The Forgotten Victims of Comboni Missionaries Sexual Abuse

Comboni Missionaries Sexual Abuse

We have documented here the sexual abuse that took place in Mirfield in the Sixties and Seventies at the hands of Father John Pinkman, Father Domenico Valmaggia and Father Romano Nardo as well as by lay teacher Michael Riddle.

Many of the ‘Boys’ who had been abused assumed that the other Boys would be sympathetic when hearing about the abuse they suffered at the hands of those priests and lay teacher when they were in their early teens.

However, this has not been the case as regards all of the Boys who were not abused.

Michael Riddle

This came to a head this week with the post about Michael Riddle, the lay teacher who abused several boys whom he taught at Mirfield.

This brought to a head this ‘disbelief’, if I can call it that, with an article from Andrew Routledge saying that he spent many an hour smoking a pipe in Riddle’s room without being molested or abused.

Another ex-Boy was angered by the article too and sent me an email saying that he didn’t want to receive any more emails with links to articles as he was “sick of listening to such crap”.

He then had an angry email exchange with Tony Smith.

Abused and Angry

The reaction from Andrew and this guy angered those who have been abused.

Their motivations have been questioned in the past by the Comboni Missionaries who have said that it’s all about the money.

However, I found Andrew’s article quite considered and natural. It was a natural reaction.

When a child in a family reports abuse by a parent or a relative, say an elder cousin or uncle, the standard reaction of others in the family is to protect the parent or relative who has been accused.

There is a disbelief that it happened. In fact the abused child is often vilified.

This is a knee-jerk reaction and often , but not always, opinion gradually turns around and blames the perpetrator and not the victim.

However, the victim feels abused twice, firstly by the perpetrator and then by those in the family who don’t believe them and sometimes go further than that and accuse them of lying and making it up.

Mirfield Family

At Mirfield, the priest and teacher there were more than just teachers. The priests, like the other boys there, were family. We had left our own families behind to become priests and this was our new family.

The ‘Fathers’ were our substiture fathers – especially those closest to us like Pinkman who was in charge of the junor school.

So, it is not surprising that some of the Boys who were not abused react in this way. Many of the Boys see their period as a happy, idyllic part of their lives.

They looked forward to the reunions where they would meet up with other Boys from that idyllic period.

Paedophile Monsters

Imagine their shock to be told by some of the other boys that the place was not so idyllic as they thought and that some of the priests and lay teachers that they idolised were actually paedophile monsters who preyed on multiple boys often as young as 11 years of age.

Others that they idolised, who were not paedophiles, were involved in covering it up and hiding their crimes from the police.

That must have been a terrible shock to the system to those coming to what they expected to be happy reunions.

Abuse Questions

A typical reaction would be “If he was a paedophile then why did he not abuse me?”

Of course, there are several potential reasons for that. Paedophiles tend to prey on those of a certain profile, i.e. those they see as most vulnerable. Indeed the abuse of several of the boys comenced after boys going to priests’ rooms, like Pinkie and Nardo, in tears from feeling homesick.

Those who were not abused can consider themselves very lucky. So many lives have been ruined by sexual absue by priests at Mirfield. It could have happened to them too.

Who can say why it was that the priests did not choose them to abuse. I don’t suppose that they could have abused everybody. There were 31 boys in first year alone when I was there. They could afford to pick their victims carefully.

Nothing said at the Time

“How come nothing was said at the time, if there boys abused when I was there?” is another standard reaction. Again this is natural and par for the course.

So many boys suffered in silence thinking tht they were the only ones. Indeed it was a surprise to them to find out at reunions (or by finding this blog) that it was happening to others – and by the same priests who abused them and who were telling them that they were special.

It’s also not entirely correct as several abuse victims reported their abuse at the time but were most ignored – although boys reporting their abuse did lead to Valmaggia and Pinkman beng moved on elsewhere immediately.

Loss of Their Innocent Childhood Memories

Although they were not abused themselves, some of these others are suffering a loss too – mabe not of their innocent childhood – but of their innocent childhood memories of an idyllic period and an idyllic place in their early lives.

Many don’t want to believe it, certainly at first.

They may even be angry at those who are destroying ther memories of this idyllic childhood at Mirfield and the ‘wonderful’ priests and lay teacher there.

Even if they believe it, they question the mortivations of those who say they were abused.

They also seek to protect the memory of the abuser, if they are dead.

They seek to protect those involved in making sure that the abusers were never prosecuted for their crimes and ensuring that the abusers were simply shifted elsewhere – possibly to abuse again.

Unsympathetic

Those abused are very angry at this.

How could they think like this after everything that happened to their ‘fellow boys’? Why have they no sympathy?

I would say to the abused that it is perfectly natural for these Boys to think this way.

It happens in every single family where abuse takes place.

I would say to The Abused “Let’s not villify them. Let’s explain. It is a shock to their systems. Their childhood memories have been dashed on the rocks and they don’t like it”.

Real Villains

I think that most of them (but not all) will come to see who the real villains are.

It was not the abuse victims who have ruined their idyllic memories of Mirfield.

It was the actions of the abusers that did this – and the actions of those who covered it up and who are currently still covering it up and hiding a sexual abuser of young children in Verona in Italy.

The abuse victims are only the messengers.

We say to those doubting them “Don’t shoot the messengers. Blame those whose actions blighted Mirfield – not those who told you about it”.

Thanks for your article Andrew.

If you wish to comment on ths article please do so below. We welcome comments from all people and whatever their views. We know that there are two sides to ths story.

After all, we are a family!

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A Pastoral Life

Hi, Degs again.

Just found a few minutes to share some thoughts.

I am sitting in the kitchen of our tied house that we have occupied for the last seventeen years looking out at the tree dotted ancient parkland of Baggrave Hall Estate where I work. Today is a good day, the sun is shining on the autumn leaves that are being tossed around in a stiff breeze, two buzzards wheel above in a clear blue sky calling to one another.  My day’s work was to fell and clear two ancient chestnut trees that had finally succumbed  to disease.  I started the chainsaw first thing this morning and a deer broke cover and bounded over a fence into a wood.  Later on in the day I was entertained by a stoat as I sat quietly on one of the two now horizontal chestnuts.  He appeared from a grass verge carrying a dead pheasant poult twice his size and weight and proceeded to drag his prize, with much effort, across the road and into the undergrowth opposite.

I often work alone and in remote parts of the estate, but today I was working by the single track road that bissects the estate.  This resulted in frequent stoppages as friends and acquaintances pulled up for a bit of a chat.  We know and are known by most people in the area.  Our family motto has always been “you only get out as much as you put in” and we have been fortunate in as much as where ever we have lived from Scotland to England, Wales and Portugal we have always become accepted and involved with the communities.

Our family unit is a tight one and on the whole contentment reigns.  I find this remarkable due to the stressful nature of most of the family’s employment, three out of the five of us are involved in social work at the sharp end of things.  I have been involved in agriculture as a shepherd over the last 30yrs or so.  It is ironic that I left one pastoral vocation for another so to speak.  However when I return from the old boys reunions it is amazing just how many of us went on into some type of vocational careers:  social work, nursing, teaching, counseling, paramedics; so perhaps the recruitment did in fact manage to gather together a group of unique characters of good morals who cared.  To this day I cannot quite put my finger on why there is still a gel that holds us together.

Mirfield Memories

Hi, to those who know me I’m Degs to those who don’t I’m Kevin Deignan, ex seminarian old boy of Mirfield junior seminary. Having attended several reunions in the past I feel that it is time that I begin to put some thoughts and memories down in writing. These can be added to, criticised, commented on and if need be corrected, but hopefully enjoyed.

What I am hoping to achieve from this blog is to find out why our experiences at Mirfield created such a unique bond  that year after year people who have not met for several decades  come from the four corners of the UK, and even further afield, to reminisce and catch up. I am especially interested in people’s experiences from outside my year group and the experiences of those who were there at the last gasps of Mirfield.

I was recruited from St Patrick’s Parish in Felling, Gateshead in 1966/67. The promise of endless games of football, Duke of Edinburgh award schemes and a display of shields and spears persuaded me that this would be a good life choice. On receiving the vast list of things that I should be supplied with including: 12 pairs of underpants, several pairs of socks, sheets, pillow cases, plimsolls, football boots, scores of handkerchiefs etc. my Mother dispatched me with a least half the required amount!

My years at Mirfield were the transitional years from strict dress code and crocodile lines up to Hearts head post office and Robertstown shops where we were made to stand outside and enter two at a time to spend our weekly allowance to disappearing to Bradford ice rink on a Saturday night or hitch hiking to Bolton Abbey for the weekend. For those of us who occupied Mirfield at this time we will remember what a weird and wonderful, if sometimes slightly scary, experience this was. Academia was not my strong point and my 3 O’Levels of English, Biology and of course Religious Knowledge will testify to this. However, the life skills that I acquired whilst there have stood me in good stead. The teaching methods at times could be unorthodox but were always entertaining, who could forget Rory Hicks burning the skin off the palms of his hands whilst demonstrating that phosphorus will burn in oxygen, which is a chemical change and not a physical change! (Phosphorus once burnt forms phosphorus oxide). Mirfield made Hogwarts look quite tame if I think back at some of the things we used to get up to. It would be nice to hear from any ex old boys to share our tales of Mirfield. P.S. the film and book rights belong to me.