Priests should face Criminal Charges for not Reporting Abuse Heard in Confession

Priests should face Criminal Charges for not Reporting Abuse Heard in Confession

By a Staff Reporter of the Catholic Herald: posted Monday, 14 Aug 2017

(Paraphrased by Brian Mark Hennessy)

The report by the Australian Inquiry has called for legislation to criminalise priests who fail to break the seal of the confessional. It states that Priests who do not inform the police after learning about child abuse in confession should face criminal charges, an Australian inquiry has said. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended all states and territories in the country should introduce legislation to punish priests for not breaking the seal of the confessional.

“The right to practice one’s religious beliefs must accommodate civil society’s obligation to provide for the safety of all. In particular, such reports must be made in cases of children’s safety from sexual abuse,” the commission wrote. “Institutions directed to caring for and providing services for children, including religious institutions, must provide an environment where children are safe from sexual abuse. Reporting information relevant to child sexual abuse to the police is critical to ensuring the safety of children.”

The recommendation will likely be strongly resisted by the Church, which has always guarded the absolute confidentiality of confession. Under canon law, priests may never break the seal of the confessional, even under threat of death. Any priest who breaks the seal faces automatic excommunication. Archbishop of Melbourne Denis J Hart said in a statement: “Confession in the Catholic Church is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest. It is a fundamental part of the freedom of religion, and it is recognised in the Law of Australia and many other countries. It must remain so here in Australia. Outside of this all offences against children must be reported to the authorities – and we are absolutely committed to doing so.”

Comments by Brian Mark Hennessy

Whilst indeed Canon Law does make the statements on Confessional secrecy reiterated by the Catholic cleric Hart above, Canon Law is out of step with St Augustine of Hippo whom the Catholic Church claims, rightfully, to be perhaps the most significant Doctor of their very own Catholic Church. In his “Summa Theologiae”, Augustine clearly states that Christians are bound to report to the civil authorities matters for which the civil state has a right to provide legislation and dispense justice – and where there are no “moral” grounds that prohibit such reporting. In most modern democratic Nation States such a moral ground prohibiting reporting would be almost impossible to define. The only theoretical instance of which I can readily (and reasonably think to be debatable) that would preclude reporting of a crime of sexual abuse to a State authority is one in which a State provides capital punishment as a penalty for the crime committed.

In the case of “child abuse” there are not only no moral grounds for not reporting the facts to the civil authorities, but there is a “moral imperative” for doing so. Christ said, “Suffer not little children to come unto me”. That is a moral imperative to protect children if ever there was one. It is, moreover, a fundamental “Christian Gospel” obligation. To state otherwise is an act of age-old Catholic Church ostentation, moral sterility and institutional senility.

Moreover, there is nothing to prevent a Confessor Priest clearly stating to a penitent who has committed a crime against any third party that absolution is always conditional upon “true penitence”. In cases of crimes against children and vulnerable adults, who have no capacity to understand and to report such crimes committed against them themselves, the Confessor must state clearly to the penitent that absolution is both conditional upon and demonstrated by an admission of the crime by the penitent, herself or himself, to the civil authority.

It should be further explained to the penitent that the civil authority has the moral duty to protect from harm all citizens, particularly children and vulnerable adults, and to provide appropriate justice on their behalf. In cases where the penitent does not give an obligation to do so – or where subsequently a Confessor learns emphatically that a penitent has not done so, then the Confessor has a clear moral obligation to make such a report himself. It is a “no-brainer” not so to do and has no moral Christian foundation. The Catholic Church is repugnantly outrageous to either do or state anything to the contrary.

My Name is Eddie Roberts. I Was at the Verona Fathers in Mirfield

Eddie (Edwin) Roberts

Who is this visitor to the blog you may ask?

I am now 66 years old and walked the corridors of Mirfield from 1963 to 1967 and then moved up to Allanton  for a year from where I was dishonourably discharged as a result of an unhealthy (still a matter of opinion) encounter with beer and ladies.

I shared the classroom often with John Docherty, Leonard Rowland, and  David Glenday in particular and had a close association with Fritz and Bickers among others.

The list of names would go on. My pride and joy as for  others was pulling on the Inter Milan strip and roaming the right side of the field.

My laundry number was 94!

MC at Mirfield

I was elevated to the lofty position of  MC which was  the pinnacle of my then career, and though I thought it was because of my unquestioned saintliness, in truth it was because I was the worst singer since Moses tried to sing the Ten Commandments and I could swing a thurible like no other.

My class reports had a common theme of “too frivolous in class” and ” must take his duties more seriously ” !

Via a circuitous route through Israel, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Stockton-on-Tees, I arrived in Australia.

Eddie Roberts - a Verona Fathers Mirfield Boy

Eddie Roberts – a Verona Fathers Mirfield Boy

Mirfield Blog

I came upon this blog quite by accident . I was engaged in routine internet activity and like many others suddenly decided to go off task and do a bit of Google research.

Now for some as yet unconfirmed reason I entered Verona Fathers.

What  I found was an emotional tremor to say the least! How was I unaware of what was going on then and now?

Names , my name! and events from an age gone by leapt out of the pages and excited as I was , my heart became heavy as I read on.

Corridors and Dormitories

I have reflected deeply since the discovery and with the benefit of that wonderful friend hindsight, yes the signs were there, the clues were in the corridors and dormitories.

Why not me? Who knows?

I thought till now a routine weigh by an avuncular medically trained Father was quite normal. It  is hard to attach a 66 year old head to a 13 year old kid destined for the papacy.

A Time of Happiness and Fun

As my contact with some of you grows, I think of a time, for me, of happiness and fun, of challenge and camaraderie that forged my path for the future.

I must now dwell on other things, sad things, and my thoughts are with you.

I talked with Gerry recently for over an hour after a gap of around 49 years!

I don’t know the man, yet we talked of happy days, memories plucked from storage in the depths of some cerebral hemisphere.And we still have  a bond, more in common than with some people I have known for decades.

From a land down under, I wish you well and speed the day I don that Inter strip and see you again.

The “Truths” that are Hidden by Clerical Masters of Understatement

(Written and posted on this Blog by the authorised contributor: Brian Mark Hennessy)

Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba in Brazil Resigns

Writing in the National Catholic Reporter, (which can be accessed on-line at NCRonline.org.), Lise Alves reports on the resignation, recently accepted by Pope Francis, of Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba in Brazil. The retirement from Aldo’s bishopric was accepted on the grounds of Canon 401.2 which covers many issues from poor health to “grave”, but unspecified causes.

Curiously, the Vatican has not specified the grave matter that  led to the resignation. Nevertheless, the Archbishop of Paraiba himself vaguely admitted that he had made errors – one of which was, in his own words of explanation: ” I made the mistake of being too trusting.  I gave shelter to priests and seminarians in order to offer them new chances in life. Among those were some who were later suspected of committing serious derelictions.” (“Derelictions”, we should note, is Vatican Canon Law “speak” for sexual abuse).

Lise Alves reports that some of the clerics taken in by Pagotto had been accused of “paedophilia” –  a word which the Archbishop seemed reluctant to use. In all probability his reluctance stems from the un-challenged claim that Archbishop Aldo was well aware, at the time he gave shelter to those  priests and seminarians, that the accusations of child sexual abuse against them were already known to him.

Paedophile Priests Suspended

Another piece in the Catholic National Reporter (by Catherine Lagrange, Dominique Vidalon and Gareth Jones) reports that the Roman Catholic Cardinal-Archbishop of Lyon, Philippe Barbarin, has announced that he has suspended four priests accused of paedophile activities and that their cases “are known” to French judicial authorities.

Curiously, this Cardinal was equally obscure about the details for he said in his statement that the un-named four had been working in the Lyon region in central France – but he would not say where. Apparently, according to Barbarin, other un-named priests are the “object of special measures”, but he would not elaborate what those measures were and nor the reason for those measures.

Prior to those announcements, the French Gendarmerie had questioned Cardinal Barbarin for more than 10 hours over the activities (in the early 1990s) of a pedophile priest, Father Bernard Preynat, and why Barbarin had not reported the facts to the civil authorities in the circumstances that such a failure to report a crime is an offence in France.

Meanwhile, several victims of alleged paedophile abuse have made complaints against Barbarin to the authorities for leaving accused priests in place, but Barbarin has denied any wrongdoing. He has acknowledged, however, mere “errors of management” in respect to the appointment of some priests.

Cardinal Barbarin’s Errors of Management

The “errors of management” of Cardinal Barbarin are a direct parallel to the excuses of Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba in Brazil who pleaded that he had simply been “too trusting”! These deliberately understated reasons for their failures beg the question as to what planet do the senior clerics of the Catholic Church inhabit in their spare time?

We are talking about criminal paedophiles who sexually molest and abuse children.  These criminals have been molly-coddled, pampered, cosseted and secreted within the walls of Catholic Church establishments – instead of being reported and handed over as alleged criminals to the legal authorities of the Civil States who have jurisdiction.

Bishops Guilty of Looking the Other Way

I cannot help but note that in June, Pope Francis warned that bishops guilty of looking the other way or covering up child abuse by priests within their dioceses could be removed from their duties. He has also said that protecting paedophile clerics is a “crime”.

So, in these cases, if the Archbishop of Paraiba and the Cardinal-Archbishop of Lyon have protected paedophile priests or seminarians from the jurisdiction of the legal authorities within their dioceses, why has the Vatican Curia not stated it specifically?

The Vatican does not constitute the “Church” in its totality. If a crime has been committed – then it is a crime against the whole “Church” – and thus all members of that “Church” have a right to know the details of crimes committed within and against the Church!

Vatican Curia Pussy-Footing

These episodes appear to be yet other Vatican Curia acts of “pussy-footing” confusion in which they wave a big rhetorical stick one day – and then camouflage the damaging details the next.

In today’s world, the Vatican must treat all members of the Church – both lay and clerical – as adults who are capable of a surprising degree of discernment – and not as the children of the Edwardian era who were to be “seen, but not heard” and in front of whom “delicate matters” were discussed only in obscure, coded, hushed whispers.

Those days are long since gone – and are unacceptable in the Catholic Church of today.

Comboni Missionaries Paedophile Priests

Closer to the home of this blog, there are parallels to the above within the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, whose paedophile priests, past and present, have never been handed over to the civil authorities – but who instead were moved rapidly out of the jurisdictions of the law enforcement agencies of the states in which their crimes were committed.

In some cases they were sent to distant Mission territories, in another case to the smallest of parishes in an Italian mountain diocese – and in a current case one, Father Romano Nardo, is confined to a “secret location”.

The nature of Fr Nardo’s crimes have been known to the Comboni Order since 1970, but he was then whisked out of the United Kingdom’s legal jurisdiction the day after reports were made to the Order by one of their own clerics, Father Cocchi, (who saw a boy in his pyjamas coming out of Romano Nardo’s room at an uneartthly hour one morning).

Father Romano Nardo’s Child Abuse Accusation

Thirty years later, when that same Victim confronted the Order with Father Romano Nardo’s historical criminal acts of child abuse in detail, the Order recalled Nardo from the Missions.

Eventually, it was admitted by the Comboni Missionary Order, in a letter dated 17 May 1997, that an Inquiry had concluded, in true clerical masterful understatement, that Father Nardo had “acted inappropriately by taking the boy to his bed and teaching him to make the sign of the cross”.

That statement is devoid of the detail of the baptismal rite of mutual purification of genitals in which the child was induced to participate – and it does not mention the naked child lying upon the naked body of the priest who was breathing the Spirit of Jesus into the boys mouth.

That sign of the cross, to which they refer, was engraved on the priest’s torso by a sharp implement, the sight of which caused the boy to attempt to emulate it by self mutilation in order to be closer to the God of that priest.

No Extradition of Father Nardo

The latter, Father Romano Nardo, who is alleged to have committed such masochistic and macabre sexual crimes veiled in religious overtones against a series of young boys at the Mirfield seminary in Yorkshire England,  has been prevented from extradition to the United Kingdom by doubtful claims over two decades that he is not fit to travel.

I use the word “doubtful” in the following context which is that: after almost 27 years working in Africa, Father Nardo (who returned from Africa late 1995 at the age of 54 to attend an internal Comboni Inquiry into the allegations against him), would, according to correspondence forwarded to the Victim by Father David Glenday, the Superior General of the Order in 1997, “be able to return to active ministry in the missions within a month”.

Yet in 1999, after his further four years sojourn in the peaceful, green valleys of the pleasant city of Verona, Italy, the Superior General, Father Enrique Sanchez stated in correspondence that Father Romano Nardo was unable to travel because he had become “worn out by many years working in Africa”!

Was it, perhaps, that this sudden loss of health was something to do with the fact that in 1999 the West Yorkshire Police had wanted to question Father Nardo about criminal charges of child sexual abuse – that he had already admitted he had perpetrated ?

Mother House in Verona

The Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, has rigorously confined this cleric to the Mother House in Verona Italy since 1997 (almost two decades to date) so that he “does not have access to children”. Father Nardo, currently aged 72, has agreed, apparently, to this confinement – which is to last, it seems, until the end of his days.

I ask myself “why would the Comboni Order confine him for so long and why would Father Nardo accept his confinement for acts committed in 1970 which were merely “inappropriate”? Such “life imprisonment” is in excess of many State law authorities’ penal punishment limits for a single, albeit dispicable, crime of child sexual abuse.

Clearly, as in the cases of Archbishop Aldo and Cardinal-Archbishop Barbarin, the Superior Generals of the Comboni Missionary Order (that is Fathers David Glenday and Enrique Sanchez) who are closely associated to the decision of the long confinement of Father Nardo, are, in true clerical, tradition, “masters of understatement” in matters of criminal child sexual abuse.

Call it Sexual Abuse not Inappropriate Behaviour

They need education – and so I offer it here: the abuse perpetrated agaist seminarian Victims of Father Romano Nardo at Mirfield were not acts of “inappropriate behaviour”, but serious and heinous crimes of sexual abuse against children.

So grave are such crimes that the United Nations Convention against Torture actually described child sexual abuse as a form of torture on account of its cruel and punitive nature – and, unsurprisingly in 2014, even the Vatican agreed to that definition. The truth is that Father Romano Nardo is alleged to have abused many boys – and in the cases of some – he destroyed their lives and, subsequently, the lives of their families.

Father Romano Nardo is, thus, an alleged criminal that Fathers David Glenday and Enrique Sanchez have actively protected and in the case of the latter, prevented from facing questions by the law authorities of the United Kingdom. They are thus allegedly complicit in his alleged crimes – which they have sought to downplay, in true clerical fashion and deceitful understatement, as merely “inappropriate behaviour” .

Father Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie

Moreover, the current Superior General, Father Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie, (to whom the Comboni Survivors pleaded for dialogue when he was elected, but from whom they received no response), is still intent on the further destruction of victims of child sexual abuse – as is witnessed by the scurrilous and malicious accusations he has authorised to be heaped on a victim of that abuse at a hearing in the Verona Criminal Court.

Why has Father Tesfaye, the Superior General of the Comboni Missionary Order and his Curia committed themselves to this action? It is to deflect the “truth” of the scale of child sexual abuse within that Order ever being fully uncovered.

It is to disguise to the Vatican and to the Worldwide Catholic Church their complicity in harbouring a paedophile so as to protect themselves from the implementation of the Ecclesial action of dismissal from the clerical state under 401.2 of Canon Law.

Rightful Justice for Abuse Victims

It is to deter further Victims from telling their stories and seeking rightful justice. I declare, however, that both he – and the Order have already failed in that venture – for the allegations of 1000 crimes of child sexual abuse committed by clerics of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, at the Mirfield Seminary, Yorkshire, England and their every attempt to deny them and hide them are now known globally – from the Vatican to the furthest reaches of each continent.

“No! No! No!”, I hear Father Tesfaye exclaiming, “The case in the Verona Criminal Court against the Victim of alleged crimes of child sexual abuse is nothing to do with me. It has been brought by Father Nardo’s own Court appointed legal Guardian”.

Well, yes, technically it has, but it has the fingerprints of Father Tesfaye and the Comboni Missionary Order Curia all over it. Indeed it has their big footprint right in the middle of it – as I will explain. The claim, which is, I suggest, factually devoid of every grain of truth whatsoever anyway – is that of “tresspass”.

Abuse Victim Walked Through Open Gate

The charge against the Victim who walked through an open gate which had no signs stating “No Entry” in sight, the Victim who walked through an open door and spoke to the Receptionist, the Victim who was shown into the Chapel by the Receptionist and who contacted Father Nardo on the Victim’s behalf to see him – and the Victim who returned on two occasions at agreed times for further meetings – cannot be brought against the Victim by a Legal Guardian appointed by the Court on behalf of Father Nardo. Why?

Well it is quite simple really : Father Nardo is not the registered owner of the Verona Mother House and its grounds. The Comboni Missionary Order, or a legal entity nominated on its behalf, is the registered owner of the Verona Mother House. Only the registered owner, or the legal representative of the registered owner, would be able, technically, to bring a charge – even this false charge – of trespass against the Victim.

Nardo’s Legal Guardian

Of course, it may be that the Legal Guardian appointed by the Court is the Comboni Missionary Order in disguise. In fact such a deception would be par for the course of an Order that has endeavoured to deflect all criticism of its behaviour for decades.

That is beside the point. Father Tesfaye and his Curia have overlooked this small detail. That charge of trespass, implanted within a case said to have been brought on behalf of Father Nardo by his Court appointed Legal Guardian, is the big footprint of the Comboni Missionary Order itself.

Indeed, I suspect that Father Nardo knows little or nothing of this legal case brought technically by his legal guardian on his behalf in the Verona Criminal Court.

Abuse Victim Bashing by Comboni Missionaries

It is brought, duplicitously, I suggest, by the Comboni Missionary Order itself to deflect from itself any criticism that the Comboni Missionary Order is engaging in one of their regular bouts of “victim bashing”!

When a storm suddenly threatens, it is wise to change tak and alter the windward direction of sail. Failure to do so has consequences.

If the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, continues to protect paedophile criminals, whilst lashing out against distressed victims seeking succour and understanding, events will surely come to overwhelm them.

Hell, Hope and Healing — part three – by Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea – paraphrased and abridged for this site by Brian Mark Hennessy

Healing through Post Traumatic Growth

(Note: Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea is the author of “Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church” and a psychologist who has been working with sexual abuse survivors for 30 years. In the American Catholic Journal entitled the “National Catholic Reporter”, (which can be accessed on-line at NCRonline.org.), Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea has published the third of four parts of an article entitled “Hell, Hope and Healing”. Mary’s article has been paraphrased and abridged for this site by Brian Mark Hennessy)

 

Too many children and teens are faced with soul-battering betrayals, abuse, neglect or terrifying family dynamics that send normal developmental pathways, including those related to the brain, off the rails.

If healing can occur from the truly devastating consequences of adverse childhood experiences — including sexual abuse by clergy — can survivors also experience meaningful growth through their confrontation with trauma? Can post-traumatic growth also occur in institutions that fostered abuse, as well as in the advocacy organizations that have worked on behalf of survivors? Let me be very clear: No one ever is “better off” because they were abused or suffered other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Every child and adolescent is entitled to a “good enough” childhood where suffering is manageable and betrayal is minimal. Unfortunately, too many children and teens are faced with soul-battering betrayals, abuse, neglect or terrifying family dynamics that send normal developmental pathways, including those related to the brain, off the rails. At the same time, none of us gets from the cradle to the grave without a full measure of suffering in some way or another. Studies have shown that the meaning we derive from our suffering and how we carry the remnants of that suffering into the future determines to a great extent what kind of life we live and how fulfilled we are by it.

Through a tragic loss of innocence early on in life, these survivors accept that life is not fair and therefore demonstrate greater resilience when it is not.

 

Over the last decade or so, researchers have begun to study post-traumatic growth, defined by Lawrence Calhoun and Richard Tedeschi, University of North Carolina, psychologists and post-traumatic growth experts, as “positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances.” Trauma survivors who achieve post-traumatic growth develop a perspective on life that is balanced and pragmatic. Through a tragic loss of innocence early on in life, these survivors accept that life is not fair and therefore demonstrate greater resilience when it is not. They embrace the reality that there really is no justice for a survivor of ACEs because a shattered childhood can never be returned whole. Continued anger and resentment for them is, as the saying goes, like swallowing poison and hoping the other guy dies; these survivors do not want to give more of their soul space to the trauma or to those who caused it. Post-traumatic growth thus engenders a greater appreciation of life and a changed sense of priorities that privilege living and loving and making life work. While trauma survivors who experience post-traumatic growth maintain a clear sense that really bad things can happen in life, they also feel that having survived the original trauma(s), there is not much else they cannot handle. Again, that does not mean that they will not hurt — terribly sometimes — but they have a confidence forged in the fires of trauma recovery that they will also survive and even thrive through future losses, betrayals and traumas.

“Victimization occurs when a person or group exerts destructive power over an innocent person or group”

.

When adverse childhood experiences are exposed, perpetrators, abusive or neglectful families, enabling institutions and others are often traumatized also. Here it is important to differentiate between “victimized” and “traumatized.” Trauma is a response to an experience, including but not limited to one that is victimizing. Even a perpetrator can be traumatized when she/he is exposed for victimizing another. Life is changed forever. Shock, anger, fear and other post-traumatic symptoms may ensue, including minimization, denial and dissociation. A central issue here is whether individuals or groups can engage with a traumatic experience in a way that promotes growth. Or do they harden defenses and avoid the kind of self-examination, pain and mourning that a victim has to endure in order to heal, become resilient and grow? Post-traumatic growth here emerges primarily from rigorous self-examination and a painful mourning process. The Catholic church is an institution traumatized by the sexual abuse crisis. The earliest response of the institution was to preserve its long-held identity as a source of goodness and godliness. Yes, its leaders acknowledged in a vague way that of course there is sin within the church, but the sense was always that sin was somehow a general thing and not assigned to specified actors in the church drama. I sin, you sin, we all sin was an implied mantra that attempted to diminish the criminality and evil of priests who sexually violated kids, and of bishops who protected perpetrators and covered up abuse.

Church officials lied, denied and projected blame on victims, parents of victims, a sexually liberated and sexualized culture, bad apple priests, the ’60s, the media. They had seen the enemy and it was not them.

It is still happening today, as when Germany’s Cardinal Gerhard Müller recently excoriated the Oscar-winning movie “Spotlight.” In his mind, the movie led to the generalization of blame for sexual abuse by some priests onto the shoulders all priests, and it was too hard on bishops who did not respond appropriately to reports of abuse. To be fair, another prelate*, Malta Archbishop Charles Scicluna, once the Vatican’s chief prosecutor and deeply involved in investigation of the sex abuse crisis, said that all bishops and cardinals should see the movie to understand that reporting the crimes, not silence, “will save the church.”

Arrogance and clericalism abounded as a church official worked hard to restore power, control and an idealized view of the church and its clergy.

The 2,000-year-old monarchy refused for a very long time and, in some places, still refuses to embrace self-examination and mourning, and it hoped that this, like so many past scandals, would just blow over. It didn’t and it hasn’t, and that’s a good thing. There is also now a papal commission mandated to develop policies and procedures on sexual abuse. Victims, experts and clergy on that commission are talking with each other and are listening to each other. They are getting to know each other as people and not as straw figures. They are determined and most are hanging in even when the going gets discouraging. Many are justifiably doubtful about the ultimate success of this commission, but its members deserve suspension of judgment about the outcome until there is one, and they deserve support for their mission.

It is too soon to tell whether the hierarchy of the Catholic Church can or will grieve and repent enough for the destruction visited upon all of the people of God through sexual abuse of its youth.

Still, it is too early to determine if or when the church will do enough self-examination, engage in enough honest investigation of all the root causes of sexual abuse, and submit to a thorough enough mourning for the church that never was and can never be again. It is too soon to tell whether the hierarchy can or will grieve and repent enough for the destruction visited upon all of the people of God through sexual abuse of its youth. It would be indicative, for example, of real post-traumatic growth and institutional change if bishops and provincial superiors were clearly instructed to report all known or suspected abusers to secular authorities like the police and child protective services.

If church officials who cover up abuse lost their jobs, it would reassure Catholics that the church is convinced that covering up abuse is just as sinful and criminal as committing it.

Perhaps the most hopeful sign of potential change is the election of Pope Francis. The cardinals knew who he was when they elected him. And he has not stopped surprising. Although he has been imperfect, contradictory and even at times infuriating when it comes to sexual abuse, he also has attacked the kind of clericalism and ecclesiastical arrogance that fueled decades, even centuries, of the vilest sexual violations of the young. Welcoming the homeless into the Vatican; washing the feet of women; caring for the incarcerated; taking a relatively passive position on homosexuality; embracing other religions and even atheists as fellow travelers; rehabilitating previously excoriated “dissenters”; chastising bishops to get out on the street and pastor; modeling humility, humor, joy and mercy; reminiscing with the press about once having been in love.

 

All are death by a thousand cuts to the hierarchical hubris that enabled priests to soul-murder the young, with bishops and provincial superiors serving as accessories.

Whilst there are reasons to hope and reasons to remain doubtful that the church is capable of post-traumatic growth, it is understandable that many victims and advocates judge change to be too slow and too circumspect.

(If any Comboni Survivor recognises the impacts of adverse childhood experiences and feels that he needs professional assistance, then they may contact Mark Murray on this site who will strive to assist by suggesting appropriate counselling services. Alternatively, Survivors of childhood abuse can seek the assistance of their local General Practitioner Doctor who will be able to refer them to an appropriate specialist).

HOPE FOR THE HEALING OF SURVIVORS — By Brian mark Hennessy

HOPE FOR THE HEALING OF SURVIVORS — By Brian mark Hennessy

“Sexual abuse has been called “soul murder” and sexual abuse by clergy is an icon of spiritual felony”.

( Note: Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea is author of Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church and a psychologist who has been working with sexual abuse survivors for 30 years. In the second of a four part article in the National Catholic Reporter, (which can be accessed on-line at NCRonline.org.), Mary discusses the commonality and damage of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including clergy sexual abuse. In the article below (abridged and paraphrased by Brian Mark Hennessy) Mary focuses on the hope that most trauma survivors can heal because of inherent or learned resilience and through access to forms of healing resources).
Resilience: Since the 1980s, when child abuse and domestic violence emerged from society’s skeleton closet, researchers and clinicians have rightly prioritized the tremendous wounds caused by adverse childhood experiences. One of the ways in which Survivors can cope with the severe trauma of abuse is the learning of the skills of resilience. Resilience researchers have investigated the genetic, biological, social and spiritual factors contributing to resilience. They and others have identified a number of factors that appear to endow an individual with resilience:

• Above average intelligence.
• An internal locus of control. A sense that the individual can determine his/her own fate, even when trauma occurs.
• An optimistic cognitive style. Resilient individuals tend to be able to find the silver lining in even the darkest, most thunderous clouds. They are able to imagine a time when life will be better.
• A close, safe relationship with at least one adult not involved in the trauma. This is an area in which abusive priests were often the most despicable and damaging. Children known by predator priests to be in difficult home situations, or kids who came to the priests for advice or comfort about other traumas, were often selected as victims. Instead of responding to an already hurting young person with kindness and mercy, abusing clergy too often became another trauma for the child or teen.
• A consistent faith and/or cultural traditions that provided hope and a steady belief system. Once again, we see the travesty of priests whose sexual violations robbed victims of a faith-based building block of resilience to life’s challenges.
• A good sense of humor, even when life is tough.

 

“It is important to note, however, that all researchers point to sexual abuse while young as a particularly pernicious adverse childhood experience that results in multiple times the risk of experienced in other trauma-related challenges”.

 

Telling the narrative: Unlike the first time around, the survivor has control of the timing and pace of being “in” the original adverse experience when telling their experience. Memories can be painful and sometimes are at first acted out as much as “remembered” in the way we usually think of that. It may be in therapy that survivors put some of their traumatic experiences into words for the first time. Doing so begins to structure the memories, gradually taking some of the affective heat out of them.

”It is essential for a trauma survivor to tell their story to another who bears witness to it”.

 

Differentiating between past and present: Something happening in 2016 that is sufficiently evocative of some aspect of the earlier experience creates a kind of time travel. Survivors then experience themselves as if the ACE is happening right now. They feel and act in ways that confuse them and those around them. In therapy, the survivor gradually is able to register and process a situation as it is now and to react accordingly.

 

“With post-traumatic stress disorder, time is distorted”.

Integrating the personality: One of the wonders of the human psyche is its ability to cope with the awful. When trauma has been especially severe, the mind may split experience into a variety of compartments representing elements of ACEs that would be too overwhelming to process, store or remember as a whole. . In therapy, survivor and clinician identify dissociated aspects of the personality and work with them to foster a more unified internal world for the patient.

 

”Dissociation allows some aspects of the personality to grow and even to thrive while other parts remain trapped in timeless terror, rage and helplessness.”

Re-entering the body: Many survivors of abuse and/or neglect are alienated from their bodies. Some coped as children by leaving their bodies during traumatic times.

 

Patients describe having been on the ceiling looking down at the child being abused or standing at the door with their hands over their ears as “he” was penetrated anally by a priest.

Repairing the sense of self: I have never encountered a survivor patient who did not in some way blame her/himself for the early trauma. The viciousness of the patient’s self-loathing is often breathtaking. Putting guilt and shame where it belongs — on the shoulders of the adult who committed harm or enabled someone else to harm — loosens internalized attachment bonds to figures that once were loved and vitally important to the survivor. The patient is in a predicament: Selfblame protects those attachments but requires cognitive and affective contortions that deplete resilience; relinquishing self-blame and self-hatred and putting the adverse experience in proper perspective with blame placed on the responsible adults is a loss of attachment bonds that is terribly painful. It also can evoke long-held-at-bay rage that the survivor has usually turned against the self.

 

Anger, rage and a demand for restitution often marks a period of trauma recovery that is important in restoring wholeness.

Mourning: Perhaps the most soul-searing yet most necessary component in trauma therapy is the survivor’s mourning for the childhood that never was and never will be. Survivors almost universally feel cheated at some point in therapy. They have suffered, cried, raged, worked hard to heal and there is no restoration, no making it up, no justice. As one patient cried out,

“This is too much. I can’t stand it — I won’t — you can’t make me. I can deal with the abuse — maybe, perhaps. But the idea that I can’t go back, that my childhood is broken forever — I can’t live with that. I won’t know that I never was and never will be just a kid.”

When the survivor seems to have completed a mourning process and is functioning well on most days in most ways, the good trauma therapist begins almost to turn the tables on the survivor. Having spent perhaps years encouraging the patient to relate their narrative, feel the pain and loss, have empathy for the terrorized child they once were, and mourn the childhood that is gone forever, we guide the patient into considering what life can be now, reminding them (if it is true) that no one is traumatizing them now. It is here that the therapist can help the survivor build or expand on resilience.

It is another tragedy of the Catholic sexual abuse crisis that faith was often shattered along with body and mind boundaries.

(If any Comboni Survivor recognises the impacts of adverse childhood experiences and feels that he needs professional assistance, then they may contact Mark Murray on this site who will strive to assist by suggesting appropriate counselling services. Alternatively, Survivors of childhood abuse can seek the assistance of their local General Practitioner Doctor who will be able to refer them to an appropriate specialist).

Abuse Victims Ask Comboni Missionaries to Turn New Chapter

Comboni Missionaries and Sexual Child Abuse

The Comboni Missionaries worldwide have gathered in Rome for their XV111th General Chapter. It is taking place from August 29th to October 4th.

The 72 capitular representatives, 45 of whom are from Europe, 14 from the Americas and 13 from Africa, are representing over 1,700 Comboni Missionaries scattered throughout the world.

On September 29th and 30th they will elect their new supreme leader, the Superior General.

Comboni Missionary Seminary in Mirfield

Last year, the Comboni Missionaries paid out £120,000 (€166,000) to 12 men who claimed they were abused as children at the Comboni Missionaries seminary in Mirfield, England in the 1960s and 1970s.

They claim that they were 11 years old to 15 years old when they were repeatedly abused by three Comboni Missionaries, Fr John Pinkman, Father Domenico Valmaggia and Father Romano Nardo and a lay teacher, Michael Riddle, at the seminary. There are several other outstanding claims.

The men claim that the Comboni Missionaries have never admitted the abuse and have never apologised for it.

Indeed, they claim that there has been a cover-up of the abuse, even though those accused were sent away from the seminary or brought home from the missions in Africa when the accusations were first made at the time.

Father Romano Nardo and Yorkshire Police

Mark Murray went to Verona to confront his abuser, Father Roman Nardo, in the Comboni Missionaries house in Verona earlier this year.

Father Nardo had been brought home from the missions in Uganda when Mark first made his accusations in the mid-Nineties and Mark was told that he would be kept away from children.

UK police want to interview Father Nardo but have been refused permission by the Order who say he is not in good enough health to answer their questions.

The UK police say that they are satisfied that a crime has been committed and that they would have sought the arrest two of those Comboni Missionaries accused of abuse, Fr Pinkman from Liverpool and Fr Valmaggia from Como if they had been still alive.

They have been trying for years to extradite Father Nardo, who is from Pordenone, but to no avail.

Comboni Missionaries Chapter XVIII Election Council

Now Mark, and the others who were abused are asking that the Comboni Missionaries start afresh and elect someone who has been untainted by the abuse and subsequent cover-up.

Said Mark, “Pope Francis has apologised for the abuse in the Catholic Church and has demanded that others take action.

“However, the Comboni Missionaries have refused to even admit that any abuse took place and refuse to apologise to those to whom they had a duty of care”.

Pope Francis, Comboni Missionaries and Child Sexual Anuse

In his recent visit to the USA, Pope Francis said “The crimes of sexual abuse against children cannot be repeated.”

Said Gerry McLaughlin, another of the Mirfield 12, “We ask the Comboni Missionaries to make a clean break with the past and elect someone who has been untainted by the abuse and the subsequent cover-up.

“We ask them to elect someone who follows Pope Francis’s teaching on child abuse and who will work with the abused to make sure that the ‘crime of sexual abuse of children’ cannot happen again as Pope Francis wishes.

“The Mirfield 12 would ask that the new Superior General meets with them at his earliest convenience to discuss how we can all move forward in resolving the abuse issues at Mirfield”.