“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.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Brian Mark Hennessy

 

‘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?

 

 

Mark Murray in Verona — by Brian Mark Hennessy

Mark Murray in Verona

By Brian Mark Hennessy

 

In his final paragraph of his narrative at Santa Marta in 2014, His Holiness, Pope Francis said, “Jesus comes forth from an unjust trial, from a cruel interrogation and he looks in the eyes of Peter, and Peter weeps”. This is the reference to Peter who had thrice denied that he knew Christ – and the cock crowed as Christ had foretold that it would. That Cock continues to crow within the Catholic Church as clerics obfuscate, as secrecy covers the truth, as the avoidance of scandal denies justice, as Victims like Christ himself are falsely accused, ill-used, have suffering upon suffering heaped upon them by a sometimes un-Christian, malicious priesthood which is akin to that of the Pharisees and Saducees who were bent on preserving their hierarchical dominance, their self-deception of moral superiority and the comforts of their “way of life”. Peter wept for his sins of denial and gained Redemption. Yet, there will be no Redemption for those clerics of the Catholic Church who continue to deny the sexual abuse of children in their care.

 

The Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, have been severely wounded by the accusations of numerous incidents of sexual abuse of minors by clerics of their order – yet they show none of the repentance of Peter. They have not yet taken the trouble to undergo the rigorous and painful self-examination necessary to grow morally and spiritually enough in order to accept the reality that members of their Order abused kids and that they knew about, did nothing about it – and have concealed it and denied it ever since. The psychologist, Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea, puts it well: “The earliest response of the (Church) institution is to preserve its long-held identity as a source of goodness and godliness. Yes, its leaders acknowledge in a vague way that of course there is sin within the church, but the sense is always that sin is somehow a general thing and not assigned to specified actors in the church drama. I sin, you sin, we all sin is an implied mantra that attempts to diminish the criminality and evil of priests who sexually violate kids, and of bishops (and religious Superiors) who protect perpetrators and cover up abuse. Church officials lie, deny and project blame on victims, on parents of victims, on a sexually liberated and sexualized culture, on bad apple priests, on the ’60s and on the media. They can see the enemy and it is not them”.

 

A British Admiral, famously, once put a telescope to his blind eye and announced, “I see no ships!” and he then proceeded to disobey his orders. The Comboni Missionary Order in their cruel, moral blindness have claimed, “I see no Victims!” and they have then proceeded to ignore every moral creed, Church Canon, Civil Law, obligations to the Bishops’ Conferences of the British Isles, their undertakings to Safeguarding Practices and their very own Code of Conduct. Their Redemption, that can only be gained through Gospel-inspired humility. Yet any repentance on their part is a far distant hope, as the following tale witnesses:

 

A meeting between Mark Murray, one of many Survivors of clerical sexual abuse at the Comboni Missionary Order’s Mirfield seminary, Yorkshire and his Abuser, Father Romano Nardo, had always been denied by the Superior Generals of the Comboni Missionary Order, but Mark never gave up on the possibility of the chance of achieving an understanding as to why the abuse had taken place – why this man who had so befriended him as a child – had then cruelly betrayed his trust and destroyed his innocence. Thus in April 2015, Mark Murray took it upon himself to journey from North Wales to Verona in Italy in a final attempt to confront his Abuser. Mark has been in trauma for the most part of his life. For his own peace of mind Mark needed to know “Why?” this priest, who had already admitted that he had taken the boyhood Mark Murray to his bed, had committed the long series of sexual crimes against him. He knew those crimes had taken place – because they happened to him – and the details of the abuse recurred constantly in his mind. Since Mark had first made the allegations of abuse, the Order had brought Mark’s abuser back from Uganda investigated the allegations and then confined him to the Mother House of the Order for some two decades so that he had no further contact with children – and that priest had accepted his confinement without apparent complaint. It can be logically deduced the neither such confinement by the Order nor acceptance of it by the abuser would have been reasonable behaviour if there was not good cause!

 

As Mark Murray arrived at the Verona Mother House, he walked through the open gateway and up the path and then straight in through their first set of sliding doors. There he asked the receptionist if he could go and pray in the chapel; she said that he could – and opened the next set of doors and pointed him in the direction of the chapel door. He entered the chapel and walked around it and then sat at the back on one of two chairs. He composed himself and then decided “This is it!” and that that was the moment he needed to face Father Nardo. So he went back to the receptionist and, using the name of Christophoro, the Italian equivalent of his third name, he asked her to see Padre Romano Nardo. He listened as the receptionist was speaking on her intercom and announcing to Father Nardo that Christophoro was here in the chapel. Whilst Mark was sitting there in the chapel, he was crying in his heart, not knowing what to do. Father Nardo was on his way and he was afraid of losing his courage at the last moment. Then the sound of a cuckoo, and the yaffing call of a Green Woodpecker distracted him, calmed him and gave him strength.

 

When Father Nardo entered the room, he looked at Mark Murray in complete shock. Then, after a few seconds Mark said, “ Do you remember me?” Father Nardo appeared unable to speak and initially stood in silence, saying nothing, but then mouthed inaudibly the word “No” and so Mark said “I am Mark Stephen Christopher Murray.” There was no response from the priest, who then sat down next to his unexpected visitor. The two remained there, side by side in silence, for a long time – each struggling to recall the events of the sordid past that they had experienced together. “Do you remember Mirfield?” Mark persisted. “Look at me! Look at me! Can you look at me?” After a while, Mark then said, “Do you realise what effect the abuse you did to me has had on my life, my wife’s life and my children’s life? You abused me. I spent many years thinking I would wake up one morning and start abusing children because I was abused by you.”. Father Nardo got off his chair and knelt on the floor mumbling : “If it is my fault that you bear a heavy cross, I believe I should ask the Lord for forgiveness, for having erred. I’m sorry. I’m very sorry. If what happened in your life was caused by me and if what you are saying is true, I am truly sorry and ask for forgiveness”. Mark Responded, “I came here to forgive you”. Mark Murray then told Father Nardo to get the Superior or someone in authority. Father Nardo left the chapel. Mark waited for about ten minutes and as Father Nardo had not returned, he went outside and discovered Father Nardo walking up and down the corridor. He was on his own and then another man appeared. Mark noticed that he was a member of the Order, but he recollects that this man had more the manner of a “Security Official” than a cleric. The “Official” could not speak English and so Father Nardo had to translate what Mark was saying to him. It was a surreal experience Mark later remarked. Mark asked the “Official”, if he knew who he was. Nardo translated and , yes, the “Official” knew his identity. The two clerics argued then about how Mark had managed to get in the house and why Father Nardo had come down to see him. Soon after this, Mark left saying that he would be back the next day to speak to Father Sanchez. As it was stated then that Sanchez, the Superior General, was in Rome, Mark said, “Get him to fly back from Rome. Get the Superior of this house here tomorrow. I will be back”. He left, shaking, crying and struggling to retain his self control.

 

The next day, Mark returned to the Verona Mother House of the Order and he was let in. This time a different Priest arrived who said that he was the Vice Superior of the house. He was surly in his manner and Mark was already on his guard for an unpleasant encounter. It was hot and Mark asked for some water. The response from the Vice-Superior was that there was no need for Mark to be there and he then threatened Mark with the Italian law of trespass for being on private land. When Mark asked the priest if Father Nardo was there, the priest said that he was not. The priest again threatened Mark with the force of Italian law and in a game of semantics, the Vice Superior changed tactics and said words to the effect of, “Father Nardo is not here. You can see he is not here. He is not in this room. Can you see him?”. After further unsatisfactory exchanges, Mark turned to leave with the Priest calling after him in slanderous and defamatory words to the effect that Mark was just another “money grabber”. Mark said that he would return in the evening at 6.00 pm. The Priest told him that the Superior of the house, who was apparently in Bari in the South East of Italy, had decided to come back early to see him and Mark should be happy that he had decided to do so. Mark responded, “How dare you tell me when I can be happy”. The Vice Superior laughed in sardonic derision at Mark and smirked as Mark turned to leave.

 

Mark returned at 6.00pm as arranged and introduced himself as Mark Murray. The Vice Superior and the “Official” arrived and Mark was led into a side room where he was to wait. Mark asked for a glass of water and said that he wanted to see the Superior of the House and the Superior General, Enrique Sanchez. At that point the “Official” left. The Vice Superior remained in the room standing. He rubbed his eyes, refused to answer questions and distracted himself by fiddling with the door handle. Mark told him that he was the most arrogant man that he had ever met. The Vice Superior laughed scornfully and replied that Mark was the first person in all his 75 years of life that had ever told him that he was arrogant. The Priest had not liked that charge of arrogance. Mark noticed how mortified and taken aback he was and so he said to the Vice Superior, “You have no empathy, nor understanding about the psychological abuse you and your order continue to do to many men that were abused by your priests at Mirfield. How do you sleep at night?” The Vice-Superiors response was, “I sleep very well”.

 

The “Official” then returned with the message that it was not the Superior of the House that Mark needed to speak to, but the Superior General, Enrique Sanchez, who was in Rome. The Vice Superior and the “Official” then went outside and had a conversation in Italian. On entering the room again, the “Official” informed Mark that the Order’s legal representative was on his way. He arrived about 5 minutes later – obviously having been briefed of Mark’s presence beforehand. Mark left the room and asked the legal representative if he spoke English, but the man intimated that he did not. Mark repeated that he wanted Enrique Sanchez “to come here to Verona and tell him why he was harbouring a child abuser in the Verona Mother House”. They were taken aback by this charge and they countered by threatening Mark again that he had broken the Italian law on privacy by entering a private house – to which Mark responded that he had entered through an open door. They then said that Mark had broken a law by not using his full name, albeit “Christopher” was one of his names and presumably, he can use which of his names that he wants, and they said that they were now on the phone to the Carabinieri. Mark left.

 

The Superior General never came to speak to Mark, but the Superior of the House, who had cut his holiday short arrived back in Verona and a meeting was arranged for the next day. On arrival, Mark noted immediately that the Superior had a more relaxed manner than his deputy and he introduced himself as “John” and offered Mark coffee. Nevertheless, it was a relatively brief meeting and the outcome was not positive. Mark said, “I saw Nardo yesterday” and the immediate response from the Superior was, “You are not supposed to see him.” Mark asked, “Why not?” and the response was, “Because he is here for a special reason – he is not well and so he cannot see anybody. The only person you should be in touch with is Father General. Here we want privacy; we are sick persons. We do not want you to encounter anybody here. I do not know anything (else). The only thing I know is we do not want you to meet anybody here.” Mark then said, “I met Nardo here two days ago.” and the rejoinder from the Superior was, “You were not supposed to – he is not well.” The Superior continued and asked, “Do you know Father Martin Devenish?” Mark’s reply was , “Yes.” “You deal with him?” inquired the Superior. “I do not.” was Mark’s answer and he continued, “He threatened me with the police last time I spoke with him.” The Superior then moved the conversation again – on to the inevitable subject – and asked, “How can the institute apologise? For what?”   “The abuse!” Mark responded. To that the Superior said, “I cannot say anything.” Mark’s reply was, “That is all I get. Everyone says to me, “I cannot talk (to you). The only person that has talked to me was Nardo. You are not talking to me!”. “(That is) because I have nothing to say,” was the Superior’s response. Mark was feeling frustrated at the lack of any substantive response and stated, “You have a man here in this house who abused children!” The Superior replied, “And he is taken care of.” Mark continued, “I came two days ago and he came down stairs to see me!”. The Superior replied blandly, “Somebody made a mistake.” The Father Superior continued, “Rather than concentrating on an apology you should look towards the future with a positive attitude. (Being) here will not help you in any way. So it does not pay for you to stay in Verona because you (will) not see anybody.” Mark responded, “I am here until I see someone who apologises.” The reply from the Priest was, “You will be waiting in vain.” At this Mark asked in exasperation, “Why are (the Comboni Missionaries) so frightened of apologising? You (only) say you will pray for me!” The pious rejoinder of the priest was, “There is nothing greater than prayer.”It was not what Mark wanted to hear and he said in a determined tone, “It has not helped me!” Then the final words of the Father Superior were, in the circumstances, a lame, “I hope it helps!.”

 

Mark realised that since his arrival nothing had changed. Their cold hearts remained frozen. Their ears were still deaf to cries for help and the need for suffering to be addressed. The Order’s denials to his plight had been re-stated with the same indifference that the Order had displayed for years previously. It had been demonstrably stated, in fact, that his needs were subordinate to those of the paedophile priest who had abused him as a child and who had scarred his life ever since. He had been offered not one word of comfort or hope. He had received none of the assurances he had been seeking. There was no breakthrough, no offer of apology, no reconciliation, just prayers and more prayers. In an unwilling moment of frustration, resignation and a sense of failure, he said a curt, “Goodbye!” and left. Mark thought to himself “More prayers!” He did not want their prayers. He had had enough of their prayers over the years. Their prayers were just a convenient and pious “cop out” that shirked their true responsibilities to the Victims of this world. Their prayers had not assuaged his anxieties and suffering. An apology, just might have been the start of a new beginning. An apology turned out to be a hope too far!

 

The meetings described above are worthy of comment for what happened was not just a chilling exposition of the arrogance and pitiless behaviour of clerics in our own age, but it was a role reversal of sorts. The former Victim had metamorphosed and was now a man of courage. He had arrived unannounced in the den of the Abuser and those protecting him and he had suddenly caught them off guard. The Abuser, Father Romano Nardo, could not look Mark Murray, the Victim, in the face. When people avert their gaze they pretend not to see what they have just seen and pretend not to realise what they have just realised. For a man accused of crimes, his mind would then have harboured the fear of losing, in the future, the things that he now has. Father Nardo was wounded by the meeting and in trauma. He had suddenly had to deal with the confusion that his self-deception of a lifetime had been a lie. He had thought this moment would never come and that his life-time of comfortable self-belief would have continued until he was committed to his grave. He had made an “if” apology, but what was that apology for? He had not conceded his guilt. That would have destroyed him totally and he was not able to endure that. So his “if” apology was not a specific apology for crimes committed, but it took the form of a vague and evasive comment which had no precise meaning. In those moments, he had been faced with a myriad of mental tasks to grapple with. His mind was unable to grasp control of the unexpected dilemma of his “guilt” for crimes and suffering. So, he must have wrestled in his mind with his options, which were to remain silent or to walk away.

 

The Vice Superior of the Order, who perceived himself to be the giant in his own cloister, was diminished in stature and displayed the apparent, unconcerned behaviour that many men demonstrate when they are faced with unexpected and disturbing odds that had not been  previously encountered. He suddenly could not continue to play his role in the Order’s game of “deafness to the cries of victims” any more and his contempt for the abuse Survivor was akin to those pointless efforts that are made when someone of self-perceived esteem is confronted by a degree of strength and determination to which he is unused. Thus he sought to retain control by derision and by taunting the Victim of his Order’s neglect, insensitivity and indifference. There is another word for this kind of arrogance. It is called “Revictimisation”.

 

The Superior of the Order’s Mother House was more relaxed and pleasant to Mark Murray. However, his words were not what Mark had wanted to hear for what he said in effect was. “Go Home. You will get nothing from us. Buck up and get over it!”. That is not the sort of advice one would expect from a concerned and well-intentioned pastor, but more the language of someone who is totally disinterested in the person being addressed. This is important to note in the overall context of this document. Mark Murray is a Victim who has contemplated suicide. The Comboni Missionary Order know this as it is in his statement. In the United Kingdom, suicides amongst men of all ages have been increasing year on year and currently they account for almost 80% of all suicides. It has been deduced by substantial research that one of the most significant factors contributing to male suicides is the pressure of society on men to repress anxieties and get on with life. “Man up!”, “Grit your teeth”, “Grin and bear it” and “Get a grip” are the common expressions aimed at men anguished by a dilemma or problem. Thus what this research reveals is that a man’s induced inability to talk about his anxieties to another person and his failed attempts to manage those anxieties within himself is one of the main contributory factors of a male person’s suicide. In effect, therefore, the Comboni Missionary Order’s failure to accept any responsibility for the abuse of minors at their Mirfield seminary, coupled with their determined efforts to have no dialogue with Victims about it at all is a most damaging strategy. Mark Murray had arrived in Verona after many decades of suffering from anxieties about his abuse. He needed to talk about it. He had made many attempts to get a dialogue going and one by one they had refused to talk to him. That continuous failure of care of the Order that had at times been hostile, is what had forced him to make his trek to Verona unannounced. What happened? He was told to go away and sort it out himself. That is not just devastating revictimisation. For some, such disinterested denial of dialogue could be a “death sentence”.

 

Unknown to the Order, the Italian Media Company, La Repubblica, had expressed a wish to cover the story of Mark Murray’s visit to Verona to seek dialogue with his Abuser. A co-operation on the visit thus ensued betweeen them and was ultimately revealed to the Order. The subsequent actions of the Order in the days following this confrontation appears to demonstrate that they may have glimpsed the realisation that their game of denial was at an end and that a new unpleasant and unfamiliar reality called the exposure of the “truth” was rushing towards them with gathering speed. Soon, the exposure of a sordid history of lies and cover-up might mean that their control of their little Veronese empire might be at an end and that then only moral oblivion awaited them. Their arrogance and pride and false self-esteem, in which they had found such comfort, had become the harbinger that would foreshadow their own ultimate downfall. Their response to Mark Murray’s visit and their fear of exposure to the world at large was to try to scare him off. Thus they informed La Repubblica news outlet who was running the story of Mark’s visit to Verona, that they intended to sue Mark Murray on the grounds that:

 

 

  • Firstly, they claimed that Mark had entered the Mother House using a false name to gain entry, albeit Christopher is one of his names and he can choose, presumably, whichever of his names he wishes to use.
  • They claimed that he was drunk, because their lack of understanding and empathy failed to assist them in the realisation that what they were witnessing was not drunkenness, but the reactions of a man whom they had denied for two decades – and that this venture to seek an apology, truth and reconciliation had taken enormous courage and emotional control – and thus there had been a severe toll on him in terms of strain, agitation, frustration. foreboding and fear of both failure and a loss of courage.
  • They claimed that his drunkenness had forced them to call the Carabinieri – albeit they told him that they had called the police because he was trespassing on private property. In respect to that claim of trespass that had been made by them, they appear to have neglected that he had walked through an open gate and an open door and talked to the receptionist, who then allowed him to enter the chapel and who subsequently called Father Nardo to meet him. Moreover, their claim of trespass was stridently false in relation not only to the first visit of Mark, but also for the remaining visits, because the Comboni Missionary Order had agreed for him to return for further meetings at specific times, which he had done.
  • They claimed he might return and injure Father Nardo for which there was not a shred of evidence – for the two had sat in silence side by side in the Chapel for most of the visit and had exchanged only a relatively few quiet words.
  • They claimed that Father Nardo had now been victimised and that Mark Murray was the persecutor, albeit Mark Murray was only asking for an apology, which is what a Victim would ask for and he did not make any threats. Father Nardo may have suffered “trauma”, but he was not the “victim”. He was the Abuser of the Victim.
  • They claimed that Mark Murray and all the other claimants associated with him, were only trying to extract money from the Order, albeit Mark Murray did not mention the word “money” once, but what he did say was that he wanted an “apology”.

 

Before these events, Mark Murray was invited, along with two other survivors, by the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service to address a Conference in Rome that will be attended by the English speaking Bishops of the world and by professionals and experts in the field of Clerical Child Abuse. After his invitation was announced, the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, have, through the courts of Verona, initiated prosecution proceedings for crimes that Mark Murray committed against Father Romano Nardo and the Order whilst he was in their house in Verona.  The journalist, Marco Ansaldo, who covered the original story in the Italian News outlet “La Repubblica”, has also been summoned. It seems that to save themselves from the difficult process of rigorous and painful self-examination, the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, have decided to discredit both the Victim of Child Sexual Abuse and his Messenger.

 

As Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea has said of Clerics of the Catholic Church who seek to conceal the sexual abuse of children, “I sin, you sin, we all sin is the implied mantra that attempts to diminish the criminality and evil of priests who sexually violate kids, and of bishops (and religious Superiors) who protect perpetrators and cover up abuse. Church officials lie, deny and project blame on victims, on parents of victims, on a sexually liberated and sexualized culture, on bad apple priests, on the ’60s and on the media. They have seen the enemy and it is not them!”

 

Well – the sexual abuse of children surely is a sin theologically, but it is also a crime – and covering up a crime and protecting paedophiles is complicity in the crime. The populations of the world understand that and civil institutions of the world acknowledge that in their legal systems. The Catholic Church and its Bishops and Religious Leaders cannot claim extra-terrestial exemption – and they will be brought to account – if not in the Law Courts that can impose sanctions – in the much more devastating Court of public opinion.

Removal of Bishops or Heads of Religious Communities Negligent on Sexual Abuse — by Joshua J. McElwee, Rome

Francis gives Vatican authority to initiate removal of bishops negligent on sexual abuse –  by Joshua J. McElwee,    Rome

The new measure, comprised of five short articles, allows “the competent congregation of the Roman Curia” to begin investigations of local bishops, eparchs, or heads of religious communities when the congregation suspects a leader’s negligence has caused “physical, moral, spiritual or patrimonial” harm.

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Pope Francis has signed a new universal law for the global Catholic church specifying that a bishop’s negligence in response to clergy sexual abuse can lead to his removal from office.

The law also empowers several Vatican dicasteries to investigate such bishops and initiate processes of removal, subject to final papal approval.

The move, made by the pontiff in a formal document known as a motu proprio on Saturday, appears to represent a significant moment in the worldwide church’s decades-long clergy sexual abuse crisis.

In case after case in the past, the Vatican and church officials would dig in to protect bishops even when there was substantial documented evidence of negligence on their behalf. Now, the pope has formally mandated that the church’s offices in Rome must prosecute bishops who fail in protecting children.

“Canon law already foresees the possibility of removal from the ecclesial office ‘for grave causes,'” Francis states in a short preamble to the new law, given the Italian name Come una madre amorevole (“Like a loving mother.”)

“With the following letter I intend to specify that among those ‘grave causes’ is included negligence of bishops in the exercise of their office, particularly relative to cases of sexual abuse against minors and vulnerable adults,” he continues.

 

 

Marie Collins, a member of Francis’ Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and an abuse survivor, told NCR she welcomes the new procedures and “hope they will succeed in bringing the accountability survivors have waited for so long.”

“The most important aspect of any new procedure is its implementation and that is what we must wait to see,” she said.

Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the head of the commission, called the motu proprio “clearly an important and positive step forward.”

“We are grateful that our Holy Father has received the recommendations from our Commission members and that they have contributed to this new and significant initiative,” he said.

The new measure, comprised of five short articles, allows “the competent congregation of the Roman Curia” to begin investigations of local bishops, eparchs, or heads of religious communities when the congregation suspects a leader’s negligence has caused “physical, moral, spiritual or patrimonial” harm.

“The diocesan bishop or the eparch or whoever has the responsibility for a particular church, even if temporarily … can be legitimately removed from his position if he has by negligence, placed or omitted acts caused serious harm to others, whether their physical persons or the community as a whole,” states the first article.

“The diocesan bishop or eparch can be removed only if he has objectively been lacking in a very grave manner the diligence that is required of his pastoral office,” it continues, specifying: “In the case of abuse against minors or vulnerable adults it is sufficient that the lacking of diligence be grave.”

The law obliges the Vatican to notify the local bishop or leader of the investigation and to give him the possibility to produce relevant documents or testimony.

“To the bishop will be given the possibility to defend himself, according to the methods foreseen by the law,” it states. “All the steps of the inquiry will be communicated to him and he will always be given the possibility of meeting the superiors of the congregation.”

 

 

The law states that “if it becomes necessary to remove the bishop” the congregation involved in the matter can either proceed “to give, in the shortest time possible, the decree or removal” or “to exhort the bishop fraternally to present his resignation within 15 days.”

“If the bishop does give his response in that time, the congregation can release the decree of removal,” it states.

All decisions by Vatican congregations, the law states, “must be subjected to the specific approval of the Roman Pontiff.” The pope, it continues, will be assisted in making his decision “by a special association of legal experts of the designated need.”

The new law appears to modify a suggestion Francis was given last year by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to create a new tribunal at the Vatican to judge bishops who respond inappropriately to sexual abuse claims.

Where a new tribunal would have likely required much time and effort to create, the law deputizes current Vatican offices to undertake that work.

The U.S.-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said in a statement they were “highly skeptical” of the pope’s new law.

“A ‘process’ isn’t needed,” said the group. “Discipline is what’s needed. A ‘process’ doesn’t protect kids. Action protects kids. A ‘process’ is helpful only if it’s used often enough to deter wrongdoing. We doubt this one will be.”

Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, said in a note Saturday that four Vatican congregations would be charged with investigating prelates: for Bishops, for the Evangelization of Peoples, for the Oriental Churches, and for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The Vatican’s chief doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will not be involved with the new law “because it is not a matter of crimes of abuse but of negligence of office,” Lombardi said.

The spokesman also said that the “special association” that is to assist the pope in deciding on these matters will be a new group of advisers and “you can foresee that this association will be composed of cardinals and bishops.”

The new law is to take effect Sept. 5.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent.

His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

 

Comboni Missionaries, It is time to admit past mistakes.

By  Frank McGinnis

Comboni Missionaries

I don’t know how many there might be. Some Comboni Missionaries must surely be having difficulty sleeping at night. Readers of this blog will know that many 12 year old boys who attended the Seminary at Mirfield still have nightmares. Yes, even 40 & 50 years later.

The crimes of Fr Pinkman, Fr Valmaggia and Fr Nardo may be termed ‘historic’, the pain is so very often a daily companion. The continued denial is an act of cowardice. The continued cover up is a betrayal of the very Catholic Faith your founder held so dear.

Mission Appeals

There can be little moral or spiritual worth in protecting the reputation of the Order if in doing so painful truths must be denied. Your presence in the UK enables a lucrative income. Honest Catholics donate money at your Mission Appeals to fill your coffers. Do you fear the loss of funds if the truth be told ?

Is it worth living a lie to maintain the rivers of cash ? Is it worth ignoring the sexual abuse of children ? There are many former Mirfield Seminarians you should be contacting.

Priestly Duty of Care

You have a basic priestly duty to offer help to those who suffered at your college. Through the blog we have helped a number come to terms with their past. We have offered to assist the Order in locating others.

The Comboni Missionaries have so far shown no interest in assessing the damage done in their house.

Shame on you Fathers, shame on every one of you.

Our Greatest Benefactor

Our Greatest Benefactor

There was one series of events that I found bizarre whilst I was there. I remember one time Tea was interrupted by a guy, Mr. Hughes, who came in the refectory door. He would probably have been in his thirties or forties. He walked in and stood on one of the steps down into the refectory and held up a huge see-through bag of what looked like sweets without their wrappers on.

Suddenly all the boys and priests in the refectory burst into applause and cheers for this guy.

“What is going on?” I enquired of one of the guys from third year.

“He’s our biggest benefactor” he replied.

Broken Sweets

I never did get to the bottom of all this. The sum of his benefaction seemed to be that he worked in a sweet factory and he brought sweets from there to us. However, none of the sweets had wrappers on them, although they were all well-known brands and the other thing is that they were all misshapen, crushed or were just parts of the normal product.

They really fawned on this guy. In my perspective, even as an eleven year old, these were reject products and were probably rescued before they were dumped in some bin at the sweet factory.

However, nobody seemed to want to take this on board. It seems that the ovation he got, although not quite orchestrated, the boys all knew what to do.

He was always known to everyone as ‘our greatest benefactor’. I did ask if he actually contributed anything more than reject sweets but nobody seemed to know. My strong hunch was that he didn’t.

A Protestant

One other thing always mentioned about him was that he was a Protestant. It was said that despite that he still gave to ‘the’ church. It was always assumed that Protestants were in darkness. Any of them who did us a favour was always assumed to be in the process of being led to the truth by God.

It would be interesting to find out this guy’s perspective of it all. Was he just a kind hearted guy who worked at a sweet factory and who thought that it would be better to rescue reject sweets that were about to be binned and bring them over to the local boys school? Or was he wavering on the verge of conversion to the true faith. One feels that the latter was a long shot.

I don’t know what he thought happened to them. I presume that he thought that they would be immediately divided out amongst the boys.

Removed for Special Occasions

After he had gone the sweets were immediately taken away. At special occasions in the future we would receive a single mangled caramel wafer or whatever it was. I always noticed that what was passed out to us didn’t seem to match what was given in.

It always happens in any strict regime where the rulers have absolute power that ‘output’ tends to get siphoned off by those in the ruling classes. I have no idea whether the Fathers were gorging themselves on reject chocolate bars, but I do know that we got less than the sum of the whole.