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.

Father Pinkman Accused me of Leading the Great Escape

Leader of The Great Escape

Someone had told me about it. I can’t remember whom (it might have been Leo Murphy). I was in 2nd year at the time. The Boy told me that Pinkie thought that someone was trying to organise some great escape from The College. Supposedly I was the ringleader.

It was so ridiculous that I just said something to that effect and didn’t think any more of it. I was in 2nd year. If had wanted to go home I could just have stayed at home the last time I was home for Summer, Christmas or Easter. So could the other boys in the supposed ‘escape plot’.

Why would I, ‘the mastermind’, be putting so much thought into the Great Escape when I could simply stay home next time I was there? Why would I also arrange a mass breakout and escape? Why wouldn’t I just go on my own? Everyone could make their own decisions.

Many Miles from Home

It would be different if we were in our first term there and our ‘homesick’ letters were being ripped up.

For God’s sake I had to get myself 400 miles to Glasgow and then another 26 miles to Greenock after that. And I had to do it without any money. Even boys who lived just 20 miles away hadn’t made it.

It just didn’t make any sense at all.

I wrote it off.

Father Pinkman’s Approach

That was extremely stupid.

One evening Pinkie grabbed me and took me into the Form 1 / Form 2 classroom area. He said he had been ‘reliably informed’ that there was going to be a mass escape. Not only that, I was the ‘brains’ behind it and had been planning it for a while.

I mean, let’s forget, for a minute, that this was in a democratic and free country called Great Britain and that this was a school where anybody was free to leave or stay as they wished.

This wasn’t a prison camp in Nazi Germany or a Gulag in the Soviet Union. This was a bloody school in Yorkshire where boys who had volunteered to train for the priesthood were schooled.

The Accused

Let’s forget all that.

When he accused me, I, of course, denied it as it was absolute rubbish. Pinkie refused to accept this at all. He had completely reliable information. This was ‘a fact’ and there was no point in denying it.

He wanted to know the names of the people who were involved and when it was to take place. Of course, I couldn’t give him this information as it didn’t exist.

He was determined to have it. He launched into a diatribe about me being a ‘bad boy’ etc. I can’t remember now all that was said but it was constant like an interrogation, and I remember bursting into tears and sobbing uncontrollably.

This didn’t stop him though. He continued the interrogation. He went on and on demanding the names as I continued to sob and sob, but he wouldn’t stop. “I’m not letting you go until you tell me” he said. It was incessant. It really was like an interrogation. He was completely heartless. He was completely cruel. All he wanted was the information and I could go.

Father Grace Enters

Suddenly, someone burst in the door. It was Fr. Grace. He was a highly respected priest and he went on to become Fr. Rector later. He had been a ‘convert’ from the Anglican religion. He was not one of those people who had been taken away as a boy of eleven and trained for the priesthood but had seen a bit of ‘the other life’. He was highly respected amongst The Boys.

He was the English Literature teacher and damned good at it.

“What’s going on here”, he demanded in a very concerned and raised authoritative voice. I suspect now he might have been listening outside for a few moments.

Pinkie made some excuse but it was clear that Fr. Grace didn’t believe him. He seemed quite contemptious of him. One had always thought that the priests would always stick together – but that wasn’t what was happening here.

Fr. Grace asked me to explain what had been happening but I just said “Nothing”.

Sent Pinkman on His Way

He must have thought that Pinkie’s presence was intimidating me (which it most certainly was). He turned to Pinkie and sent him on his way, to go to his room.

Looking back on this and looking through the eyes of an adult it is obvious that Fr. Grace was well above Pinkie in the pecking order. Pinkie must have been around 23 or 24 and Fr. Grace must have been about 15-20 years older.

I don’t know what Fr. Grace thought was going on but he sure as hell knew something was up – and he knew it was Pinkie’s fault and not mine.

Father Grace Asked Again

When Pinkie was gone he asked me again what had happened.

“Nothing” I replied.

“Come on, you can tell me. I can make sure that if you tell me that he won’t give you any problems again”.

“Nothing” I said.

He tried to convince me that he would make sure I would be all right if I told him what had happened.

Could Have Done for Pinkman

This should have been my moment. Looking back on it now, if I had spilled the beans it might have preempted events by at least a year. I might even have survived at The College. I might even have become a priest.

But I didn’t believe him. In my world Pinkie was the king. He was supreme. What he said went. Reporting him to another priest would be tantamount to ‘vocational suicide’ as I saw it.

I did think about it. My judgment, though, was that Fr. Grace couldn’t stop the all-powerful (in our eyes) Pinkie.

Horrible Wrong

I was wrong. Horribly wrong.

There was nothing Fr Grace could do. I could see he wanted to. He ruffled my hair in a fatherly way which made me sob even more. It was perhaps the first and only tactile kindness I had been shown in my whole time at the college by a priest. I burst into tears.

“OK, off you go then” he said.

I went upstairs to go to the toilet.

Guess who came in?

Yes, you’ve guessed it. It was Pinkie rubbing his hands together very animatedly.

Taken Aback

“Not you again!” I said with disbelief at the reappearance of my tormentor while bursting into further tears.

That really was more than you could say to a priest but I was getting beyond reason expecting my ordeal to start again.

Surprisingly, Pinkie seemed a bit taken aback and on the defensive. He wasn’t the aggressive tormentor of a few minutes ago.

Needed to Know

He wanted to know just one thing. “What did you tell Fr. Grace?”

“Nothing”, I said.

“Are you sure” he said.

“Yes” I said with exasperation expecting a telling off.

“Good” said Pinkie and slunk off through the toilet door.

If I had only known. I had him by throat and didn’t realise it. He knew it though. That’s why, even though he had been sent scuttling off to his room, he had to stick around to know what I had said.

He knew the game could well have been up for him. He needed desperately to know.

However, I had told Fr. Grace nothing – and Pinkie had survived.

Mark Murray Meets his Comboni Missionaries Abuser at Last

Mark Murray’s Abuser

Many, many years ago, in a seminary in Mirfield, Yorkshire, run by the Comboni Missionaries, Mark Murray was repeatedly abused by a priest of that Order whilst he was just 14 years of age.

The priest’s name was Father Romano Nardo. There was an element of masochism, too, as Nardo scratched a cross on his own chest and that of Mark Murray as well.

Nardo was there from Italy till the summer of that year to learn English before being transferred to the English-speaking Missions in Uganda.

Missions in Uganda

Mark was regularly in Nardo’s room being abused for four months. He was spotted by another priest coming out of Nardo’s room at 6am. Shortly afterwards, Nardo was transferred to the Missions in Uganda a couple of months early.

The abuse has severely affected Mark’s life and that of his family. In the late Nineties, Mark reported Nardo to the order and they promptly brought him back from the Missions in Uganda after 20 years service there.

They told Mark that Nardo would never be allowed access to children again. They moved him to one of their buildings in Verona, Italy.

West Yorkshire Police

Mark also reported his abuse to West Yorkshire police. In the late Nineties they tried to get Nardo extradited to be interviewed and to face charges. However, this request was turned down by the Comboni Missionaries saying that Nardo wasn’t mentally able to be interviewed over it.

Despite this, Mark has pictures of Nardo concelebrating mass many years after that.

Mark has asked to meet Nardo many times. He has also asked for an apology from the order. He has been in touch with the No. 1 Comboni Missionary in England, Father Martin Devenish, who told him he would get the police onto him.

Comboni Missionaries

He contacted Father Enrique Sanchez, who is head of the Comboni Missionaries worldwide, but was rebuffed by him too. He also contacted Father David Glenday, the ex-head of the Comboni Missionaries, who now has a senior position at the Vatican. He asked Mark to write a letter to Father Sanchez. This got him no further.

It was at an impasse. The Comboni Missionaries not only refused to apologise but would not even admit that any abuse had taken place.

This is despite there being over 1,000 documented instances of abuse of 18 boys in the Sixties and Seventies at the seminary in Mirfield by several different priests and a lay preacher.

Verona Fathers Trip

So, Mark decided to take the matter into his own hands.

A few weeks ago, Mark decided to fly to Verona to try to meet his abuser in person. After all, he knew where he was.

Instead of just doing that he was advised to contact the local press there – otherwise he could end up in an Italian police cell. A bunch of local priests would be more likely to be believed than he would be.

It’s just as well that he did as the Comboni Missionaries were not only unsympathetic but they accused him of being drunk and called the police.

La Repubblica Newspaper

Luckily, though, Mark had contacted La Repubblica, a major newspaper in Italy.

They gave him a camera disguised as a wrist watch – and so he had evidence of what took place – and that he wasn’t drunk.

When Mark arrived, he asked reception if he could go into the chapel there. After a while, he plucked his courage and asked reception if he could speak to Father Romano Nardo. She went to fetch him.

When Nardo came out, he knew who Mark was within seconds.

You can find the La Repubblica article and the videos of the meeting between Mark and Nardo by clicking on Comboni Missionaries Abuser Meeting

There is a not very good Google Translate into English version here

Channel 4 News

Mark was later interviewd by Channel 4 Television in the UK.

After all of this, the Comboni Missionaries have still not apologized, still do not admit any abuse took place and have moved Nardo to another location in case he is harmed by Mark Murray.

Indeed, they are threatening to sue Mark.

When will they ever learn!

When will they ever learn!

If you want any further information on Mark’s case or any of the other abuse cases at Mirfiled, ust contact us.

 

 

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!]

Arrival at Mirfield | Comboni Missionaries

Arrival at Mirfield

In those days the train journeys were very long. My memory was that the train journey from Glasgow to Leeds lasted for 7 hours.

It was the start of a great adventure. I remember it was a very sunny and hot day (aren’t all your favourite days that way?).

Some of the parents came down to drop us off. We were in one compartment of the train and they were in the one next door.

Even Better

I remember arriving at the bus stop called ‘Robin’ presumably called after Robin Hood who was supposed to have had some connection with the area.

The place was even better than Fr. Tavano had described. It was in quite a few acres of ground. There was a woods – or a Copse as they called it. There was three different football pitches. There was a Grotto to our Lady on the lawn with Primula all around.

There was Fr. Cerea’s garden where he grew all sorts of flowers and vegetables.

There was a Recreation room where you could play Table Tennis, Snooker, Billiards, Chess or Draughts.

And to cap it all it was where the Bronte sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne went to school.

Holiday Camp

This really was different from Greenock. This really was like a holiday camp. It was going to be fantastic. We were now living in a really great place and we were going to become priests and go to Africa to teach the natives about God at the end of it.

Little did we realise that the holiday camp would turn out more like a prison camp.

After our parents had departed on the first day I asked one of the 2nd year boys if we could have a look around outside and perhaps go down to the local town.

We couldn’t.

We were not allowed to leave the grounds. There was a wall about four feet high surrounding The College.

It might as well have been 40 feet.

Verona Fathers Reunion Announced

Comboni Missionaries Reunion

We received this from im Kirby, ex-seminarian at Mirfield and who works in the travel industry.

“I have just recently returned from Florida and was chatting with Liam Gribben. He will be in Ireland at his usual work conference from Wednesday the 20th May staying in Malahide which is close to Dublin Airport on the coast. He is staying at the Grand Hotel but would love to see if we can get a group together to go over and see him weekend of the 22nd May.

“The weekend is fixed so if you can come I hope you will and if so let me know as soon as possible and I will make arrangements for accommodation at good rates. You can all get easy flights into Dublin . We will make arrangements for people to be met at the airport, so don’t worry about transfers.

“I need to get a rate on hotels. The area in Malahide is beautiful and if we aim to arrive Friday we propose staying until Sunday. Hope as many of you as possible can come and please pass this on to others not listed above as these are the only e-mail addresses I have.

“Martin (Murphy), bring your guitar and I’ll do song books. Danny (Curren) bring the banjo!

“So guys you can either make it or not make it, the date is fixed and the venue. Don’t let yet another year go by again without a reunion and do ask others.

“Let me know as soon as possible if you can make it and so far Liam,Frank Barnes and myself are confirmed”.

Bank Holiday Weekend

It seems that it is a UK bank holiday weekend. Jim is sorting out the hotel and seeing who will give us the best rates.

A further email from Jim states:-

“Ask people to book the Friday and return either the Sun or Mon. Eamon told me tonight that flights from Glasgow are really cheap. Anyway Eamon is doing a wider e-mail tomorrow and hopefully we’ll get a few more to tag on. I will sort out the accommodation, you can let them know and I’ll keep price as best as possible.”

If you want to know more details contact Jim Kirby at jaskirby@hotmail.com