Comboni Missionaries and Clerical “Alternative Information” in a World Replete with Injustice.
By Brian Mark Hennessy
It is essential that the Mirfield Seminary Victims of child sexual abuse hold on to what they have – which is their knowledge of the “Truth” of the punitive, degrading and cruel sexual abuse that was perpetrated upon them by members of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, when they were child seminarians in their care. Their “Truth” opens the doors of their right to “Justice”. They must never waver and nor be afraid to tell it. “Justice” and “Truth” are bedfellows and are dependent on each other. You cannot have one without the other.
They must also hold on to those dear to them who are the only reliable sources of their strength and stability. There is nothing else and no one else out there that can provide their turbulent lives with a secure anchor. They must do that because in this harsh world there are few constant friends. Even those to whom you once entrusted your youth and your future hopes may betray you – as the Apostle Peter betrayed Christ in his most dire moment.
In like vein, the trust that Mirfield Victims of child sexual abuse once had in the Priests and the Hierarchy of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, has been traitorously dashed also. The latter have refused to engage with the Victims in any meaningful way. To put it simply, they just do not care to quell the tempestuous storms and havoc that sexual abuse has created in the minds of those whom they betrayed.
The Combonis at Saint Peter Claver’s Seminary in Mirfield in the 1960’s and 70’s ignored the abuse when it was happening – and so why would they have heed of it now. “It all happened such a long time ago” they have often and vaguely repeated in recent years, “that simply nobody can establish the truth now”.
That is far from the true “truth”, however, for the abuse was largely reported at the time that it took place – and there are Comboni Priests alive today who have given witness to the truth of the abuse. The sad fact is that if a concerted hierarchy states a lie often enough and with consistency – then that lie replaces the truth in the ears of both unwitting listeners and, eventually, the tellers also. So it is that in the course of time the Combonis have come to believe their own lies.
The worst of the effects of the Combonis’ “new truth”, that emanates from their distortions and denials of the “old truth”, is that these shameful, so-called clerics have destroyed their Victims’ lives. They have achieved this by their silence which is broken only by the disarming “alternative information” of the new “political speak” that they haplessly invented long before did Donald Trump. Such deliberate compulsive “dishonesty” is about as malevolent and cruel a reaction to the Victims’ injuries that could be inflicted.
In a hostile and vindictive way, silence destroys the Victims by forcing them to either give up or to become adversaries. Both outcomes are destructive to the Victims. They can win neither battle because their injuries have been inflicted already – and those wounds are the cause of inexhaustible, constant, complex and profound mental suffering – and even despair. The Combonis’ devastating and contemptuous silence, compounds that suffering – and those clerics appear to know it, welcome it and ignore it.
The Combonis’ disdain of the Victims is not fantasy. What was it that the Vice Superior and Superior of the Verona Mother House said to one Victim when less than two years ago he asked why it was that the Order was protecting a known, self-confessed, paedophile priest within their walls? There was no denial – and they responded variously, “We all make mistakes”, “He is being looked after” and “You are all money grabbers”.
The suffering of the Victims has no effect on the Combonis’ Hierarchy because they are remote and aloof. They do not feel the pain of the Victims’ hurt. Their silence and refusal to have dialogue with them has built up within them a systemic immunity to the Victims’ pain. They turn a deaf ear to the cries of Victims because, in the long run, they know well that you cannot feel remorse nor care for those for whom you have no thoughts. Victims’ cries for help and healing can become less than the sounds of whispers in the howling gale of self-deceit that they have fanned.
At Verona again, the Superior told the Victim, “We don’t want you to meet anybody here…We have nothing to say to you…Rather than concentrating on an apology you should look towards the future…It does not pay for you to be in Verona because you will not see anybody…You will be waiting in vain for an apology.”
Thus, in a disarmingly apathetic and incurious manner, the Combonis of Verona dusted their fleeting thoughts of a Victim off their cassock sleeves as if he were the occasional, irritable, noisy insect that momentarily catches their notice on a warm summer’s eventide dusk. As the slighted Victim left their Mother house in disbelief of their heartless disdain for him, the clergy within murmured their Vespers and praised the Lord. They then continued to watch the sun set over the ancient walled citadel of Verona across the valley to the West. They felt safe again after the Victim had left – and were contented in the false comfort that they were the righteous ones of the God who is constantly in the litany of the utterances of their lips.
They are wrong – and they are pitifully disillusioned. Their assumption that a Just God will overlook their injustices because they continually mouth His Holy name each Liturgical Hour of the day is a grave deception of self-conceit. They persist in their own self-delusion with an arrogance that amounts to both psychotic mental and spiritual blindness.
They fear the Victims. They fear to see their faces before them and they fear to see the stares of accusation in their eyes. They fear to hear their voices raised against them. They do not wish to be in the same space as a Victim. In such proximity, they might sense the tenuous emanations of their suffering and hear the silent outpouring of the inner grief of their hearts and minds. Such propinquity would make them feel ill at ease, perplexed and bewildered. It might even give them scruples and make an alarming dent in their arrogant, clericalist, self-perception of righteousness. It just would not do at all to be the subjects of such alarming and unnerving juxta-positioning.
So, they keep their distance, refuse to meet the Victims, refuse to hear them and put them out of their minds as best they can. Personal contact is for them a frightening prospect. Thus, to save themselves from buckling under the strength and conviction of the “Truth” that they might confront in the gaze of a Victim, they hire a lawyer.
In doing so, they close their hearts to the Victims’ distant, silent existence. Such remoteness is their safety net. It allows their self-deceit to thrive happily in their self-made, moral vacuum. Thus, from Matins to Compline daily, they carry on with their psalm recitations in the vain hope that their God is even remotely listening to them.
Yet, also, they must surely conceal the fear that their God is not listening at all to their brand of “alternative information”. Despite their “shut down” of the simple logic that must constantly whisper in their ears that their Omniscient God has already well discerned the “Truth” that gives rise to the constant cries of Victims, they continue to don their vacant masks of false contentment. They stick it out in the certainty that one by one the victims, like them, will end their days in an earthen grave – and will there-on-in remain silent. They play the face-saving, callous and hard-bitten predictability of the “waiting game”.
This Mirfield Memories site has many devolved purposes, but the original principle purpose of it was to provide a forum for Victims to unburden their hearts, minds and souls by telling their stories to their past seminarian confreres who once, alongside them, experienced the un-loving regime of Saint Peter Claver’s Seminary in Mirfield. We must not forget, however, that child sexual abuse also took place at Stillington and Elstree. Those stories yet remain to be told.
Some dozen or so ex-seminarians have so far unburdened themselves publicly and told their stories. Another dozen of them have shared their experiences with a core of us – and have benefitted from the fraternity that that engenders. Yet another dozen are known to a very few of us, for they have not yet overcome the struggles involved in casting off the burdens of their painful silence.
Whilst the Comboni Missionary Order remains in contemptuous denial of the truths that they have known for some five decades, these struggling, and as-yet silent Victims of child sexual abuse, live lives that have been brutally blighted by the blatant blasphemy – the “magnum mendacium” – of the Hierarchy of an Order of Religious men who with sacrilegious desecration deny Christ – not just thrice – but with consistent apparent ease.
Meanwhile, these lone, suffering Victims of Comboni child sexual abuse who are still out there in the wilderness must forever hold on to the “truth” of the debased, cruel and punitive abuse that they once suffered. We, their fellow victims, extend to them a hand of warm understanding friendship. We stand before them as witnesses to the undeniable fact that child sexual abuse was perpetrated at the Comboni Missionary Order’s United Kingdom seminaries by callous adult, paedophile clerics who took advantage of the youthful innocence of young boys who trusted and idolised them – and aspired to be one of them.
Those silent victims of abuse have no need to feel alone for we have belief in the untold truth that is hidden in their hearts. We, of necessity, also remain the Truth and Justice adversaries of all the silent, abused children of Stillington, Mirfield and Elstree. That role was cast upon us by an Order of Catholic Clerics, the Comboni Missionaries of Verona, Italy, who remain in grievous moral denial of God’s “Truth” and who are yet to find enlightenment and humble, Gospel-based leadership in a world replete with injustice.