Comboni Missionaries | The Beginnings of My Vocation


“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.


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

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

ps. Sniff if you’re out there it would be good to hear from you:

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.


In Loco Parentis

I had not suffered these experiences, what right had I to feel the way I did?

However the sense of betrayal that I feel and that I believe we all should feel, is immense.  In such a small community behaviour such as this could not have gone unnoticed.  However no action was taken and therefore I have drawn the conclusion that there was collusion.  One can offer as a weak defense that the perpetrators of these acts were sexual deviants driven by some mental disorder.

But how do you come to the defense of the bystander?

These people helped shape my life, these bystanders were ‘in loco parentis,’ our surrogate parents who failed in their duty of care.

People whom I held as role models and shining examples of humanity I find to be flawed.  They are men just like you and me, but they can hide from the real world behind their cassocks and collars with impunity.  Through the court of confession they can be judged and sentenced by one of their own and on leaving the smallest of courtrooms be admonished with a prayer or two and a promise to be repentant, released with a once again unblemished copy book .

I regret the fact that due to my youthful naivety and blind faith I was unable to see what was happening and help and support my friends.  These were boys who through no fault of their own were singled out. They were not victims, they were vulnerable.  The God Squad was a group of devout young boys whose deep religious beliefs were manipulated against them in the perfect environment and this was allowed to happen in full view.