Experts tell Australian abuse panel church must look at clerical culture

Experts tell Australian abuse panel church must look at clerical culture

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

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

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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.

Becoming a Child Abuse victim at the Age of 55

Becoming a Child Sexual Abuse Victim at the Age of 55

I have changed the name of the ‘Boy’ involved.

John Smith wasn’t aware that he was a child abuse victim till he passed his 55th birthday. It’s really strange but I was never able to put the different pieces of the jigsaw together for myself until I was much older. Once we left the college we did other things and although we looked back it tended to be on the good side of it. We certainly didn’t do much analysis of what happened to us.

It was only when we went back for reunions that we talked and thought of old times. Previously we had only put the data of what happened to us through the minds of 11-14 year olds. It was amazing the difference it made to us when we fed the same data through the minds of adults.

Lived Locally

On the second of our two day reunion weekend it was discovered that John Smith, who was in the year above me, lived locally. I don’t know how it was discovered, but discovered it was. On the final night he came along with his wife.

It’s very strange but we didn’t really talk about things when there were outsiders there (i.e. wives and kids). It was only when John’s wife went for a smoke that we started talking again about the priests.

I asked John if anything like that had happened to him. He said it hadn’t. ‘Nothing at all?’ I asked him.

You could see him looking far back into the past. “There was only one incident, perhaps”, he said.

Astonishing Revelation

We were all so amazed by what he said next that we all burst out into near hysterical laughter. I couldn’t help myself. The tears were streaming out of my eyes. John’s such a great guy that he didn’t take it badly. However, I hope this illustrates what I mean about re-inputting the same data through the ‘processor’ of an adult mind rather than an 11-14 year-old’s mind.

John told us that the only incident that would possibly qualify was when he had just finished playing football on a muddy day. In that part of the world it can get very muddy and you can often come off the football pitch absolutely caked in mud.

In the ‘only slightly suspicious’ incident, Pinkie told John to come round the back of the stage which was at the far end of the Junior Common room where the players got changed. It was out of sight of all the boys who would have been in the recreation room getting changed.

There Pinkie had set up two buckets of hot water. I said to Joe, slightly incredulously and not really believing that it could possibly be true “he didn’t make you take off your football strip and put one leg each in the two buckets of hot water and then clean the mud from you, did he?

Washday Blues

It was the first thing that came to mind when he said it but I couldn’t possibly think it was true as John had said nothing of that kind of thing had ever happened to him and that there was just one possible slightly suspicious incident.

“Yeah” said John.

That was exactly what had happened. We laughed our asses off. We weren’t laughing at John or what had happened to him. We were laughing at the incongruity of Joe not realising what had actually happened. Of course we all instinctively knew the explanation.

John had only ever examined what had happened through the eyes of a trusting 13-year-old. Although he hadn’t forgotten about it he hadn’t given it any great thought since it had happened. Although probably embarrassing at the time, he would have concluded that the priest would have been doing it for his own good.

Through a New Lens

It’s strange but, although it was a 55-year-old talking, both the memory of the incident and the analysis of the incident (which he had stored in his memory) were the memory and analysis of a 13-year-old.

Part of what was so funny was that you could see, as he talked and we laughed, that he could suddenly see how obvious it was that he had had been abused in some kind of way.

His wife came back in then and asked what we were all laughing at. The ‘club’ closed up again and made some kind of explanation which she accepted. Whilst she was busy talking to someone else I asked John if he had ever told his wife of the incident.

He shook his head in a kind of ‘you’re joking’ way. I asked him if he ever would and he gave the same response. That part of his life will forever remain unknown to his wife and his grown up children.

I understand. I have never told anybody of these things – not my parents, not my brothers and sisters, not my friends, not my children and not my wife.

As this is the early stage of writing this I’m not sure if it will ever be known to anyone outside those that were there and experienced it.

Comboni Missionaries Slammed in The Tablet Catholic Newspaper

Comboni Missionaries

The Tablet newspaper, which has been on the go since 1840, is the 2nd oldest newspaper in Britain after The Spectator, It is the main Catholic Newspaper in the UK.

Today it publishes an article which slams the Comboni Missionaries for their attitude to those who were abused by Comboni MIssionary priests at their seminary in Mirfield, Yorkshire.

It said that 12 ex-seminarians are calling on the Comboni Missionaries to acknowledge and apologise for the abuse that took place at Mirfield in the Sixties and Seventies.

Archbishops

One of the ex-seminarians, Brian Hannessy, has documented more than 1,000 instances of the abuse, and the Comboni Missionaries reaction to it, and has sent the 157-page document to all the Archbishops in the UK as well as the heads of religious communities.

Hennessy said that the Comboni Missionaries had not followed their own procedures when abuse was reported.

The Comboni Missionaries paid out £120,000 to the group of 12 but said that this was not an admission of guilt.

Hennessy told The Tablet that the cover up of abuse “has run so deep in the veins of the hierarchy of that religious order that it has resulted in the hierarchical re-victimisation and discrimination of the victims of child sexual abuse that was committed by depraved members of their order”.

Comboni Fathers

Jim Kirby told the Tablet that all the abused wanted was an apology from the Comboni Missionaries and for them to admit that they had failed in their duty of care to the boys at their seminary in Mirfield.

He told The Tablet “We want them to meet us and to treat us properly and with respect. So far we have been fobbed off and we have been insulted. Some of us have been told by priests that we are ‘only in it for the money’.”

He continued, “It would help if the Comboni fathers would stop saying this was all a long time ago, and the priests are dead: they’re not all dead, and the ones who are still alive should be brought to court, but in the meantime it would mean so much if they just invited us to meet them and said, guys, we’re sorry; not only for what happened all those years ago, but for failing to face up to it in the years since. What’s happened has added insult to injury, and now is the moment when it has to stop.”

To read the whole article click on The Tablet Article on the Comboni Missionaries Abuse

It seems that the Comboni MIssionaries were not available for comment.

Comboni Missionaries |I Could Have Been a Contender

I could have been a Contender

I reckon I could have made a good priest. I was certainly up for it. I was keen to help Africans by letting them into the ‘God’ secret. I think the Verona Fathers were quite keen to have me too. I had been top of my class in Primary School and got the Dux Prize (as they called it) for being the top boy in the top class in the school.

As I have said elsewhere, I didn’t realise that only about 1-in-20 boys made it through to the priesthood. I thought that once you had volunteered and been accepted that all you had to do was the training.

I think they thought of me as a ‘good catch’. I was keen on them too.

Keeping the Rules

But it was so difficult to keep the rules. They were so strict. And they judged you not on your sensitivity or how good your heart was or how good you were with people but on how well you kept the strict rules.

For instance, you were not allowed to whistle at all. That was completely banned. You were also not allowed to talk in the corridor or run in the corridor. Those in the Junior School were not allowed to talk to those in the senior school on most occasions and especially if you met them in the corridor.

You were not allowed to talk in Study. It seemed all designed to crush your spirit.

I’m sure that you are all working out here that these weren’t rules created for your own good or to help you towards God or to become people who were suitable priesthood material.

These were simply rules that adults created to suit themselves. They didn’t like noisy, unruly children who shouted and talked and whistled and they were in a position to prevent this – and they did.

Crushing the Spirit

It was all about control. I’m afraid they simply try to crush the spirits of those who, like Maria in the Sound of Music, had a bit of spirit in the first place. Wouldn’t Maria have made a good nun? I bet she would have. She wouldn’t have been dull. She would have attracted far more people to the Catholic Church than all those drudges who get through to become nuns.

At the Verona Fathers reunions I meet people who I think would have made great priests but too many of them couldn’t allow their spirits to be crushed to get where they wanted to be.

Those of you who are Catholic (and I would think it applies to other religions too) when you hear the dreary sermons from your local priests you should pause to reflect that the reason that you are bored out of your skull at most of the sermons is that these are the people who managed to survive the spirit crushing because they simply obeyed the rules without question. They are the ones who managed to survive the system.

I’m sorry to sound so negative but these are the people who had little spirit in the first place.

Choosing Between Candidates

I remember reading once what Tom Peters, the workplace quality guru said. He asked some Human Resource people who they would pick between two candidates. The first had a First Class Honours degree and had come straight from University.

The second candidate had a 2:1 degree and had not come straight from University but had taken a Gap Year out and had gone to help people in Africa or South America.

Of course the Human Resources people all plumped for the first candidate who was better qualified and was not a bit of a maverick like the second candidate.

Tom Peters told them that they should grab the 2nd candidate every time. That person will come into your organisation and will try to be innovative. He will try new things. As he said, either they will make a difference to your organisation or they will go. You won’t have to sack them. They won’t cling on.

Staff Turnover

Again I am reminded of a company, who had a high turnover rate of staff, that got in an outside firm to construct a psychometric test so that they could find out which candidates were more likely to leave them and which ones were more likely to stay.

They adopted the programme but abandoned it after two years. The lesson they learned was that the people most likely to leave are the ones that you most want to keep at the company. The ones that are not likely to leave were the ones that you didn’t want in the first place. The first lot were reliable but stodgy. The second lot were innovative and would leave anyway if they were not successful.

I’m sure if Tom Peters, or somebody else, was brought in to do a consultant’s job to let them know why the Catholic Church (or other Churches) were losing ‘market share’, he might well say to them “See those guys that you think are great who never whistle in the corridor, who at the age of eleven always walk and don’t run, who never get into trouble with the teachers, and who always have their homework done on time?”

“Yes?”

Dump the Lot

“Dump the lot of them. They won’t be able to relate to your ‘customers’. What you really want are some of the guys who ‘bend the rules’ a little, who at the age of eleven sometimes have to run, to whistle, to shout with excitement. They’ll understand your customers and your customers will relate to them.

“They’ll give exciting sermons and they’ll enthuse people about God and your religion. Instead of your churches being full of old people and sullen youngsters who have been forced to attend, you might just get yourself a vibrant religion which related to young people rather than just those who feel it is time to book their slot in Heaven”.

Of course they won’t and they can’t do that – and as a result they have lost ‘market share’ to the Evangelicals.

A Bad Boy

I really did want to become a priest at the time but I really couldn’t keep all those rules. I tried to keep them and I did keep them for 98% of the time. But I couldn’t keep it up for every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day, of every week, of every month of the year.

I really tried – but I couldn’t.

So they told me I was a Bad Boy.

Comboni Missionaries | Bungalow Bill

Bungalow Bill

We used to get visits from someone in the Verona Fathers who was a Monsignor Monsignor Cave I think his name was. He had been quite a catch for them as he was a convert and had had a reasonably high position in the Church of England. He was getting on a bit but I was never quite sure what he did.

Whenever he came he always had a slide show and it was always about one thing – him shooting tigers from the back of an elephant. He tried to give a sense of the danger that he was in when out in the jungle looking for tigers with his native helpers. However, even at the age of eleven I couldn’t see where the bravery came from in shooting at tigers from up top a huge elephant.

Slide Shows

The Boys loved to go and see his slide shows. In fact they loved to go and see anything that was in the TV room that would add a little fizz to their day. I wonder how many of them were thinking the same as I was and were sympathetic to the tiger and hoping it would get away. I couldn’t see the point of them shooting it and what the pleasure was in it.

The highlight for the Monsignor was the slide showing his native helpers carrying the tiger away upside down hanging limply from a pole. What were the Verona Fathers doing encouraging him to do this?

He looked more like a great imperialist rather than a priest sent out to help those in need. I think the order looked at him as a great capture who reinforced their own beliefs about the superiority of the Catholic faith to all others and so didn’t want to do anything that might upset this apple cart.

It seems he used to take the slide show around places. It seems if he wasn’t shooting tigers he was showing people slides of him shooting tigers.

I wonder if he had ever taken the slide show to a school in Liverpool. When I first heard the lyrics of the Beatles song Bungalow Bill, released in 1968, it was the Monsignor I immediately thought of. It seemed to have been written for him.

“The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill”

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

He went out tiger hunting with his elephant and gun
In case of accidents he always took his mom
He’s the all American bullet-headed Saxon mother’s son
All the children sing

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

Deep in the jungle where the mighty tiger lies
Bill and his elephants were taken by surprise
So Captain Marvel zapped in right between the eyes, zap!
All the children sing

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

The children asked him if to kill was not a sin
“Not when he looked so fierce”, his mummy butted in
If looks could kill it would have been us instead of him
All the children sing

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

[Eh up!]

Comboni Missionaries | How I was Immersed in the Organisation

On the Committee

It was soon after this that Pinkie decided to set up an Ideas Forum for the lower school. People were to put in ideas (anonymously) about how to make things better. There was a Suggestions Box and people put their suggestions in there.

I was really pleased when I was picked by Pinkie to be on the Committee. In fact I was to be the guy who was actually to pick out the suggestions from the Suggestions Box and read them out.

What power!

I had really arrived. I was becoming part of the inner circle.

Suggestion Box

Making the Suggestion Box anonymous was a huge mistake. Repressive Systems don’t like anonymity – and not just repressive regimes.

It is not only the repressive regimes who are trying to remove anonymity for those who post on the Internet. Anonymity is the great enemy of those in power. Anonymity means that people can say whatever they want.

How horrible must that be to those who are in power? It is not just repressive regimes who want powers to find out who is doing what and who is saying what on the Internet. It is the US, the British and leading European democracies who are trying to stop us saying what we want under the guise of anonymity.

First Meeting

At the first meeting, held in the adjoining First and Second Year classrooms, the Committee (Pinkie, myself and a couple of others were at the front). Now, when organisations have Suggestion Boxes, the real reason they are having them is so that they can find suggestions that benefit themselves. However, staff (or pupils) sometimes get the wrong idea and make suggestions that are for the benefit of those who work for the company or the organisation.

This is mainly what happened here. The suggestions tended to be not to have the horrible porridge that we had for breakfast (which I actually liked) but to have Cereal instead. Another suggestion was to for the sisters to stop putting huge amounts of pepper in the dandelion leaves soup (picked from the grounds) that they were always giving us. Surprisingly these two ideas were implemented.

Regime Criticism

However, there were several ‘suggestions’ and criticisms of the regime put into the Suggestion Box. To my great shame I picked them out, but instead of reading them out, I handed them over to Pinkie with a disapproving look as if I was handling a rotten fish.

The first one or two came as a big surprise to Pinkie and he gave a stern lecture about the kind of person who would make suggestions like that. However, when the next few came out he simply put them in the bin. I can’t remember what they said now but I wonder if any of them made criticism of Pinkie and what he was up to with the boys.

I think under any regime when you give the people an opportunity to say something without the fear of being caught and punished a lot of true feelings and grievances will come out.

Helped the System

I was glad I was able to help the system by intercepting some suggestions from what I saw as some very sad boys who didn’t appreciate what was being done for them.

Pinkie seemed to appreciate what I had done. I could be trusted. Things were looking up. I was in Pinkie’s good books. Better than that, he appreciated what I could bring to the organisation. I was pleased. The future was looking very bright indeed.

It is a shame that this was the last ever Suggestion Box meeting. It was scrapped after that. The boys had been given an opportunity and they had abused it.