “money” once, but what he had said was that he wanted an “apology” from the Order for their decades of inaction against Nardo. On Murray’s subsequent return to the Order’s Mother House at an agreed time, the Superior told Murray that he would “wait in vain” for an apology from the Order for the alleged sexual abuse, the facts of which the Superior did not deny. The Superior went on to suggest, in remarkable insensitivity and ignorance of the long term effects of child abuse (given that the Order was aware that Murray had at times been suicidal), that Murray went home, forgot about it and got on with his life. Murray left with the unwanted promise of the Superior’s prayers -and in a state of despair and rejection.

The Comboni Missionary Order claimed soon after the events of the visit that Murray might return and injure Nardo (for which there was not a shred of evidence). They then proceeded to lodge allegations of crimes against Mark Murray at the Verona Criminal Court. Those original charges were regarded as insubstantial by the Judge who ordered that they be “archived” on the basis, Murray believes, that they were insubstantial. However, the Comboni Missionary Order, was determined, it seems, to have their Shakespearian “pound of flesh”, and appealed that decision. Thus, to his surprise, Murray received a notification of summons, dated 27 June 2016, through the good offices of the Court nominated Defence Attorney at the Verona Criminal Court, Michele Spina. The charges listed were “stalking, interference in the life of Nardo and trespass on private property”.  The Court Prosecution reference was: “5237/15 RG. Crime Report – Prosecutor Office, Verona, Italy”. The Hearing was on 14th September 2016 at 1000 hours in the Verona Criminal Court, Italy. The Judge for that Preliminary Investigation was Mr Dott Luciano Gorra.  Murray did not attend. Having heard the case for the appeal, the Court has been adjourned pending the decision of the Judge.

Technically, the case against Murray has been brought by the “Legal Guardian” of Nardo. Regarding this fact, Mark Murray suggests that it is sleight of hand on the part of the Comboni Missionary Order so as to deflect criticism from themselves. Somewhat obviously, it should be noted in this regard, that Nardo is not likely to be the registered owner of the Order’s Verona Mother House and thus, legally, he is not in a position to bring a case of trespass against Murray. Despite that, Murray will assert in evidence that he had walked through an open gate and an open door and talked to a receptionist, who then took Murray to the chapel and subsequently called Nardo there to meet Murray. Murray’s two subsequent visits were agreed by arrangement.

The charge of “Stalking” is not credible either. Stalking is the persistent physical practice of following and observing an individual – whereas Mark Murray visited him only once. Correspondence to the Order by Mark Murray over a period of years requesting to visit Nardo does not constitute stalking (even with much imaginative effort).

The third charge of “interfering in the private life of Nardo” is absurd. Father Nardo is alleged to have sexually abused Mark Murray when he was a child. The Comboni Missionary Order accepted in correspondence – albeit with staggering understatement – that Nardo had acted inappropriately by taking Murray to his bed …and now paying Nardo a visit and forgiving him for the crimes committed against him is “criminal interference”!?

The Italian News outlet, “La Repubblica” co-operated with Murray’s visit to Verona and produced two short film recordings and press reports. The films were shown on Italian and UK television outlets and there was substantial press coverage following the visit. La Repubblica’s accredited Vatican correspondent, Marco Ansoldo, has also received a separate summons on different charges relating to his coverage of Murray’s visit to the Order’s Verona House.

Brian Mark Hennessy

 

 

 

WATCH THIS SPACE FOR THE JUDGE’S DECISION IN THE CASE OF MARK MURRAY

 (Background Notes: The Comboni Missionary Order settled – “out of Court” and “without any admission of guilt” – civil cases brought by Murray and seven other ex-seminarians in 2014. The cases were all in relation to allegations of historical child sexual abuse by three Religious members of the Comboni Missionary Order at their Seminary in Mirfield, Yorkshire, England. The Order has adamantly refused to make any apology to the Victim Survivors for this abuse. Another three cases are or have been in the process of litigation. Whilst the full extent of alleged abuse at the seminary is not known with any accuracy, the indications of a survey in 2014/15 of 20 men, who claim to have been abused when children (or were witnesses to the facts), suggest that as many as 1000 individual incidents of child sexual abuse, each one a crime in its own right, may have taken place at the UK establishments of the Order. In all, four deceased and two living Religious have been named in connection with this substantial number of allegations. Nevertheless, Father Martin Devinish, the London Provincial Superior of the Order, claims that sexual abuse, “if” it had taken place, was not endemic at the Mirfield Seminary. (He appears to have forgotten that it was reported to him when he was the Rector of that establishment)! In the Republic of Ireland an allegation has also been made against a further priest of the Order who is believed to be still living within the Order. In the United States a deceased member of the Order was named in connection with child abuse by one Diocese and another priest, who had been working in a youth organization, was banned from a US diocese – and was relocated by the Comboni Missionary Order to the African Continent. It is known that, historically, priests of the Order, against whom child sexual abuse had been alleged, were routinely despatched, by the Superior General of the Order, to Third World Mission territories – where they would have been able to abuse untold numbers of children without detection).

Brian Mark Hennessy