My Name is Eddie Roberts. I Was at the Verona Fathers in Mirfield

Eddie (Edwin) Roberts

Who is this visitor to the blog you may ask?

I am now 66 years old and walked the corridors of Mirfield from 1963 to 1967 and then moved up to Allanton  for a year from where I was dishonourably discharged as a result of an unhealthy (still a matter of opinion) encounter with beer and ladies.

I shared the classroom often with John Docherty, Leonard Rowland, and  David Glenday in particular and had a close association with Fritz and Bickers among others.

The list of names would go on. My pride and joy as for  others was pulling on the Inter Milan strip and roaming the right side of the field.

My laundry number was 94!

MC at Mirfield

I was elevated to the lofty position of  MC which was  the pinnacle of my then career, and though I thought it was because of my unquestioned saintliness, in truth it was because I was the worst singer since Moses tried to sing the Ten Commandments and I could swing a thurible like no other.

My class reports had a common theme of “too frivolous in class” and ” must take his duties more seriously ” !

Via a circuitous route through Israel, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Stockton-on-Tees, I arrived in Australia.

Eddie Roberts - a Verona Fathers Mirfield Boy

Eddie Roberts – a Verona Fathers Mirfield Boy

Mirfield Blog

I came upon this blog quite by accident . I was engaged in routine internet activity and like many others suddenly decided to go off task and do a bit of Google research.

Now for some as yet unconfirmed reason I entered Verona Fathers.

What  I found was an emotional tremor to say the least! How was I unaware of what was going on then and now?

Names , my name! and events from an age gone by leapt out of the pages and excited as I was , my heart became heavy as I read on.

Corridors and Dormitories

I have reflected deeply since the discovery and with the benefit of that wonderful friend hindsight, yes the signs were there, the clues were in the corridors and dormitories.

Why not me? Who knows?

I thought till now a routine weigh by an avuncular medically trained Father was quite normal. It  is hard to attach a 66 year old head to a 13 year old kid destined for the papacy.

A Time of Happiness and Fun

As my contact with some of you grows, I think of a time, for me, of happiness and fun, of challenge and camaraderie that forged my path for the future.

I must now dwell on other things, sad things, and my thoughts are with you.

I talked with Gerry recently for over an hour after a gap of around 49 years!

I don’t know the man, yet we talked of happy days, memories plucked from storage in the depths of some cerebral hemisphere.And we still have  a bond, more in common than with some people I have known for decades.

From a land down under, I wish you well and speed the day I don that Inter strip and see you again.

A Tale of Three Cities by Brian Mark Hennessy

A Tale of Three Cities   by Brian Mark Hennessy

 

  1. An Archbishop’s Apology in Minneapolis, USA.

 

Reporting in the National Catholic Reporter (NCRonline.org.) , Brian Roewe (broewe@ncronline.org) relates a story of events that resulted in a revision of a civil settlement concerning the sexual abuse of three minors by a diocesan priest. This event is notable for readers of this blog in that it has significant “dis-similarities” with the attitude of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, in relation to the manner in which allegations of child sexual abuse are best handled and how lessons must be learned.

 

The original charge had been served against the St Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese – and the allegation was “a failure to protect children” on the part of the archdiocese in relation to three minors who had been sexually abused by a former priest, Curtis Wehmeyer. The charge against the archdiocese was made, Attorney Choi stated, because, “It was not only Curtis Wehmeyer who harmed children, it was the archdiocese as well – and today, through the leadership of the new permanent Archbishop, Bernard Hebda, that direct and public admission of wrongdoing has now been made.” The charge was thus amended to state:

 

“Curtis Wehmeyer was a priest in this Archdiocese. The Archdiocese admits that it failed to adequately respond and prevent the sexual abuse of three Victims. The Archdiocese failed to keep the safety and wellbeing of these three children ahead of protecting the interests of Curtis Wehmeyer and the archdiocese. The actions and omissions of the archdiocese failed to prevent the abuse that resulted in the need for protection and services for these three children.” Archbishop Hebda later stated publicly, “Today. We humbly acknowledge our past failures and look forward to continueing down that path to achieve those vital, common goals that together we all share. To the victims and survivors, the faithful and the entire community, we pledge to move forward openly, collaboratively and humbly, always mindful of our past. We will never forget.”

 

  1. How Priests of the Comboni Missionary Order Stood by and Watched Children Drown in Shallow Water in Mirfield, Yorkshire, England.

 

Stepping back in time to the Comboni Missionary Order’s Seminaries in England, some 18 boys allege that Priests of the Order (and lay staff employed by them) perpetrated some 1000 acts of sexual abuse against them – each act of abuse a crime in its own right – from the late 1950s to the early 1980s. They claim that eight priests of the Order, including the Provincial Superior and the Superior General of the Order were aware of the abuse – which had been reported to them by the Victims on 23 occasions and by parents of Victims on 3 occasions. Apart from the statements of the Victims, some 50 further witnesses have provided statements. In addition 5 statements were made to the West Yorkshire Police who subsequently determined that crimes had taken place. Unsuccessful attempts on a number of occasions have been made to extradite the one living priest against whom crimes are alleged. Three living priests of the Order are known historically to have been aware of the abuse, but currently they have sought to deny it.

 

In respect to Fr Valmaggia, who abused his office as the Infirmarian to molest countless seminarians, multiple incidents of abuse have been documented throughout the period from 1958 to 1967. Ten reports of that abuse are known to have been made during the period 1966 to 1968. It was not until 1969 that any action was taken against Fr Valmaggia, at which time he was moved within the UK Province to the Novitiate at Sunningdale in Berkshire before later being incardinated to a Parish in the Diocese of Como, Italy. Needless to say, the abuse that took place after the first known report in 1966 could have been avoided if action had been taken by the Comboni Missionary Order at that time. No action was taken and, consequently, further crimes of sexual abuse, that could have been averted, were perpetrated unnecessarily against seminarians who were minors.

 

In respect to Fr Pinkman, who displayed the classic symptoms of a predatory paedophile, multiple incidents of abuse have been documented in the period from 1964 to 1967. Eight reports were made throughout the period from 1965 to 1968. Again, it was not until 1969 that action was taken against him – when he was transferred within the UK Province to Westminster. Subsequently, Father Pinkman was sent to the Missions in Palestine.

 

In respect to each of the two priests above, no Inquiries appear to have taken place. No Victims at Mirfield were invited to give accounts. No reports were made in 1969 to the Local Constabulary regarding the allegations of his crimes against minors and nor were Welfare Authorities advised. No reports were made to the Vatican Curia under the terms of Canon Law that required it.

 

In respect to Father Romano Nardo, a paedophile who committed masochistic and macabre sexual crimes veiled in religious overtones, multiple incidents of abuse took place in 1970 during which time he managed to ingratiate himself into the homes of some of his victims and abused them there also. His “cumuppance” took place when one Victim was seen leaving Father Nardo’s room early one morning in 1969 by Father Luigi Cocchi (based at Mirfield from 1969 to 1973) who had seen the boy must have reported it – for father Nardo, who had been assigned for a short period to Mirfield to learn English, was transferred immediately to the Missions in Uganda. Only the Superior General has jurisdiction over postings to the Missions. It is certain, therefore, that the request for his earlier than scheduled and immediate movement to the Missions must have been notified to the Superior General – who then condoned it. Moreover, again, during the subsequent 27 years of Father Nardo’s Mission in Uganda he would have had unfettered access to minors. Again, no Inquiry to which any of his Victims were invited to give evidence was ever held. However, in the years of 1996/1997, the Comboni Missionaries held an internal inquiry to investigate the allegations of serious assault then made by Mark Murray. The Inquiry concluded that Father Nardo had, in masterful understatement, merely “acted inappropriately”. This was confirmed in a letter dated 17 May 1997.

 

The failure to take any action against the perpetrators of the abuse at that time – and their failure to report those crimes to the Police as they were obliged to do, constituted arrestable and imprisonable offences. Yet, those priests to whom abuse had been reported chose to do nothing at all and their criminal indifference and criminal inaction, which led to further crimes of abuse against more seminarians, was nothing less than the equivalent of watching those young, helpless Victims slowly drown in shallow water before their very own eyes simply because they did not want to feel the discomfort of getting their feet wet.

 

 

  1. How the Comboni Missionary Order’s Curia Threw Stones at a Victim of Clerical Sexual Abuse at Verona in Italy.

 

And so we come back to the present – and to Verona in Italy to where some months ago a Victim of the alleged criminal paedophile priest, Father Roman Nardo, had made a journey to seek some kind of understanding as to why he had been abused, to seek an apology and to offer forgiveness. This Victim had been cruelly abused at the Mirfield seminary – and it is realistic to say that since the time of that abuse in 1970 his life has been one of distress, confusion, consternation and despair. On a number of occasions he had asked to meet with his abuser, but such a meeting had been refused repeatedly by father Enrique Sanchez, the Superior General of the Order – who was more concerned with the welfare of the paedophile priest that the Order harboured in its midst than the welfare of the suffering Victim. Ultimately, all members of the Order that the Victim contacted refused to meet with him or even speak to him. The Provincial Superior, Father Martin Devinish of the London Province, had even stated to him that if the Victim contacted him again, he would be reported to the Police for harrassment. The ex-Superior General of the Order, Father David Glenday, who is currently the Secretary General of the Union of all the 200 or so Male Religious Orders of the Catholic Church at the Vatican in Rome told him, “I will listen, but I will not answer you!”. Father Robert Hicks, who had been aware of abuse at Mirfield for decades, had said when contacted by the Victim, “I cannot talk to you because my dinner is going cold!”

 

So what happened to this Victim seeking dialogue, succour and understanding when he arrived at the Comboni Order’s Mother House in Verona, Italy? Well, he did meet his abuser, Father Nardo, in the Chapel of the Mother House. They spoke quietly for some five to ten minutes together. There were long periods of silence and much reflection. The Priest asked for forgivness for the lifetime of suffering that the abuse had caused to the Victim – and the Victim had forgiven his Abuser. To all intents and purposes, at that stage, the visit could have been gauged as a success – but the Victim had not anticipated what followed.

 

The Vice-Superior of the Mother House arrived and accused the Victim of trespassing on private property – albeit the Victim had walked through an open door and had spoken to the Receptionist and was shown into the Chapel to await the arrival of Father Nardo. The Vice Superior then said that he had called a lawyer and the Police – and as the Victim left to avoid any furtherconfrontation – the Vice Superior shouted after him that he was just a “Money-grabber”. Meeting the Superior of the House the next day, the Victim was told that he was never ever going to get an apology from the Order for the abuse (which he did not deny): “You will wait in vain!’ he was told. Then, incredulously, shortly after his arrival back in the United Kingdom, the Victim received a summons from the Criminal Court of Verona, Italy, and was indicted with three charges: “stalking and interference in the private life of the alleged criminal paedophile that had abused him as a child – and trespassing on the premises of the Comboni Missionary Order’s Mother House at Verona, Italy!”

 

Instead of the dialogue, succour, understanding and an apology from the Comboni Missionary Order that the Victim had hoped for, he was insulted and pelted with metaphorical stones by members of the very same Order who had failed to protect him and had watched him drowning in distress and confusion when he was a child in their care. Unlike the statement made by Archbishop Hebda in relation to the paedophile priest and the failures of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis, the unwritten statement by the Superior General and Curia of the Comboni Missionary Order appears to be:

 

“Romano Nardo is, and John Pinkman and Domenico Valmaggia were priests of this Order. The Order does not admit that it failed to respond and prevent any fabricated, alleged sexual abuse of the eighteen so-called Victims of these priests. The Order has categorically not failed to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of those eighteen children ahead of protecting any perceived interests of Romano Nardo, John Pinkman and Domenico Valmaggia or of the Order itself. There were no actions, nor omissions of the Order that contributed to any failing of the Order to prevent any alleged abuse – and, therefore, any need for dialogue, protection, apologies and services for these so-called victims are superfluous and unfounded. Today, we proudly proclaim that we did not fail in the past and look forward to continueing down our path of success to achieve our vital goals. To the alleged, dishonest, so-called victims and survivors, we pledge not to move forward openly, nor collaboratively and nor humbly, – and we will always behave as arrogantly as we have done in our past – which is to lend a deaf ear to their whining cries. We will endeavour to forget that any allegations against members of the Order were ever made. We will sue anybody who contradicts this statement. ”

 

Well – that’s how they do it in Verona Italy! Strange place – the Catholic Church. They haven’t really got it together have they! Unfortunately – this is not a bit funny – and I should not be flippant. The lives of eighteen children were ruined by the cold-hearted arrogance of this narcissistic, elitist, protectionist, so-called Christian Order of Verona, Italy – and yet, nobody in the Catholic Church – not a single Bishop in these British Isles – and nor the Vatican who are fully aware of the plight of the Victims of the Comboni Missionary Order – have ever uttered a word about this human tragedy.

PEOPLE ARE STILL COMING FORWARD

Comboni Missionaries Sexual Abuse at Mirfield

Ex seminarians of the Mirfield Comboni Missionary Junior Seminary are still discovering  – even after four years of the blog’s existence – this  site for the first time.

Some cannot comprehend that abuse happened at Mirfield,  and others that were sexually abused believed that they were the only ones that suffered abuse there.

Some of the men, for various reasons, are not ready to talk or write about such experiences.

Some are waiting till their parents or parent dies as they believe disclosing the abuse would cause untold pain and suffering to them – something I can personally understand through my experience.

All have said that finding  the blog has helped them.

Many have said that they hope to be able to write and talk someday about the sexual abuse they suffered whilst they were at Mirfield.

Mark Murray

Abuse Victims Ask Comboni Missionaries to Turn New Chapter

Comboni Missionaries and Sexual Child Abuse

The Comboni Missionaries worldwide have gathered in Rome for their XV111th General Chapter. It is taking place from August 29th to October 4th.

The 72 capitular representatives, 45 of whom are from Europe, 14 from the Americas and 13 from Africa, are representing over 1,700 Comboni Missionaries scattered throughout the world.

On September 29th and 30th they will elect their new supreme leader, the Superior General.

Comboni Missionary Seminary in Mirfield

Last year, the Comboni Missionaries paid out £120,000 (€166,000) to 12 men who claimed they were abused as children at the Comboni Missionaries seminary in Mirfield, England in the 1960s and 1970s.

They claim that they were 11 years old to 15 years old when they were repeatedly abused by three Comboni Missionaries, Fr John Pinkman, Father Domenico Valmaggia and Father Romano Nardo and a lay teacher, Michael Riddle, at the seminary. There are several other outstanding claims.

The men claim that the Comboni Missionaries have never admitted the abuse and have never apologised for it.

Indeed, they claim that there has been a cover-up of the abuse, even though those accused were sent away from the seminary or brought home from the missions in Africa when the accusations were first made at the time.

Father Romano Nardo and Yorkshire Police

Mark Murray went to Verona to confront his abuser, Father Roman Nardo, in the Comboni Missionaries house in Verona earlier this year.

Father Nardo had been brought home from the missions in Uganda when Mark first made his accusations in the mid-Nineties and Mark was told that he would be kept away from children.

UK police want to interview Father Nardo but have been refused permission by the Order who say he is not in good enough health to answer their questions.

The UK police say that they are satisfied that a crime has been committed and that they would have sought the arrest two of those Comboni Missionaries accused of abuse, Fr Pinkman from Liverpool and Fr Valmaggia from Como if they had been still alive.

They have been trying for years to extradite Father Nardo, who is from Pordenone, but to no avail.

Comboni Missionaries Chapter XVIII Election Council

Now Mark, and the others who were abused are asking that the Comboni Missionaries start afresh and elect someone who has been untainted by the abuse and subsequent cover-up.

Said Mark, “Pope Francis has apologised for the abuse in the Catholic Church and has demanded that others take action.

“However, the Comboni Missionaries have refused to even admit that any abuse took place and refuse to apologise to those to whom they had a duty of care”.

Pope Francis, Comboni Missionaries and Child Sexual Anuse

In his recent visit to the USA, Pope Francis said “The crimes of sexual abuse against children cannot be repeated.”

Said Gerry McLaughlin, another of the Mirfield 12, “We ask the Comboni Missionaries to make a clean break with the past and elect someone who has been untainted by the abuse and the subsequent cover-up.

“We ask them to elect someone who follows Pope Francis’s teaching on child abuse and who will work with the abused to make sure that the ‘crime of sexual abuse of children’ cannot happen again as Pope Francis wishes.

“The Mirfield 12 would ask that the new Superior General meets with them at his earliest convenience to discuss how we can all move forward in resolving the abuse issues at Mirfield”.

RateMyPriest – My Mirfeld Marks for Comboni Missionaries

Conduct Marks

When we were at Mirfeld we were given three Conduct marks twice a year. They were in Behavious, Good Manners and Diligence. Now I’d like to give my own overall marks to the priests who were there in my time. You are welcome to add your own markings in the Comments section at the end of the article. Maybe we can end up with Favourite Father of the Sixties and Favourite Father of the Seventies.

OK here goes:-

Mark – Priest

10 – Father Cerea – I had almost a father / son relationship with him. I was at the front of the class and he used to smile proudly when I got a History or Latin question right. I was astonished to hea rother people say that he physically assualted them with slaps or cuffs on the head.  I don’t remember any of that – but maybe I was wearing rose-tinted glasses. I would actually put him in my list of the Ten People I’m Most Glad I Met.

9 – Father Grace – I would have given him a 10 except I had to make space between him and Father Cerea. I can’t remember anything bad about him – only good. He was kind and had a good heart. When he interrupted Pinkman’s interrogation of me in the junior classorm when I was in second year and told Pinkman to get out, I could have ‘done for’ Pinkman then if I had told Father Grace all about it as He was telling me to. “I can handle him” he said dismissvely and scathingly. However, I stupidly didn’t believe him and told him nothing. If there hadn’t been a Cerea then Father Grace would have been a 10.

8 – Father Columbo

I don’t remember that much about him except that he was a chain smoker with stained hands and that he was a load of fun. He went to the missions when I was not that long there, somtime in my first year. However, my perceptions of him are positive and I remember that he was friendly, fun and open – the very antithesis of someone like Father Ambroggio.

8 – Father Fraser

I liked Father Fraser immediately. He was from the West of Scotland like I was. He also turned the regime there upside down. He threw over all the old stern rules. It was like being present at the Fall of the Berlin wall being at the college at that time when all father Amroggio’s harsh, stern, austere rules were cast aside..

Where previously we were only allowed out once a week to make a tour of ethe surrounding countryside with the head boy at the front and Father Pinkman at the back to make sure we didn’t buy any sweets at local shops and we had to spend all our money at the tuck shop it was now totally different.

Previously we had had to hand in all our money at the start of term. Now we could keep our money, go for walks or into town in groups of at least two, spend money in local shops and could go home for weekends sometimes. Those truly were heady days.

Unfortunately, Father Fraser listened to Pinkman and suspended me for a year. I didn’t go back. Pinkman told me beforehand in a gloating fashion what was going to happen. I didn’t believe him but it came to pass.

On the downside, he was told about Pinkman by Frank Mcginnis, amongst others, but chose not to believe them. Indeed he called Frank McGinnis a liar when he told him in July 1967.

7 – Father Pinkman

Belive it or not I actually liked the old ‘monster’. I suppose that is what grooming does for you. I was very disappointed when I came back on Parents’ Day in 1968 and found that he had been sent away. He gave me the lowest Conduct Marks ever in the school and shortly later he asked me if I wanted now to become a “Good Boy”. I should really reciprocate his ‘lowest marks ever in the school’ that he gave to me. However, I have to put what I felt at the time – before I was able to piece it all together as an adult.

6 – Father Wade

Father Wade was fine but a bit of a sensitive soul. I used to crack jokes in class. If he liked them he laughed. If he didn’t like them he sent me to get the Punishment Book. Stand-Up comedians never had it as tough as this when they were breaking through – even at Green’s Playhouse in Glasgow which was known as the Graveyard of English Comedians.

Morecambe and Wise were up there once. Ernie was sent out first to warm up the audience. All he saw was 3,000 pairs of eyes staring back at him from the darkness. No one laughed at all. They just stared at him in silence.

Eric Morcambe looked through the curtains to see what was going on.

One wag shouted “Christ, there’s two of them”.

However, at least Eric and Errnie ddn’t end up ‘missing their tea’.

I ended that year (second year) being in the punishment book more times than anyone else in the school. It was all for minor infringements and Wade and Pinkman were the two who mainly put me in it.

5- Father Fulvi

He was the Spiritual Director when I was there.You would go to him if you had any spritual matters to discuss. I had none – so I didn’t know him that well. That’s why he has a mark in the middle.

He did nothing when Jim Kirby and Anthony Summers reported Pinkman to him in early 1967. ndeed he told them never to tell anyone what they had told him. However, I believe that he was nvolved in getting rid of Pinman at a later date.

4 – Father Hicks

I only had him in 3rd year when he was in charge of the seniors. My main memory of him was when he caught Maurcie Eaton and I coming back in the broom room window after we sneaked back out to see the bonfire on November 5th 1966 after lights out.

He told me that Father Pinkman had marked his card about me (and his inference was that it wasn’t good). As they say “Hell hath no Fury like a Paedophile Priest scorned”. I knew then that Pinkie’s influence had not ended when I left the juniors. I stayed away from Hicks after that and he seemed content with that.

I am giving him this mark from my memories of when I was there. Since I have gone I have found that he had probably done more to rid Mirfield of paedophiles than anyone else – doing for Valmaggia and Riddle and may have had a hand in the others for all I know.

He was also, though, involved in the cover-ups and he certainly didn’t feel the need to contact the police as you should when you know that a crime had been committed.

I think, if I had to give him a present day mark it would probably be 7. He did a lot to get rid of the paedophiles but is involved over the years in covring it up, and overall I would say it was Could Do Better.

4- Father Ceresoli

As he was head of the seniors I didn’t come into that much contact with him. I think he taught us one subect and I think that was Theology. I found him a bit of a cold fish and lacking somewhat in human emotions. I heard later that he terrorised Boy X, picking on him and making life miserable for him – so much so that he drove him into Father Pinkman’s waiting hands.

3 – Father Stenico

While there isn’t that much that I would say bad about him, I can’t think of anything good. He was grumpy and unhelpful when asked questions partly becasue of his porr English. He would start to answer questions but got frustrated and would angrily tap the board with his writing on it and say “Tis so” and move on without answering the question.

2 – Father Ambroggio

Some people may be surprised at the low mark I have given to the Father Rector of my first two years. Indeed Jim Kirby said that he was a holy and devout man. I found him stern and austere, unfriendly and soulless. I can still see him clearly in my mind’s eye now.

He was the one who was responsible for the stern, austere regime that we lived under which so crushed our spirits. We couldn’t run or whistle in the corridors or speak to the seniors except at certain times. We had to hand in our money at the Tuck Shop.

We were basically imprisoned in the college, seldom getting out and never unsupervised. He basically ran a prison camp, or gulag, in the heart of old England, a couple of decades after the Fascists were overthrown in his home country.

He it was who insisted that we leave our letters home open so that he could read them and censor them.He ran a place that was  a feeding ground for paedophiles and did nothing at all when he was told about it.

The buck stopped with him. He was in charge.

Indeed, as I write this, I am thinking that I was generous in giving him 2. I don’t really know where he got the two points.

0 – Father Valmaggia

Unlike Father Pinkman, Father Valmaggia didn’t need to groom. He was the Infirmarian and he has his Infirmary where the boys went when they were sick. he had them as captives in there. His treatment always involved touching their groins. He also felt the need to weigh the boys every so often in his late night surgery – obviously with their clothes off.

I have nothng positive to say about him nor can I relate any good experience at his hands or any good deeds that he did.

Indeed he reminded me of Father Jack out of the TV Series Father Ted – except that it wasn’t “Girls” that he would have shouted out. Father Wade could have been his Dougal. i’m not sure if i can think of a Father Ted.

If any of you want to give the priests marks out of 10 from your time there please feel free.

Conduct Marks

So, do you agree with my marks? Do you see it differently?

Let us all know how you would mark the Mirfield priests in the Comments section below.

The Forgotten Victims of Comboni Missionaries Sexual Abuse

Comboni Missionaries Sexual Abuse

We have documented here the sexual abuse that took place in Mirfield in the Sixties and Seventies at the hands of Father John Pinkman, Father Domenico Valmaggia and Father Romano Nardo as well as by lay teacher Michael Riddle.

Many of the ‘Boys’ who had been abused assumed that the other Boys would be sympathetic when hearing about the abuse they suffered at the hands of those priests and lay teacher when they were in their early teens.

However, this has not been the case as regards all of the Boys who were not abused.

Michael Riddle

This came to a head this week with the post about Michael Riddle, the lay teacher who abused several boys whom he taught at Mirfield.

This brought to a head this ‘disbelief’, if I can call it that, with an article from Andrew Routledge saying that he spent many an hour smoking a pipe in Riddle’s room without being molested or abused.

Another ex-Boy was angered by the article too and sent me an email saying that he didn’t want to receive any more emails with links to articles as he was “sick of listening to such crap”.

He then had an angry email exchange with Tony Smith.

Abused and Angry

The reaction from Andrew and this guy angered those who have been abused.

Their motivations have been questioned in the past by the Comboni Missionaries who have said that it’s all about the money.

However, I found Andrew’s article quite considered and natural. It was a natural reaction.

When a child in a family reports abuse by a parent or a relative, say an elder cousin or uncle, the standard reaction of others in the family is to protect the parent or relative who has been accused.

There is a disbelief that it happened. In fact the abused child is often vilified.

This is a knee-jerk reaction and often , but not always, opinion gradually turns around and blames the perpetrator and not the victim.

However, the victim feels abused twice, firstly by the perpetrator and then by those in the family who don’t believe them and sometimes go further than that and accuse them of lying and making it up.

Mirfield Family

At Mirfield, the priest and teacher there were more than just teachers. The priests, like the other boys there, were family. We had left our own families behind to become priests and this was our new family.

The ‘Fathers’ were our substiture fathers – especially those closest to us like Pinkman who was in charge of the junor school.

So, it is not surprising that some of the Boys who were not abused react in this way. Many of the Boys see their period as a happy, idyllic part of their lives.

They looked forward to the reunions where they would meet up with other Boys from that idyllic period.

Paedophile Monsters

Imagine their shock to be told by some of the other boys that the place was not so idyllic as they thought and that some of the priests and lay teachers that they idolised were actually paedophile monsters who preyed on multiple boys often as young as 11 years of age.

Others that they idolised, who were not paedophiles, were involved in covering it up and hiding their crimes from the police.

That must have been a terrible shock to the system to those coming to what they expected to be happy reunions.

Abuse Questions

A typical reaction would be “If he was a paedophile then why did he not abuse me?”

Of course, there are several potential reasons for that. Paedophiles tend to prey on those of a certain profile, i.e. those they see as most vulnerable. Indeed the abuse of several of the boys comenced after boys going to priests’ rooms, like Pinkie and Nardo, in tears from feeling homesick.

Those who were not abused can consider themselves very lucky. So many lives have been ruined by sexual absue by priests at Mirfield. It could have happened to them too.

Who can say why it was that the priests did not choose them to abuse. I don’t suppose that they could have abused everybody. There were 31 boys in first year alone when I was there. They could afford to pick their victims carefully.

Nothing said at the Time

“How come nothing was said at the time, if there boys abused when I was there?” is another standard reaction. Again this is natural and par for the course.

So many boys suffered in silence thinking tht they were the only ones. Indeed it was a surprise to them to find out at reunions (or by finding this blog) that it was happening to others – and by the same priests who abused them and who were telling them that they were special.

It’s also not entirely correct as several abuse victims reported their abuse at the time but were most ignored – although boys reporting their abuse did lead to Valmaggia and Pinkman beng moved on elsewhere immediately.

Loss of Their Innocent Childhood Memories

Although they were not abused themselves, some of these others are suffering a loss too – mabe not of their innocent childhood – but of their innocent childhood memories of an idyllic period and an idyllic place in their early lives.

Many don’t want to believe it, certainly at first.

They may even be angry at those who are destroying ther memories of this idyllic childhood at Mirfield and the ‘wonderful’ priests and lay teacher there.

Even if they believe it, they question the mortivations of those who say they were abused.

They also seek to protect the memory of the abuser, if they are dead.

They seek to protect those involved in making sure that the abusers were never prosecuted for their crimes and ensuring that the abusers were simply shifted elsewhere – possibly to abuse again.

Unsympathetic

Those abused are very angry at this.

How could they think like this after everything that happened to their ‘fellow boys’? Why have they no sympathy?

I would say to the abused that it is perfectly natural for these Boys to think this way.

It happens in every single family where abuse takes place.

I would say to The Abused “Let’s not villify them. Let’s explain. It is a shock to their systems. Their childhood memories have been dashed on the rocks and they don’t like it”.

Real Villains

I think that most of them (but not all) will come to see who the real villains are.

It was not the abuse victims who have ruined their idyllic memories of Mirfield.

It was the actions of the abusers that did this – and the actions of those who covered it up and who are currently still covering it up and hiding a sexual abuser of young children in Verona in Italy.

The abuse victims are only the messengers.

We say to those doubting them “Don’t shoot the messengers. Blame those whose actions blighted Mirfield – not those who told you about it”.

Thanks for your article Andrew.

If you wish to comment on ths article please do so below. We welcome comments from all people and whatever their views. We know that there are two sides to ths story.

After all, we are a family!

Father Pinkman Wants to Examine Me

Groin Injury

I loved a game of football. I loved playing for the school.

This particular day we were playing football on the lower pitch. I’d had a bit of a groin strain before but it really went this time. Down I went. I was in quite a bit of pain. Pinkie said I should go back to the dormitory. As I couldn’t play on it seemed a good option.

I went back to the dormitory and went to bed. Not long after Pinkie arrived. Now, this surprised me a bit. He was supposed to be supervising the game and those playing it.

It seemed very nice of him to take such an interest in my footballing injury. After all, he was our substitute dad – although I had to share him with around 55 others.

Bottom of the Bed

He stood at the bottom of my bed in the dormitory. Even though I was just 12 years old I could smell something that wasn’t right. There was something about his demeanour. He didn’t seem relaxed. He said that he needed to examine my groin injury. I wasn’t keen on anybody examining my groin.

He was rubbing his hands together in a nervous fashion, which was his wont. Something didn’t seem right even to a 12 year old who had never heard of sex.

I didn’t want anybody near my groin, thank you. But his arguments were quite compulsive. He said that he needed to see what was wrong with me and he could probably fix it. I still said ‘no’. He said “How are you going to get better? Do you want to stay like this?”

I didn’t. It was quite painful. His arguments were beginning to seem winning arguments and I was starting to think that it might be very embarrassing but that it might be necessary to let him have a look – when he suddenly changed tack.

Weighty Question

He asked me if I’d been weighed yet by Fr. Valmaggio the Infirmarian. I thought this a strange thing to ask. How would my weight affect my groin strain? I was only a slip of a thing.

We seldom got to see a Doctor or a Nurse. Fr. Valmaggio was in charge of the Infirmary (a grand name for a room with six beds). I learned later that he was a keen ‘weigher’ of 11-14 year old boys. Why he needed to weigh them no one ever asked (till much later). One never asked why in those days. Children did what they were told then. Adult power was pretty much absolute – and you know what they say about absolute power.

Winning Argument

So, Pinkie quit just as I was wavering. Lucky I didn’t show it. One wonders if life would have been very different if he’d had one more attempt.

Jim Kirby met one of the boys in Mirfield in London’s West End some years ago. The boy was a few years his senior. That boy told Jim that he felt his homosexuality had been induced by what happened to him by serial abuse by two of the priests at Mirfield.

Jim thinks the boy may have been embarrassed by admitting he was Gay, as this meeting took place in the 80s and it was still early days in the age of enlightenment and attitudes towards the Gay community.

The boy expressed astonishment that Jim was not Gay as he felt that the treatment meted out to the boys by the abusive priests would have made many of them Gay in distorting their thinking and attitudes towards sexual activity because of that abuse.

The boy was of course, by then, a grown man and was himself obviously very confused and even distressed even at that age by what had occurred at Mirfield. Some years later Jim did make contact again with him and asked him if he wanted to make a statement about the abuse. He said he didn’t as he had closed that part of his life. He was living abroad, in fact on another Continent.

I suspect, though, it is far harder to become a homosexual than that. But I don’t know and I’m glad I never had to go down that route to find out. I am not anti homosexual, but like pretty much all heterosexuals whether they are gay bashers or very sympathetic and empathetic to gays, they are very glad they are not one themselves.

Handed Over to Father Valmaggia

So, Pinkie suggested that the best route for me was to go to see Fr. Valmaggio at the Infirmary. It seemed a great suggestion. It never occurred to me that it was out of the frying pan and into Fr. Valmaggio’s Infirmary.

So, I went to see our resident ‘medical expert’. I explained the problem and he said that I needed to stay in the Infirmary for a few days.

Fair enough!

I spent the next 8 days in there. Being in the Infirmary was pretty good. You didn’t have to do any school or work and you got your food delivered to you. If I remember right it was of better quality than the normal fare.

They even had a radio and I got to listen to a European title fight involving Walter McGowan, the pocket Scottish boxer.

Anthony Summers

The first day was fine. Already in the Infirmary was Anthony Summers who was in the year above me. He said that he was in because he had swallowed biro ink. He said that it caused him to have sudden blackouts.

Several times when he was sitting up in bed he would suddenly ‘black out’ and fall ‘unconscious’ on his bed and pillows just to prove what he said about the sudden blackouts. It wasn’t a convincing performance though. Even as a 12-year old I could see through it.

I was just about to reach the age of puberty. It would happen later on that summer when I was at home during the holidays. However it hadn’t quite happened yet – which was pretty lucky for me.

Despite Summers’ ‘serious blacking out’ illness he was booted out of the Infirmary after a couple of days, leaving me on my own. He protested saying that he wasn’t any better. “Get out!” yelled Fr Valmaggia and he went.

Start of the Treatment for a Groin Injury

Then came the real start of my treatment. It seems that the best treatment for a groin strain (instead of rest) was to rub coal tar over the testicles and penis of the injured person. It seems, also, that the treatment would work better if the penis of the injured person was erect.

Being on the verge of puberty this was something that I was sometimes able to do (to a small limp degree) but most times not. It was also a bit of an effort and a bit annoying to keep trying to do it. I knew it was for my own good but most times I couldn’t do it. It was such a mental effort.

I’m not an expert on puberty but even though (at great effort) I sometimes could get my penis erect the pleasure gland (or whatever it is) had not arrived yet – so he might as well have been massaging my big toe with coal tar.

He got a little annoyed that I couldn’t always ‘get it up’ which he deemed necessary to cure my affliction, but I also noticed that there was other times when he seemed annoyed with himself for doing it and would suddenly stop. It seemed a little strange but as I didn’t know about sex or puberty at all there was no way I could piece any of it together.

Paedophiles

How different the kids are now. Surely it can’t be bad that they know about sex and paedophiles etc. The fact that we didn’t, made us all potential victims. My parents subscribed to the view, that was common then, that children should stay children as long as they could.

One feels that this ‘common view’ was more because they had a fear of the ‘adult world’ and couldn’t cope well themselves in this complicated world. There was a great desire to keep children as long as possible in the Age of Innocence. Unfortunately the implementation of that wish gave children no tools or knowledge for when the predators came hunting. Their innocence and naivety made them perfect victims.

There may be problems with the world now for children but we surely don’t want to go back again to the ungolden ‘Age of Innocence’.