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

Comboni Missionaries | The Beginnings of My Vocation

Implantation

“What’s the half of two and two” asked Fr. Maloney. I knew the answer as he had asked the same question many times before. I wasn’t sure if he was forgetful or whether he just liked to hear the answer. Some of the other altar boys preferred to indulge him by giving the wrong answer so that he could gain great delight from explaining it. I swapped about, sometimes giving the right answer and sometimes the wrong one.

“Two”, I replied.

“No three” he said.

“Why is that?” I indulged him.

“What’s the half of two” he asked.

“One” I replied.

“So what’s one and two” he asked and waited for the trap to be sprung and realisation to happen.

“Three”, I said, caught again by his ruse.

That pleased him a lot.

Father Maloney

Fr. Maloney was a very holy man. He was proudly Irish, proudly Catholic and proudly priest. He wasn’t one of those holier than thou religious people. He wasn’t using his religion or position to feel better than other people or to look down on them. His holiness was genuine.

However, it was now time for his half-a-crown question.

“So what are you going to be when you grow up?” he asked.

This, of course, was another question that he asked heaps of times. He asked the other altar boys as well, but he asked me the most. He knew that my father was in hospital with tuberculosis and that my mother was struggling to get by, and there wasn’t much spending money.

Vow of Poverty

Priests, although they take a vow of Poverty and are supposed to own nothing of their own and get no pay, get bits and pieces from parishioners. If they officiate at a wedding or a funeral they tend to get a ‘bung’.

I don’t know what most of them do with it, but Fr. Maloney tended to look for ways to give it away again. He was a redistributor of wealth in his own small scale.

When he first asked his ‘career’ question, the altar boys gave all sorts of things that they wanted to do when they grew up. However, we had worked out long ago that ‘footballer’ or ‘doctor’ was not the right answer.

The Right Answer

I think that I was the first to say ‘priest’. The other altar boys were still slightly behind the times. After a while they started to say ‘priest’ in answer to teh question or if they were feeling brave ‘bishop’. However they weren’t ambitious enough.

“Pope”, I replied, whereupon he immediately fought his way through his cassock to pull out a lovely big silver half-a-crown.

“Here you are” he said delightedly. “Get something for your brothers and sisters too”.

The other altar boys usually got a sixpence if they got anything. I was never sure if it was my brave replies that got the half-a-crown or whether he was just looking for a way to give me the money anyway. I suspect it was the latter.

Family Struggles

My father was in hospital with tuberculosis and my mother had a family of seven to bring up on her own.

This was a princely sum of money and he gave it on a fairly regular basis.

Whenever he met my mother he would tell her, often in my presence, that I had told him that I wanted to be a priest. He would put his hand on my head and look delighted. My mother looked suitably delighted too that her young son had brought her such kudos from the local holy man.

Gradually it grew in my head that a priest was a good thing to be. It seemed to be a career with a lot of kudos and my mother would be in seventh heaven to have a son who was a priest.

Brainwashed?

I’m sure that I could look back and say that Fr. Maloney was not all that he seemed, that he was a conniving person who gradually brainwashed little boys, using cash rewards, into wanting to join the ranks of the priesthood.

I’m sure that, like many others in the church, he was worried about the falling numbers of boys who wanted to become priests. However, it was the profession that he had chosen, which seemed to give him personal fulfillment, and which, I’m sure he felt he could recommend to other people.

However, I suspect that if it was the local Accountant who was dispensing money for the ‘right’ answer to his question about what I was going to do when I was older, then there is a good chance that I might now be an Accountant (although I’m not sure what the equivalent of Pope is in that profession).

Parish Priests

To my mother, and many of the people of the parish, priests were the local equivalent of pop stars or movie stars.

Maybe not too many people aspired to become priests, but those who did received a tremendous amount of admiration and respect for doing it.

So that was how the idea formed in my head that I wanted to be a priest!

Why Do Comboni MIssionaries Collaborators Collaborate?

Stockholm Syndrome

I remember, a number of years ago, when an aeroplane was hijacked that those who were victims of the hijackers became sympathetic to them and started to help and advise them.

It seems that this is not unusual.

A new syndrome was founded called the Stockholm Syndrome called, presumably after the place where the plane was hijacked from, or taken to.

I’ve noticed two curious syndromes at work as regards the sexual abuse of children as young as 11 by the Comboni Missionaries and those who have covered it up.

I don’t know if these syndromes have names.

Needing an Apology

Firstly, there is the syndrome where the victims need to meet those who abused them and to receive an apology from them for their abuse – and, indeed, to be able to forgive their abuser.

Not all of those who were abused want this. Some of them would like to hang them from the nearest lamp post. However, a significant number of abuse victims do feel this need.

Indeed, they are massively frustrated when they find out that their abuser is dead and that they will never have the opportunity to be apologised too and to forgive the abuser.

If it doesn’t have a name, let’s call it Mirfield Syndrome.

Need to Collaborate

The second syndrome I have noted is the desire of some of the St. Peter Claver Seminary Old Boys to collaborate with the Comboni Missionaries to hush up, or suppress, the accusations of child sexual abuse.

When an abuser in a family is first found out the immediate instinct of family members is often to protect the abuser rather than the abused.

This syndrome that we have is probably similar to this. It’s probably close to the Stockholm Syndrome as well. They bond with their ‘captors’.

Refuse to Testify

There are boys, even those who were abused, who refuse to testify against their abuser and those who help to cover up the abuse of others whom they know to have been abused.

I’m not talking, here, about those who were absued but just want to leave it in the past and don’t want to take any action. They want to leave it in the past.

I’m talking here of those who can talk about their abuse but who take an active part in helping to cover up the abuse pepretrated on others.

Swimming Without Trunks

There are others, still, who weren’t abused, but who knew of the abuse, who are prepared to say that they didn’t – to help out those accused of the cover-up.

There does seem a need to ‘protect’ the abusers and those who covered it up at the time and new.

I suppose that this would be the equivalent of kids in a family siding with their father who abused their sister and who were prepared to tell the authorities that nothing happened or they knew nothing of it, when they did.

If it doesn’t have a name let’s call this one Vichy Syndrome.

Of course, it will all come out ‘in the wash’ when the Home Office Panel sits and when the high court cases come up.

As Warren Buffet once said, “It’s only when the tide goes out that you see who was bathing without trunks”.

The tide is going out for the Comboni Missionaries and their collaborators.

They have no trunks!

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.

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

A Post-Holiday Update

Hi, Degs here.

First off just a few tips for navigating the site. There is now quite a bit of dialogue in the comment area, which can be found at the top of the right hand column. The latest blogs can also be found there by clicking on rss posts. This may seem obvious. However if you are a bit of a IT philistine, like myself, then we need all the help we can get.

Recent comments are very heavy, with a portrayal of lives of misery. I have nothing but admiration for those old boys who have once again visited their dark times at Mirfied. They have revealed the faults and failings of the order to myself and the majority of old boys for whom the Mirfield experience was free from such trauma.

The consequences of such revelations have had a deep impact on me. They have blighted, and rightly so, what was a very influential part of my life. As I have stated before, people that I have always held up as true, good and honest examples of humanity I now find to be complicit in the abuse, sexual, physical and mental, of some of their charges. I believe that apologies have been asked for, perpetrators confronted, but all to no avail. Silence in itself speaks a thousand words.

There has been very little input as to the more positive side of the Mirfield experience which in itself is puzzling. Before the initial disclosures I had looked upon my Mirfield experience as a totally positive one. The adventures, experiences, characters and camaraderie were second to none. The stuff of brilliant childhood fiction. For those of us who still wish to remember it that way this site is here for that too.

Even those of us who are involved in exposing the less digestible side of Mirfield could do with a few lighter moments to try and achieve a balance.

Remember that this can be done with complete anonymity. I hope that the actions of a few perpetrators will not be seen as a reflection of the order as a whole and that the representatives of the order will seize the opportunity to put right the wrong doings that were done in their name and seemingly with their blessing.

I hope that you all had a good xmas and look forward to an interesting 2012
DEGS

ps. Sniff if you’re out there it would be good to hear from you: kevindeignan@live.co.uk

Use this Blog to Support, Engage and Argue

Some young men at Mirfield have managed to incorporate, and thus dilute, the darker time at Mirfield with the good.  I believe that some have kept that dark time separate in order not to contaminate the good.  All of this needs closure for some of us.

How can we meet up in the years to come and still chew the cud over a pint without putting this to rest?

Use this blog to help and support, engage and argue because we must all come to terms with the fact that we went through this together and somehow after all these years we are still Mirfield Boys.

Finally, to those of the order who are aware of this blog please feel free to post opinions.  Come out from behind the collar and reinstate my belief in humanity because I would like to think that my judgment of character could not be that far off.  To those old boys who had not been affected by or were not aware of these episodes at Mirfield, please remember and support the lads who were.

These are my own personal thoughts and opinions if you know any different or can offer alternative explanations please contact me.

kevindeignan@live.co.uk

Degs