PEOPLE ARE STILL COMING FORWARD

Comboni Missionaries Sexual Abuse at Mirfield

Ex seminarians of the Mirfield Comboni Missionary Junior Seminary are still discovering  – even after four years of the blog’s existence – this  site for the first time.

Some cannot comprehend that abuse happened at Mirfield,  and others that were sexually abused believed that they were the only ones that suffered abuse there.

Some of the men, for various reasons, are not ready to talk or write about such experiences.

Some are waiting till their parents or parent dies as they believe disclosing the abuse would cause untold pain and suffering to them – something I can personally understand through my experience.

All have said that finding  the blog has helped them.

Many have said that they hope to be able to write and talk someday about the sexual abuse they suffered whilst they were at Mirfield.

Mark Murray

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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”.

What Did You Want to be Dad?

What Did You Want to be Dad?

The other day I was watching TV when my 13-year-old daughter asked me “What did you want to be when you were young Dad”?

I had a quick think to when I was 7 or 8. “ A footballer” I replied. “I wanted to play for Scotland”.

“But after that” she asked not wanting childish sporting fantasies to be counted. “I wanted to be a priest” I replied. “Why would you want to be a priest?” she asked, a little askance.

“I wanted to help people” I replied. “I wanted to help Africans. I wanted to bring them God”.

She didn’t seem impressed by that. So far it was just one of those conversations. It was what she asked next that hit me. “What did you want to do after that” she asked.

I thought for a few moments. She expected me to come up with something else. I thought I would too.

No answer came.

“Nothing” I replied.

Bolt From the Blue

It hit me like a bolt of lightning. I was 53 years old. I now realised that I didn’t want to be anything after the age of 13.

How much does that explain?

It was like a thunderbolt out of the blue from a simple question.

I had gone through secondary school without a goal in mind. There was nothing I particularly wanted to do. I knew that I would have to do something. I was told that this was OK, that it was better to go to University with no particular career in mind, to keep an open mind.

I did go to University. I didn’t particularly like it. It was like the curate’s egg, good in parts – but I couldn’t be bothered studying. In the end I couldn’t be bothered to even go to many of the classes.

All Clear

It all became clear.

Why would I?

I didn’t want to be anything. I didn’t want to go to the ‘theatres or cinemas’ that a university degree would buy me a ticket into. I knew I had to do something. It’s just that I had no real passion for the opportunities that were presenting themselves.

I passed the Maths exam but failed the English and the Economics. As I had seldom gone to any of the classes in the second half of the year I was surprised that I had even passed my main subject Maths. You could do re-sits. I had had to pass one of the other two at the re-sits. I could go forward with passing one of those and re-sitting the exam for the other one in second year.

Summer Holiday Resits

I stayed up at my grandparents over the summer holidays so that I could study without being distracted my my ten brothers and sisters. The only problem was that I didn’t study much. I couldn’t be bothered. I know it was important. I knew that it was crucial to my career. But I just couldn’t do it.

I did go up to the room to study, but you could take a horse to water but you couldn’t make it drink – and I didn’t drink much water that summer at all.

I did a little near the end. I went up to do the re-sits at the university. You had to do three essays altogether. The first one I did pretty well, I thought. In fact I thought I had done it particularly well.

I didn’t know which of the other two I would do first. They were going to be a more difficult proposition but I was sure that I could do it. It would have been a case, in football terms, of having an early lead and then doing enough in the second half to hold on to that lead.

However, I couldn’t be bothered. I couldn’t even be bothered to start the questions or make any attempt at them. I took a decision then.

I wouldn’t do them. I knew exactly what it meant. I knew that my university career was over. It had always been expected that I would go to university and do well. I had expected it too.

All Over

However, it was now over. I couldn’t leave till the first hour of the three-hour exam was up so I spent the next twenty minutes doing this game of letters that I had made up where basically football teams are allocated a letter and score goals in a knockout or league competition based on how often their letter appears in a text half line. I used the exam paper as the text.

The marker of the paper must have got a surprise. On the first three pages would have been a very well answered question. When he or she would have turned over they would have found an indecipherable jumble of letters and numbers.

I left after the first hour was up, handing in my truncated paper.

What Had I done?

I remember sitting in Glasgow Central Station pondering on what I had just done. I knew that my university career was over. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to plonk a university degree in front of potential employers to help me get a good job. I knew exactly what I had done. But my main emotion as I sat there on the station bench was not a feeling of fear. It was a feeling of exhilaration.

I knew life would be more difficult now. But I was pleased. I had quit education. I had got a monkey off my back. I was no longer flogging a horse that had long since perished. I would now have to drive in fifth gear.

I didn’t really understand it at the time. Why did I quit? Why did I not want to study? Why was I exhilarated by leaving university?

I didn’t understand the answer to that question till my 13-year-old daughter’s question 35 years later.

Our Greatest Benefactor

Our Greatest Benefactor

There was one series of events that I found bizarre whilst I was there. I remember one time Tea was interrupted by a guy, Mr. Hughes, who came in the refectory door. He would probably have been in his thirties or forties. He walked in and stood on one of the steps down into the refectory and held up a huge see-through bag of what looked like sweets without their wrappers on.

Suddenly all the boys and priests in the refectory burst into applause and cheers for this guy.

“What is going on?” I enquired of one of the guys from third year.

“He’s our biggest benefactor” he replied.

Broken Sweets

I never did get to the bottom of all this. The sum of his benefaction seemed to be that he worked in a sweet factory and he brought sweets from there to us. However, none of the sweets had wrappers on them, although they were all well-known brands and the other thing is that they were all misshapen, crushed or were just parts of the normal product.

They really fawned on this guy. In my perspective, even as an eleven year old, these were reject products and were probably rescued before they were dumped in some bin at the sweet factory.

However, nobody seemed to want to take this on board. It seems that the ovation he got, although not quite orchestrated, the boys all knew what to do.

He was always known to everyone as ‘our greatest benefactor’. I did ask if he actually contributed anything more than reject sweets but nobody seemed to know. My strong hunch was that he didn’t.

A Protestant

One other thing always mentioned about him was that he was a Protestant. It was said that despite that he still gave to ‘the’ church. It was always assumed that Protestants were in darkness. Any of them who did us a favour was always assumed to be in the process of being led to the truth by God.

It would be interesting to find out this guy’s perspective of it all. Was he just a kind hearted guy who worked at a sweet factory and who thought that it would be better to rescue reject sweets that were about to be binned and bring them over to the local boys school? Or was he wavering on the verge of conversion to the true faith. One feels that the latter was a long shot.

I don’t know what he thought happened to them. I presume that he thought that they would be immediately divided out amongst the boys.

Removed for Special Occasions

After he had gone the sweets were immediately taken away. At special occasions in the future we would receive a single mangled caramel wafer or whatever it was. I always noticed that what was passed out to us didn’t seem to match what was given in.

It always happens in any strict regime where the rulers have absolute power that ‘output’ tends to get siphoned off by those in the ruling classes. I have no idea whether the Fathers were gorging themselves on reject chocolate bars, but I do know that we got less than the sum of the whole.

The Bonfire – Guy Fawkes Night 1966

The Bonfire

I do remember one year, though, when the school decided to have a bonfire on Guy Fawkes night. There were no fireworks – just a bonfire, but we didn’t get much fun and this was a real bonus.

Life had become a bit more liberal in my 3rd year and Mick Wainhouse’s 4th year after the appointment of Father Fraser, from Glasgow, as Father Rector. Some of the Italian Fascist inspired rules had been taken out.

There had never been a bonfire before. Why would Italians celebrate Guy Fawkes night? If they have been told what it was all about they would have allowed it even less. Perhaps it had been explained to them and that’s why we had never had one before.

Bonfire of the Vanities

We had to leave, though, when it was time for Evening Service and bed. However, I couldn’t resist it. With a guy called Maurice Eaton, I got up out of bed after the priest, Fr Hicks, had finished his walking about, went downstairs and climbed out of a window to go and have another look at the bonfire.

To my surprise we were soon joined by Mick Wainhouse, Mick Palmer and Titch Carey. We threw fresh wood onto the bonfire. However, we wanted more action than that. Mick Wainhouse suggested that we go over to the farm, get some petrol, put it in bottles and toss them onto the fire.

I must confess I was more than a little nervous of this suggestion as, if we were caught, we would be instantly expelled. As well as being out after lights out, we would also have been stealing from the Verona Fathers’ farm.

Instant Expulsion

I remembered that in First Year a boy had been caught stealing. We were given a spine chilling talk by Father Pinkman who started by saying “We have a thief among us”.

They found out who it was and the Boy was instantly expelled. He had stolen one of the other Boys’ money – a fiver given to him by his mother. It was to pay for his keep. The Boy who had it stolen reported it missing. It was taken from his desk. A fiver was a lot of money in those days.

The priests gave the money back again to the Boy who had had it stolen. He asked how they had managed to get it back. “Don’t ask” he was told. It’s almost certain that what they had done was had a massive search of all the Boy’s lockers and desks whilst we were engaged elsewhere.

They wouldn’t have given a second thought to the impropriety of doing that. I bet they did it all the time.

The Boy who did it was instantly expelled. We never saw him again. We weren’t told that the thief had been caught but we could put two and two together.

So, I was pretty nervous.

Worth the Risk?

The idea sounded great but I didn’t think it was worth the risk.

But Mick did. He and one of the others, probably Mick Palmer, went over to the farm and brought back bottles full of oil. We put rags in them like Molotov Cocktails or Petrol Bombs and tossed them into the fire. I think I had read somewhere about how to make them.

Probably the next time Mick would see them would be when he was serving in the Paras in Northern Ireland, when they came raining down on them, tossed by rioting Catholics in the Bogside and elsewhere.

Next Suggestion

It was what he suggested next, though, that made me gulp.

He suggested that we would go back to the farm, take a couple of the hens there, bring them back and roast them on the fire.

This was so unlike him. I was shocked. Indeed I was extremely nervous about it. We had got away with the oil. They probably wouldn’t notice the oil missing and even if they did they wouldn’t think “some of the Boys must have stolen it, put it in bottles and chucked it on the bonfire”.

However, they would notice that the hens were missing. Mick and Titch were asking him what they would have to do. “We’ll wring their necks and put them on the edge of the bonfire” he said, “and then we’ll eat them”.

I was appalled. I had no great wish to have a couple of hens killed. I wanted even less to see them having their necks wrung.

And what if we got caught?

Neck Wringing

“Who’ll wring their necks?” someone asked.

“I’ll do it” said Mick.

I begged him not to do it. I told him that we’d all be in terrible trouble, but he was really up for it and thought it a great idea. He would definitely have done it, but by now the other two were having cold feet as well and talked him out of it.

Incidentally, I don’t think that we ever tasted chicken in the whole time we were there. That was reserved for the priests – although we did get boiled eggs. So, it would have been a real treat to taste some chicken, which we would have seen as a delicacy.

Encounter with Father Hicks

Incidentally, Maurice Eaton and myself had got caught going back in the window by the priest now in charge of the senior boys, Father Hicks. He thought of himself as a bit of a psychologist, although I think he had only read books on it.

He told us off and then let Maurice Eaton go. He kept me back. He said that it was because he saw remorse in Maurice Eaton’s eyes. He hadn’t seen any in mine at all, he told me in a highly accusatory voice. I then tried to look suitable remorseful.

He was right, though. I wasn’t sorry at all. I was only sorry that I had got caught. Mick, Mick and Titch had left before us. I think Mick had lost interest once killing the hens was overruled.

Pinkman’s Extended Infuence

He told me “Fr Pinkman has told me all about you”. I knew instantly that this wasn’t positive. Many of the Boys had been hanging around Fr Hicks who was just new to being in charge of the seniors. They were short of a father and wanted to be in with the new Father.

I wanted to be in with him too and impress him but I didn’t want to be as obvious as some of the other Boys. However, with those words of his I knew that there was no chance of that. Pinkie had marked his card on me.

There was no point in telling him that Pinkie was operating a vendetta against me, even after I left his charge in junior school, and explaining why he was doing it. I didn’t even understand myself at that age. It’s only now that I’m able to put two and two together and make five.

Cards Marked

However, I knew then that, our new father, the guy in charge of the senior boys had had his card marked as far as I was concerned and that I could forget about being a favoured ‘son’ the way I was with Fr. Cerea and that I would be henceforth plunged into the wilderness and forced to seek refuge for brotherhood amongst my fellow seminarians.

However, of my best friends Francis Locke had now gone and Frank McGinnis refused to talk to me due to my traitorous behaviour under severe questioning and getting broken by Pinkie. I was now hanging around with Boys that I wouldn’t have before, although I was still quite well in with the ‘in crowd’ which was mainly composed of Eddie Roberts, Fritz and maybe Bickers.

Father Hicks must have been watching for a while, when we came back in through the window, because he was waiting for us to come through the window. If we’d stayed on and killed the hen and cooked it he would certainly have seen that.

I suspect that we would all have been expelled. Mick’s life would probably have taken a very different path if he had been expelled whilst in 4th year rather than in 5th – but we’ll never know that. He didn’t do it in the end.

Expelled for Drinking

Letters were always sent home to the Boys’ parents when they got expelled – and they didn’t pull any punches.

It must have been a shock to Mick’s parents when they got the letter telling them that the son who was going to be a priest had been booted out for drinking.

However, if the letter had said that he was being kicked out for stealing a couple of hens from the farm, wringing their necks and roasting them on a bonfire they would have been shocked and appalled.

“What sort of son do we have that would do this?” they would have thought.

They would learn more about that in the future.

The Annual Cull – The Ones Who Disappeared

The Cull

At the end of each term there is a cull of ‘the chosen ones’. Three times a year boys are told that things didn’t work out and that they shouldn’t return when term begins. Term time, especially the one before the summer holidays, often ended with boys crying in the dormitory as they packed their bags for the last time.

They would never see their friends again. In fact, because we all lived together, we were more like family than friends. It was like being torn away from your family – and at such short notice.

Sometimes the boys didn’t say anything and simply didn’t come back the next year or the next term. We started each term not knowing which of our ‘family’ had been disappeared or had disappeared themselves.

Sudden Disappearance

It didn’t even need to be at the end of term. Boys could be disappeared suddenly. I remember when I was quite new in first year three boys from the second year stuck my head down the toilet and flushed it.

The priest came in and caught them. That was the end of one boy’s vocation. He was called to Fr. Rector’s room and was never seen again. God must have been very disappointed with him and ‘unchose’ him.

God made a lot of mistakes. Not one of the thirty-one guys in my class, who were all selected by him as his special ones, made it through to the priesthood. I suppose the ‘spin’ would be that it was not Him who let us down but we who let him down.

I suppose, as they often said in sermons there, the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.

Do you remember any of the Boys just disappearing? Let us know in the Comments section below.

Michael Riddle Was as Good as Gold With Me

Michael Riddle

My name is Andrew Routledge and I was a student at Roe Head in Mirfield from 1970 to 1975.

This is my statement.

I knew all of the persons mentioned in this article very well.

I never knew of any Paedophile activities that went on.

Mr Riddle, my English Lit teacher, knew Father Pasqualone in Uganda.

In Michael Riddle’s Room

I was in his room several times, only to talk about philosophy and to smoke a pipe.

Other boys were present also.

No petting went on during the times I was there.

Some of the priest were a little eccentric.

This is a quality that many bachelors have. By no means does this qualify them for paedophilia.

Paedophile’s Can’t Sleep When Chidren Around

I learned long ago that a person that has paedophilia leanings can never sleep in the presence of children.

The Priests I remember were always dropping off.

I was struck on two occasions by outside secondary school teachers that worked part time for the Verona fathers.

Father Hicks sacked them both immediately.

Father Cerea

Some of the priest were disciplinarians of sorts but nothing that could be described as violent, not even Fr. Cerea.

I do not remember any beatings as punishment during the whole time I attended St. Peter Claver College.

The Nuns were always darlings and took good care of us, especially when we were sick.

Verona Fathers Perfect Hosts

I have since Visited and stayed as a guest of the Verona Fathers in their Rome residence and the feeling I always get is one of coming home.

They are always most generous.

I do not dismiss the claims that certain things may have happened.

I only say that I never know of any such events.

Private Rooms of Priests

Yes, there should have been a rule placing the private rooms of priests out of bounds to pupils.

The atmosphere was lax in certain areas and distance was not maintained in all cases.

The school had faults but in no way did I experience the same level of suffering at Roe head than I did at my First Junior high school.

Suffering from ADD and PTSD made my schooling difficult both for myself and teachers.

There were stressful times but overall I have to say that I was not targeted in anything like the same way at Roe Head.