(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





 (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









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




Written by Brian Mark Hennessy

In 2014, Pope Francis ordered an investigation into the Italian diocese of Albenga-Imperia, situated on the Italian coast between the port of Genoa and the state of Monaco. The Papal Nuncio, Adriano Bernadini, was given the task of finding out the truth behind the headline scandals in the Italian press. Shortly after he reported back to the Vatican, a new bishop, Guglielmo Borghetti was sent to the diocese to act as the de facto Bishop – and ultimately the former Bishop of 25 years, Mario Oliveri, handed in his resignation – which has been accepted by the Pope. Why?

Part of the reason is that Bishop Oliveri was a “traditionalist” – or at least he tolerated “traditionalist” priests who refused to abandon the Latin Tridentine Mass which was introduced in 1570 and was discontinued after Vatican II. This Mass, referred to now as the “forma antiquior”, is still favoured by some today even at the highest levels and, whilst it may be said by a priest in private, it is unacceptable in a public liturgy. Pope Francis admonished a Cardinal Prefect just a few weeks ago for publicly supporting it – and it is clear that the Tradentine is now a certain “gonner” in the public domain. Nevertheless, however much the old-headed Bishop, Mario Oliveri was under Vatican pressure on that issue, he did not resign over that matter specifically and just shortly before his normal retirement age. The reason is somewhat more topical and truly a scandal of major proportions.

What the Papal Nuncio Bernadini uncovered was a host of lurid claims: priests and seminarians posting naked photographs on gay websites and on Facebook, the sexual harassment of parishioners, accepting clerics from other dioceses with either questionable reputations or who had been dismissed already for misconduct by their previous Bishops, playboy priests moonlighting as barmen, priests who had committed theft from parish revenues, one priest accused of operating an under-age prostitution ring – and others living in non-celibate , openly gay relationships.

Jose phine McKenna, writing in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR online) says that Bishop Olivera distributed a farewell message on the diocesan website stating that he loved his diocese “and especially his priests”. The new bishop, Borghetti, said that he would seek to renew the diocese and his actions would please neither “traditionalists” and nor “progressives” – by whom he means, I suppose, clerical barmen and actively gay seminarians and priests who post nude photographs on Facebook and gay websites – and any priests running prostitution rings.

It might seem to some readers that the culture of the Irish Maynooth seminary, referred to in my recent article on this blog, has influenced the goings on in this Italian diocese – or vice versa – for both are running concurrently in the news. How did we get to this situation whereby it seems to be common practice now for clerics to indulge in unseemly activities “full face” in the glare of the public? Well in short, we have not just got to it now. It has always been there – both openly and in the background. The difference is that modern technology moves the shadowy, indiscreet, sexual and sometimes depraved acts of clerics into the public domain and limelight before the Church Hierarchy, traditionally more centrally placed in the aristocracy of both national and local communities, could stamp their foot on it. Yet – it does make you wonder what is still under wraps today – and what cannot get out into the public forum easily because it is still controlled by and within the impenetrable walls of the Catholic Church itself.

One such matter is the physical and sexual abuse of nuns by priests. The Vatican has known about this dark secret throughout history, but it has not yet surfaced to any extent, because it happens “in house” and is suffocated by vows of silence and obedience – and female oppression by dominant, male figures in cascades of ultimate authority over them. It is further complicated by the physical vulnerability of women who have no rights of appeal to anyone other than the male priests and male bishops in the local hierarchy. The record of the Vatican is not a beacon of light in this regard. An expert, professional, independent, civilian study of the large scale and widespread abuse of nuns, particularly in Africa and in Asia, was presented to the Vatican decades ago. The National Catholic Reporter in the United States took the issue on at the time. There was an initial clamour – then silence. The Vatican took no action that was made public. Nuns were told to report such matters to their Bishops. This the nuns had already done in many, if not all, cases before, but the Bishops had not even reported it to the Vatican as Canon Law dictated. They dealt with it locally by taking no appropriate and meaningful action at all against the priests – other than ultimately relocating them to places where they could re-offend. The blistering expert, professional, independent report was consigned to a “pending” office tray in the Vatican – from where it has never reached the light of day since. In this case, St Paul’s famous and oft’ quoted, “Quench not the Spirit” has been well and truly quenched by the all-male Vatican traditionalists.

That is not the end of the story, however, and there is hope. Some nuns have been emboldened by their female counterparts in civilian life and may no longer be prepared to accept the indignity of being abused without recourse to their full rights of justice – which include the full and rightful list of punitive measures of both Canon Law and the Civil Law being taken against offending clerics. The official Vatican taboo of uttering a single word about the physical, mental and sexual exploitation of nuns by priests may just be about to crack open again – and that opened can of worms may soon be swarming all over the marble floors of St Peter’s Square. For the readers of this blog who anticipate that somewhere in this article I will be making a reference to the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona Italy in this same regard – you need not hold your breath any longer – allegations of abuse of nuns by clerics of that Order are known to have been made.

Brian Mark Hennessy



‘Act justly ..Love tenderly Walk humbly with your God’? — by F. Healy

‘Act justly ..Love tenderly Walk humbly with your God’?  


I want to express my feelings on hearing about the latest strategy of the Comboni Fathers to extricate themselves from the shame of protecting a paedophile priest from within their own ranks. I am shocked to hear that they have issued a summons for Mark Murray, (one of the survivors of such abuse), to appear before a court in Italy on 14th Sept 2016.

The charges are patently false: entering a place of worship through sliding doors represents trespass?; wanting to offer forgiveness to the one who abused you, represents interference in another’s life?; asking for permission to speak to someone & acting in accordance with the permission granted, represents stalking? I don’t think so.

How ironic that the charges include words such as ‘trespass’ ‘interference’ & ‘stalking’. While not referring to the possible legal interpretation of these terms, the following thoughts sprang to mind.

Have the Comboni Fathers not reflected on the words of Christ whom they profess to follow, ‘Forgive us our trespasses ..’ Who in this case needs forgiveness – the victim of the crime? – or the perpetrators? I am using the plural noun here because it seems to me, that it is not only Father Nardo that is guilty but also those who have protected him over the years.

For them now to accuse one of his victims of ‘interference’ in his life, is an extraordinary & shocking accusation, especially in view of the circumstances. It so happens, that for an adult to sexually interfere with a young boy as was the case at Mirfield, is a crime

The Comboni Fathers have offered to pray for Mark Murray & for those others who lives have been blighted by the interference they suffered as young people, while in the care of this religious institution. Well, when the Reverend Fathers engage in these prayers, do they ask for enlightenment? Do they plead for an understanding of the horrific nature of sexual abuse? Do they ask for the courage to do what is right & do they ask for forgiveness for their contribution to the suffering endured by all those, who in one way or another, have been affected by the actions of paedophile priests in their Order?

With regard to ‘stalking’: Do these representatives of Christ, in bringing the case against Mark Murray, (albeit under the guise of Fr Nardo’s legal guardian), have any concept of the way in which victims of sexual abuse, continue to be stalked by the experience, for the rest of their lives? But – who cares? Apparently not the Comboni Fathers

I am incensed, scandalized & hugely saddened by what they are doing by taking out this case against Mark Murray. I find it inconceivable that a survivor of sexual of abuse by a priest could then find himself subjected to this form of intimidation by other priests. Why? I can only imagine this is an attempt to protect their own reputation & to silence the erstwhile victim. The situation is compounded by the apparent rank hypocrisy & cowardice of the Order in lacking the integrity to put its own name to the summons.

‘Power corrupts’. What an excellent example of what this means.

Mark Murray is simply asking for an acknowledgement that the abuse took place & for an apology? That after so many years this request is still being ignored is in itself = a scandal.

Eventually we all have to account for our own actions. I doubt that I would be sleeping too soundly had I been party to issuing this summons. The fear of an even greater call, to stand before the throne of God, might keep me awake. However to experience such unease, I would have had to examine my conscience.

I cannot see Christ reflected in the actions of these so called ‘missionaries’. Isn’t there something in the bible that instructs us to: ‘Act justly ….. Love tenderly Walk humbly with your God’?

Pause for thought anyone?