Five Years in Jail for those who Don’t Report Abuse

Comboni Missionaries

The net is closing on those who were told about the sexual abuse of young boys as young as 11 at Comboni Missionaries Seminaries and didn’t report it to the authorities. Indeed, it will apply, also, to those who just suspected abuse but didn’t report it.

Indeed, it has become an election issue.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, said that there would be “Jail for those who turn a blind eye to child abuse”.

He announced that professionals who fail to act upon suspcions of child abuse could be facing up to five years in jail.

Changed Times

My goodness!

How things have changed.

First the Home Secretary, and now the Prime Minister, have come down heavily on the side of those who suffered sexual abuse as a child and heavily against not only the abusers but those who covered it up.

It is becoming more and more obvious who is on the right side of history and who is on the wrong side of history – those who were abused or those who covered it up and their apologists.

Front Page News

The story appeared in both the Telegraph and Guardian. Indeed, it is front page on both with the Guardian headline saying “PM: jail those who ignore child abuse”.

It’s just a shame that it could not be retrospective.

However, that doesn’t mean that existing laws could not be used to pursue those who covered up sexual child abuse at Comboni Missionary Seminaries and those who continue to do so at the very highest level of the Order.

Home Office Panel on Institutional Sexual Abuse

All will be exposed when the Home Office Panel sits. Comboni Missionaries who took part in the cover up will be legally obligated to attend and be questioned in front of the Parliamentary Committee and the nation. It will be televised.

Indeed, they could also make requests, backed up by EU Law, for those residing outside of the UK, to attend too.

End Game for Comboni Missionaries

It has taken a long time but justice is close at hand.

In chess terms, this is the end game now for the Comboni Missionary abusers, those who covered it up and their apologists amongs the Boys.

In poker terms, we’ll soon see what hands both sides have.

In David Cameron and Theresa May, those abused have two powerful cards in their hands – perhaps the King and Queen.

The Comboni Missionaries will soon find out that, no matter how many Jokers they have available, none of them will count in this game.

Abuse Woven Into British Fabric of Society says Theresa May

British Child Abuse

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has warned that Child Sex Abuse is ‘woven, covertly, into the fabric of British society’.

That’s both an astonishing, and very worrying, claim.

She has just announced that a new Home Office judge-led enquiry will look into child sex abuse BEFORE the 1970s.

Previously it had been only going to look at institutional child sex abuse from 1970 onwards.

Comboni Missionaries Abuse

This means that all child sex abuse perpetrated by the Comboni Missionaries in the UK  now comes under the remit of the enquiry.

That comes as very good news for those who were victims of abuse in the 1950s and 1960s in the UK at Comboni Missionaries seminaries.

It’s bad news for the Comboni Missionaries abusers and those that were, and are, involved in covering it up.

Tip of the Iceberg

Indeed, Theresa May stated that the public are not aware, yet, of the full extent of the scandal. She said that we have only seen just the tip of the iceberg yet.

The tone of what Theresa May says is important. This does not sound like a woman who wants to brush things under the carpet. This is a women who understands the full extent of the scandal – and wants something done about it.

This is very bad news for the Comboni Missionaries and their apologists and those who have helped, and are helping, them to cover up their sexual abuse of young boys as young as 11.

Most Appalling Abuse

 She said ‘We already know the trail will lead into our schools and hospitals, our churches, our youth clubs and many other institutions that should have been places of safety but instead became the setting for the most appalling abuse.

‘However, what the country doesn’t yet appreciate is the true scale of that abuse.

‘In my discussions with older victims and survivors and their representatives, I began to realise how abuse is woven, covertly, into the fabric of British society.

Blackpool Rock

‘During one of my first meeting with survivors, one lady said to me: “Get this inquiry right and it will be like a stick of Blackpool rock. You will see abuse going through every level of society.”

‘I fear she is right. I have said before and I shall say again, that what we have seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg.’

Theresa May said that the new terms of reference and the appointment of panel members for the Parliamentary enquiry into child sex abuse marked a new beginning for the probe.

Right Side of History

We will see now, as regards the Comboni Missionaries, who are on the right side of history.

I would say that those Comboni Missionaries who carried out abuse and who covered up abuse and those boys who helped them to and are helping them to, will be seen to be on the wrong side of history.

There are those who stand with those who were abused and those who stand with the coverers-up of abuse.

All will be laid bare soon.

I know which side I will be on.

It’s the same side as Home Secretary, Theresa May.

Foundations of abuse at Comboni Missionaries seminary in Mirfield

Comboni Missionaries

During the 1960s and 70s, and possibly into the 1980s, priests and brothers of the Comboni Missionary Order (formerly Verona fathers) sexually abused children as young as 11 years of age at their seminary in Mirfield, Yorkshire, United Kingdom.

A group of ex seminarians, The Mirfield 12, have successfully prosecuted a civil case against the Comboni Missionaries: a legal case remains outstanding. More ex seminarians abused by Comboni Missionaries have now come forward to pursue both legal and civil actions.

A culture of abuse existed at the Comboni Missionaries seminary in Mirfield. All of the abused have struggled to come to terms with the experience and to understand how it came about. Our concern was not only about the individuals who perpetrated the abuse but also the organisations which allowed this to happen, and is to this day in denial that any abuse took place.

A 2013 report from CEOP ‘The Foundations of Abuse:
A thematic assessment of the risk of child sexual abuse by adults in institutions’
provides some telling analysis of the way institutions operate to produce such fertile ground for child sexual abuse to take place. The key findings are below.

Key Findings

1) Children in institutional settings are not only at risk from adults who are inclined to abuse them sexually; but also from adults who either fail to notice abuse or, if they do, fail to report it.

2) Where institutions put their own interests ahead of those of the children who engage with them, abusive behaviours are likely to become normalised, potentially leading to sexual abuse.

3) The culture within an institution has a strong influence on the degree to which abuse might occur within it. Poor leadership, closed structures, ineffective policies and procedures together with the discouragement of reporting, facilitates a malign climate which colludes with those inclined to sexually abuse children.

4) Where institutions are held in high regard and respected by the communities they serve, positional grooming can be perpetuated, whereby offenders conduct social or environmental grooming and mask their actions by virtue of their formal positions within an organisation.

5) Potential risks from those with a sexual interest in children who pursue work in institutions can be mitigated by vigilant and effective leadership and management.

6) Intense loyalty and conformity of workers to the mission, norms and values of an institution can inhibit them from reporting concerns.

7) The historic nature of many cases currently exercising media attention, together with developments in safeguarding, might give a false perception that this type of offending can no longer occur. Offenders continue to exploit systemic vulnerabilities where they exist.

The full report can be accessed here

http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/publications/49-ceop-institutions-thematic-assessment/file

Mirfield

Fr. Fulvi visited us at home, and a weekend visit to Mirfield was arranged. My mum seemed especially keen for me to go, but my dad was not so enthusiastic. Some Catholic families thought that it was a great honour to have a priest in the family. The words “God chose you, you did not choose God,” I remember being said several times both before and during my time at Mirfield.

I do not remember much about my weekend visit. I recall being dropped off by my mum and dad and seeing the big building for the first time. It was very daunting going in the dormitory – with maybe 40 beds in it. I played football, went to the services – I don’t remember mixing with the other boys very much. However, I also don’t remember missing home – probably because I knew mum and dad were coming for me on Sunday night. I don’t think it occurred to my consciousness that this was, more than likely, going to be my home for the foreseeable future.

So in September 1969 I found myself being dropped off at Mirfield, the Verona Fathers Junior Seminary, to begin my training to be a missionary. I have this memory of everyone waving to me as they went back home.

The moment my family left me I knew I had made a terrible mistake. What was to follow was a period of extreme pain, fear, loneliness and isolation.

Verona Fathers

The first time I heard the name the Verona fathers, or Mirfield for that matter, was when Fr. Luciano Fulvi came to my school.  He was what was known amongst the Verona Fathers as their Vocations Director.  And it was his job to go around all the schools in the UK “seeking out” potential vocations for the priesthood and the religious life.  He must have done this job very well.  In the 1960’s junior seminaries were full.

It seems bizarre to me now, that as a child of 12 years old I could make such momentous decisions about leaving home and attempting to train to become a missionary.  No one in my family believed, or would have thought for one minute it would be me – my brother yes – but not me.

Anyway there I was, sitting in my class listening to Fr. Luciano Fulvi talk about the African Missions.  Or more importantly, as far as I was concerned, the African wildlife.   Even then I was passionate about wildlife and nature.  His stories of lions and elephants and of hunting and fishing were what hooked me.  The missions or missionary work did not play much part, and why should it?  I was a child and a dreamer and I already had that Nile Perch at the end of my rod and on the hook.

When Fr. Fulvi asked the inevitable question at the end of his talk, “is anyone interested?” my hand shot up and I ticked the box to say I wanted more information.

Betrayal

I am not interested in retribution, apologies or compensation for myself. My concern is with the question of betrayal by others and the harm that betrayal has done to us.

Firstly, Romano was, at best, eccentric.  He behaved in very different ways to his two contemporaries, Father Eugene Murtagh and Father Frank McCullagh.  There was hardly any comparison with the behaviour of more senior Clerics, such as Cerea, Stenico or Wade  – his extreme religious views, his intimacy with young boys, his erratic behaviour.

For example, he would often punch boys in the middle of the chest with the heel of his clenched fist.  I, and others, believe that his bizarre actions must have been observed and well known by others in positions of authority in the House of Verona, yet he was charged with the pastoral care of vulnerable young men.

Secondly, I find it hard to believe that Romano was a one off.   I was at Mirfield for a very short time yet I quickly found myself exposed to a lack of due care. Therefore, turning a blind eye to uncomfortable situations was perhaps endemic.

Thirdly, I feel a deep sense of betrayal to my father, whose chest swelled with pride when Romano brought me home for a brief visit. For many years after my Father would relate this story with pride, that the Italian Priest thought so much of his son that he brought him home for an unscheduled, unannounced visit.

And finally the deep sense of betrayal to those young seminarians, my friends and brothers who may also have suffered a lack of care and support that was rightly due to them.

Peabod’s God Squad

Other young boys, like myself, were taken under his wing and looked to him for pastoral guidance.  This culminated in a small extracurricular group meeting regularly in the Chapel to pray and read psalms together. Romano would sit in the middle of the pew and on either side of him sat two or three boys.  In turns we were given psalms to read.  I struggled to read the complicated ancient text, but Romano was happy to ask others to pick up for me.  It was in this group that I first heard the term “flagellation”.

The humorous cynicism which pervades the culture of a Junior Seminary quickly led to Romano gaining the nickname Peabod after the cartoon character Mr Peabody and Romano’s followers being nominated as “Peabod’s God Squad”.  Only now am I able to smile when I hear this term.

A Shared Sense of Loss

My youngest child is fast approaching the age at which I left home and joined the Verona Fathers.  His beauty and innocence, his willingness to learn and hang on to almost every word of knowledgeable adults drags my memory back with painful speed to my own hopeful childhood.

In the late 1960’s the drive from Liverpool was across the picturesque A62, the lights of which could be clearly seen from the end window of our top corridor at Mirfield.  I would often stand there on a winter evening, my eyes following the meandering orange glow over the moors leading home, praying that my parents would feel the sickness I had in my stomach and, by some God-delivered message, they would make their way back to Mirfield and bring me home.

Only the comradeship and energetic playfulness of other Junior Seminarians prevented my depression from turning to despair.  For many years I have believed that the support, love and sheer rollicking enthusiasm for life that Mirfield boys had was the foundation of my lifelong belief in the need for a Socialist society.  In truth, the friendships I have sustained and the happy memories of the unity of the boys is more to do with a shared sense of loss than any higher noble spiritual or social meaning.  That was something I was to come across again much later in life.