Cardinal Murphy O’Connor’s Cover-up of Child Abusers Must be a Lesson to the Catholic Church by Keith Porteous Wood

Cardinal Murphy O’Connor’s Cover-up of Child Abusers Must be a Lesson to the Catholic Church

by: Keith PorteousWood

Note: This Article by Keith Porteous Wood first appeared in Conatus News and was later posted in the National Secular Society’s publication “Newsline” on the 8th September 2017. Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the former Archbishop of Westminster, died on 1 September. National Secular Society executive director Keith Porteous Wood seeks to set the historical record straight with this alternative obituary below. However, the views expressed in the article below by Keith Porteous Wood are those of himself, the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of this Blog entitled – “Comboni Missionaries – A Childhood in their Hands”
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The death of Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor has understandably resulted in obituaries lauding his achievements as a Prince of the Catholic Church. But we are pleased that few ignore entirely the Cardinal’s involvement in one of the most scandalous child abuse cover-ups this country has seen. I don’t doubt for a moment that Cardinal Murphy O’Connor did some good in his life, but there was another side to his story that should not be forgotten – a side that resulted in pain and suffering for many children. And the ruthless campaign by the Church to repress the details of the Cardinal’s many errors and misjudgements, and worse.
Despite the image of a genial old buffer that the Cardinal liked to project, it did not stop him, in 2006, from sacking his talented press secretary, a lay position, simply because he was “openly gay”. And O’Connor was “firmly against the repeal of Clause 28, which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools”, a repressive and vindictive measure now regarded with embarrassment. This, despite the prevalence of gay men in the priesthood.

Those with long memories will also remember that, following complaints from parents, O’Connor, when Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, moved a known serial practising paedophile cleric, Michael Hill, from unsuspecting parish to unsuspecting parish. If O’Connor’s objective had been to reward Hill by affording him the greatest possible opportunities to prey on an almost unlimited supply of vulnerable unaccompanied juveniles, some of them thousands of miles from their parents, he could have done no better than appoint Hill as Catholic chaplain at Gatwick Airport. Yet this is exactly what O’Connor did, despite his knowledge of Hill’s repeat offending and psychiatric reports that Hill was likely to re-offend. Needless to say, O’Connor never shared what he knew about Hill’s criminal abusive activities with the police, contributing directly to Hill’s ability to continue his orgy of abuse unhindered. Hill was eventually convicted and jailed in two separate trials for abusing a boy with learning difficulties at the Airport, as well as eight other boys. Ten further charges unaccountably “remain on file”. To his dying day, the best Murphy O’Connor could do in his mea culpa on Hill was to say his response was “inadequate but not irresponsible”. Not much consolation to the victims and their families. Nor will have been the self-righteous indignation of his pitiful response to criticism: “Inevitably mistakes have been made in the past; but not for want of trying to take the right and best course of action.”

Richard Scorer, abuse lawyer and NSS director, examined the Hill saga exhaustively in his book Betrayed: The English Catholic Church and the Sex Abuse Crisis and demonstrated beyond doubt that O’Connor’s claims about Michael Hill were completely baseless. And, so predictably, O’Connor’s affable mask slipped again and he got pretty vicious when the media started asking what were, to his mind, too many questions and getting too close to the uncomfortable truth. It is an open secret that the BBC was muzzled from pursuing its investigative work on O’Connor by top-level representations made by O’Connor.

Few if any others than O’Connor could have managed to intimidate the BBC into silence, yet having done so, O’Connor still had the gall to claim that there was an anti-Catholic bias in the media. He wrote: “Many others feel deeply concerned by the apparently relentless attack by parts of the media on their faith and on the church in which they continue to believe.” That old trick so well practised by the Catholic hierarchy: portraying itself as the victim. That would all be shocking enough, yet there is credible speculation that the Hill saga could have been just the visible tip of the iceberg. A 2012/3 report by the group Stop Church Sexual Abuse has speculated that: “[Anglican] clergy … seem to have worked together with priests from [O’Connor’s] Catholic Diocese of Arundel and Brighton … to abuse children. Reports include that of a Catholic priest who had multiple reports for alleged child sex offences and who was moved by the Catholic Bishop [O’Connor] over to the CoE diocese of Chichester and became an Anglican Minister.

“The relationship between the [Catholic] Diocese of Arundel and Brighton [O’Connor’s] and [the Anglican one of] Chichester [in which Peter Ball, mentioned below, ministered] has been historically close. In the 1980s Bishops Cormac Murphy O’Connor and Peter Ball [not imprisoned until 2015 on multiple counts of sexual abuse committed over twenty years earlier] were close friends and it is now [claimed] that both sat on multiple reports of child sexual abuse by clergy and did nothing to protect children from further abuse. “In total upwards of 17 Anglican and 19 Catholic clergy have been reported to have abused children up to the late 1990s within these Dioceses. Most lived and/or worked within one small geographic area which adds to the concern that there [may have been] a network of sex offenders shoaling for victims within church communities, schools, cathedrals, youth groups and scouting groups.” (See also Addendum by Brian Mark Hennessy below)
Even the Daily Telegraph reported police investigations into “claims that O’Connor hampered Hill’s prosecution” and if the claims above are correct about O’Connor’s close friendship and nefarious collaboration with the devious and mendacious Peter Ball, who escaped justice for decades, this does not seem in the least far-fetched. At least, however, O’Connor is still indelibly connected in the public’s mind with the disgraceful Michael Hill saga, having been widely reported including in The Times, with severe criticisms including “Victims’ groups demanded his resignation in 2002”.

The Church could not but have known very much more. But the process of rewriting history is no doubt in full progress. Does it not however speak volumes about the Pope and Catholic Church that, given all the above, they chose, out of all the possible candidates, “His Eminence Cardinal” Cormac Murphy O’Connor to be a cardinal, to be the most senior Catholic in England and Wales, to be Emeritus Archbishop of Westminster, and to be the Pope’s Apostolic Visitor to investigate clerical child abuse in the Archdiocese of Armagh? But maybe we should not be surprised. The Pope tellingly did not strip O’Connor’s fellow Cardinal in Scotland, Keith O’Brien, of his cardinal’s biretta for abusing his rank with decades of predatory sexual sackable offence.

It seems from the Gibb Report into disgraced former Bishop Ball that Sussex police appear to have done a workman-like job on abuse in the Anglican diocese. I would have suggested that the Sussex Police now turn their attention to the Catholic diocese, but unfortunately the CPS told them in 2003 to abandon the investigation whilst refusing to explain why. Hopefully this was not because of O’Connor’s clerical rank, just like the Cof E’s Report suggested Peter Ball’s cleric rank was the reason he escaped justice in 1993.
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ADDENDUM

Comments related to the above article by Brian Mark Hennessy:

From the 1960s to the 1990s the Chichester had some of the worst examples of child sexual abuse committed by priests. The numbers and the scope of the phenomenon were truly outstanding. Canon Gordon Ridout who was the Vicar of All Saints in Eastbourne was jailed for 10 years for 36 separate offences on 16 children between 1962 and 1973. Peter Ball, former Bishop of Lewes was convicted of abuse in the 1980s and 1990s. Former priest Keith Wilke Denford of Burgess Hill and organist Michael Mytton were convicted of historic sexual abuse. Vickery House, a former Brighton priest, was also convicted along with former vicar of Brede, Roy Cotton. Additionally, former Vicar of St Barnabas in Bexhill was charged and convicted of historic allegations.


Note By Brian Mark Hennessy:

Coincidentally and unrelated to the above article, it may be of interest to some readers that Father Herbert Brazier, the father of the Prime Minister, Theresa May, was an Anglo Catholic Priest serving in the diocese of Chichester as the Eastbourne Hospital Chaplain from 1953 to 1959, during which period he met Theresa May’s mother. Earlier, at the beginning of World War II he had attended the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield where he trained for the Anglo Catholic priesthood. In the 1960’s and 70’s clerics and seminarians of the Comboni Missionary Order at Roe Head had very cordial relations with the Resurrection Community and on occasions exchanged visits. I remember one such visit well. I had a chat with a Priest of the Resurrection Community in their extensive library. He had spotted a book in the library that he wanted to read – and was in the process of learning Hebrew first so that he could do so!
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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!

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 “Caring” Adult

More than forty years have passed since that evening and from time to time it comes back to me. It is quite possible that I have managed to suppress the full impact of that night; it is also highly probable that for many years it affected my sexual desires and actions. The memory of holding the naked torso of an adult male can creep up on me when I least expect it.  For example, when I have recognised the vulnerability of my own children, wondering how a ‘caring’ adult can take advantage of an innocent child.   Sometimes it comes to me during or after a sexual encounter.  I have never raised this issue in counselling, nor have I contacted the Verona Fathers to discuss the trauma this issue has caused me.  I have instead chosen to block it from my mind and tried not to think of it.

Only Father Romano Nardo will know what actually happened that night.

All that remains is the memory that I never went back to his room or the God Squad and I lost my respect for him.

Help and Guidance

I took my direction from Father Romano with true dedication and allowed the vision of my family to hurt me in the name of devotion to God.  Eventually, no matter how close I felt to God the images of my mother and sister, in particular, were too much to bear.  In
the middle of the night I left the dormitory and made my way to Romano’s room to seek his help and guidance.

It was the first time I had seen him without his glasses; he woke from his sleep and was happy to invite me in. In floods of tears I apologised for not being able to deal with the pain. Romano held me and comforted me, he assured me that the Devil was powerful and we could face him together. Romano then removed his top and took me to his bed where we remain entwined for what felt like hours.