Dropped from the Verona Fathers Football Team

Dropped from the Football Team

As I said, at the end of the interrogation Pinkie added insult to injury – or rather he added injury to injury. He told me that I would no longer be selected for the football team. I had been a member of the Championship winning team the previous year. I had played my part in the triumph.

However, that didn’t count for anything. There were other considerations.

That was a severe blow. I mean it was a really severe blow. I loved playing for the team – but the conditions of playing were no longer acceptable.

I must say that, at the time, I didn’t really piece it all together. I couldn’t work out why Pinkie had turned against me. It was about half way through the season that I got suddenly dropped – maybe a little before half way.

Announcing the Team

I remember that Pinkie would come to the junior recreation hall to read out the team. I was the only one who didn’t crowd round to hear it. I got on with whatever I was doing before. I did keep my ears opened. I hoped against hope that one week I might hear my name called out. After all, the second season wasn’t going so well and we were falling behind in the Championship.

Perhaps Pinkie might have a change of heart and pick me. Although I didn’t come over to hear the team news I used to keep my ear open and listen to Pinkie as he dramatically read out the team one by one.

Each week as the team was read out and with each name that was read out it was a like a dagger through my heart. Even when nine and ten names had been read out and they weren’t mine I still retained a hope.

But each week was the same. I wouldn’t say I was the best, age for age, in the team but there were people in the team in my position who would not have said that they were as good as me. People wondered why I was no longer picked.

“You’ll probably get picked this week” they would say.

No Chance

One week, as everybody went over to hear the team news, a guy that I was playing draughts with got up to go over and said to me “are you not going over? You might be in the team”.

Pinkie had actually picked me the week before for our one and only second team game. Not only that, he had picked me as captain. Whilst the first team had lost we hammered the second team and I scored a load of goals. From memory I think we won 8-1 and I got five of them. Perhaps my period of exclusion was over. Perhaps my performance might get me back in the team.

I didn’t go over. I didn’t dare think I would be in the team. But I listened very intently as the team was read out one by one. Maybe Pinkie had a heart after all. It would be great to come back into the team. It would be great, to be frank, not to be generally an ‘excludee’ with Pinkie.

However, my name was not read out that day. In fact it was never read out again. My punishment was final. My exclusion was sine die.

Even when I was in the seniors and was still eligible to play I wasn’t picked. It was even more painful that the guy from third year that they picked was nowhere near as good as I was, to my mind. He even said that himself and he was even a bit guilty about it.

Father Pinkman and My Interrogation

This is the follow-up to Father Pinkman Accused Me of Leading the Great Escape

It was published recently.

Third Degree

This was not the end of it though.

Soon afterwards, I got called up to Pinkie’s room. He started the grilling over again. I had to tell him who was going to be in the Great Escape.

Again and again I told him I knew nothing about it. I started to cry again and I kept on crying and crying and the tears were running down my face in streams.

On and on went the interrogation. He said he would only stop and let me go when I had told him everything.

I had nothing to tell, though.

“I know that someone is organising it” he said. There was no way out for me as I had nothing to tell him.

Capitulating Under Interrogation

Eventually, after what seemed like ages he said “If it’s not you who is leading it who is it then?”.

“I don’t know” I said crying relentlessly.

“Is it Locke and McGinnis” he asked.

They were my two best friends.

Here was a way out. I could say it was them and the pain would stop. The interrogation would be over and I could go free. I could escape with just one word.

But I couldn’t do that I also thought. It wasn’t them (It only ever existed in Pinkie’s fevered brain).

“No” I said.

“It is them isn’t it” he said. “You’re not telling me because they are your friends”.

Oh my God, the interrogation fever was being turned up again. “Oh no!” I thought.

“It is them isn’t it, Locke and McGinnis”.

Surrender

“Yes” I said and in one fell swoop I was free – except that my two best friends never spoke to me in a friendly way ever again after they had been brought up and grilled like me.

Pinkie even told them that it was I that had accused them. I denied it but they never believed me.

When I’ve read of supposed miscarriages of justice where the accused has made a full confession and then retracted it saying that he was under duress to confess I am as cynical as the next man.

But when I think back that is exactly what I did. I was under such duress that when given the opportunity to finger my two best friends I did just that, so that the grilling could stop and I could leave the room.

Biggest Regret

Perhaps that is my greatest regret of all the time that I was there. I cracked and got my best friends into trouble. They never knew the circumstances of it. After all, I had denied it and so could not go back and tell them what had actually happened.

Locke got expelled at the end of the term and never came back. I was never friendly with Frank McGinnis again who had been my best friend for the best part of two years. He never spoke to me again. We were never friends again and I had to make a new set of friends in third year. I later found that he had been expelled in summer 1967 – at the end of the term after I got suspended for a year.

Even though I was under intense pressure I still should not have cracked. I was a boy of 12, though, being psychologically tortured by a cruel psycho who sexually preyed on boys as young as eleven and who was scorned by me as he saw it. I state this in my own defence.

But in my heart of hearts I should still not have cracked and ‘handed over’ two innocent friends.

Difficult Year

The rest of second year was quite difficult as I had to hang around with people that I hadn’t been all that friendly with before. If truthful, I had to hang around with people who nobody had been all that friendly with before.

And I got constant reminders from my two ex-best friends whenever I bumped into them – which was frequently. Locke took it particularly badly. I think that Frank McGinnis might have eventually forgiven me but I think he wanted to show solidarity with Francis Locke who was slightly more dominant of the two.

Meeting Francis Locke Again

Several years late I was invited to Allanton in Dumfries where the Verona Fathers had a seminary for boys who joined at a later age. This invitation was both for new boys and for boys who had left the college previously but who might be interested in coming back. There was only two boys there that I knew – and one of them was Francis Locke.

He hadn’t forgotten. He didn’t say anything but he was not over friendly and spent most of the time with the other guy who neither of us had been particularly friendly with when at The College. He spoke to me when I spoke to him but there was no warmth. Indeed there was no warmth when he first saw me for the first time in several years. Not even a smile.

What treachery it must have seemed in his eyes and for no reason that he could see. What a wicked boy I must have been to him.

I never got the opportunity to explain to them – and even if I had done I’m not sure it was a good enough explanation.

Fingered

I never thought of it then but there must have been someone else who fingered me in the first place. Pinkie wouldn’t have made it up. He really did believe this ridiculous story. Someone must have given it to him.

Was it some other poor boy in the same circumstance as I was that he was interrogating? That’s possible but that boy would not have been the person who put it into his mind.

One of the ‘in crowd’ must have told him this lie.

Why?

Perhaps it was to please him. We know already from my days as one of his ‘spies’ that this was an area that he gave some thought to. Could one of the boys have come up with this cock and bull story just to curry favour with him?

I’ll never know who was the one who decided to put me in the frame as the guy masterminding the Great Escape, or why they did it.

The Final Straw

As I got up to leave the room Pinkie looked towards me and I could see he was about to say something else. I could see the venom in his eyes.

“Just one more thing” he said. “You won’t ever be getting picked again for the school football team” he said with more than a little satisfaction.

He couldn’t have picked anything that could have hurt me more. And what’s more he must have known it.

I went into the room as an innocent twelve year old and I left it robbed of my favourite hour and a half of the week – and without any friends.

Father Pinkman Accused me of Leading the Great Escape

Leader of The Great Escape

Someone had told me about it. I can’t remember whom (it might have been Leo Murphy). I was in 2nd year at the time. The Boy told me that Pinkie thought that someone was trying to organise some great escape from The College. Supposedly I was the ringleader.

It was so ridiculous that I just said something to that effect and didn’t think any more of it. I was in 2nd year. If had wanted to go home I could just have stayed at home the last time I was home for Summer, Christmas or Easter. So could the other boys in the supposed ‘escape plot’.

Why would I, ‘the mastermind’, be putting so much thought into the Great Escape when I could simply stay home next time I was there? Why would I also arrange a mass breakout and escape? Why wouldn’t I just go on my own? Everyone could make their own decisions.

Many Miles from Home

It would be different if we were in our first term there and our ‘homesick’ letters were being ripped up.

For God’s sake I had to get myself 400 miles to Glasgow and then another 26 miles to Greenock after that. And I had to do it without any money. Even boys who lived just 20 miles away hadn’t made it.

It just didn’t make any sense at all.

I wrote it off.

Father Pinkman’s Approach

That was extremely stupid.

One evening Pinkie grabbed me and took me into the Form 1 / Form 2 classroom area. He said he had been ‘reliably informed’ that there was going to be a mass escape. Not only that, I was the ‘brains’ behind it and had been planning it for a while.

I mean, let’s forget, for a minute, that this was in a democratic and free country called Great Britain and that this was a school where anybody was free to leave or stay as they wished.

This wasn’t a prison camp in Nazi Germany or a Gulag in the Soviet Union. This was a bloody school in Yorkshire where boys who had volunteered to train for the priesthood were schooled.

The Accused

Let’s forget all that.

When he accused me, I, of course, denied it as it was absolute rubbish. Pinkie refused to accept this at all. He had completely reliable information. This was ‘a fact’ and there was no point in denying it.

He wanted to know the names of the people who were involved and when it was to take place. Of course, I couldn’t give him this information as it didn’t exist.

He was determined to have it. He launched into a diatribe about me being a ‘bad boy’ etc. I can’t remember now all that was said but it was constant like an interrogation, and I remember bursting into tears and sobbing uncontrollably.

This didn’t stop him though. He continued the interrogation. He went on and on demanding the names as I continued to sob and sob, but he wouldn’t stop. “I’m not letting you go until you tell me” he said. It was incessant. It really was like an interrogation. He was completely heartless. He was completely cruel. All he wanted was the information and I could go.

Father Grace Enters

Suddenly, someone burst in the door. It was Fr. Grace. He was a highly respected priest and he went on to become Fr. Rector later. He had been a ‘convert’ from the Anglican religion. He was not one of those people who had been taken away as a boy of eleven and trained for the priesthood but had seen a bit of ‘the other life’. He was highly respected amongst The Boys.

He was the English Literature teacher and damned good at it.

“What’s going on here”, he demanded in a very concerned and raised authoritative voice. I suspect now he might have been listening outside for a few moments.

Pinkie made some excuse but it was clear that Fr. Grace didn’t believe him. He seemed quite contemptious of him. One had always thought that the priests would always stick together – but that wasn’t what was happening here.

Fr. Grace asked me to explain what had been happening but I just said “Nothing”.

Sent Pinkman on His Way

He must have thought that Pinkie’s presence was intimidating me (which it most certainly was). He turned to Pinkie and sent him on his way, to go to his room.

Looking back on this and looking through the eyes of an adult it is obvious that Fr. Grace was well above Pinkie in the pecking order. Pinkie must have been around 23 or 24 and Fr. Grace must have been about 15-20 years older.

I don’t know what Fr. Grace thought was going on but he sure as hell knew something was up – and he knew it was Pinkie’s fault and not mine.

Father Grace Asked Again

When Pinkie was gone he asked me again what had happened.

“Nothing” I replied.

“Come on, you can tell me. I can make sure that if you tell me that he won’t give you any problems again”.

“Nothing” I said.

He tried to convince me that he would make sure I would be all right if I told him what had happened.

Could Have Done for Pinkman

This should have been my moment. Looking back on it now, if I had spilled the beans it might have preempted events by at least a year. I might even have survived at The College. I might even have become a priest.

But I didn’t believe him. In my world Pinkie was the king. He was supreme. What he said went. Reporting him to another priest would be tantamount to ‘vocational suicide’ as I saw it.

I did think about it. My judgment, though, was that Fr. Grace couldn’t stop the all-powerful (in our eyes) Pinkie.

Horrible Wrong

I was wrong. Horribly wrong.

There was nothing Fr Grace could do. I could see he wanted to. He ruffled my hair in a fatherly way which made me sob even more. It was perhaps the first and only tactile kindness I had been shown in my whole time at the college by a priest. I burst into tears.

“OK, off you go then” he said.

I went upstairs to go to the toilet.

Guess who came in?

Yes, you’ve guessed it. It was Pinkie rubbing his hands together very animatedly.

Taken Aback

“Not you again!” I said with disbelief at the reappearance of my tormentor while bursting into further tears.

That really was more than you could say to a priest but I was getting beyond reason expecting my ordeal to start again.

Surprisingly, Pinkie seemed a bit taken aback and on the defensive. He wasn’t the aggressive tormentor of a few minutes ago.

Needed to Know

He wanted to know just one thing. “What did you tell Fr. Grace?”

“Nothing”, I said.

“Are you sure” he said.

“Yes” I said with exasperation expecting a telling off.

“Good” said Pinkie and slunk off through the toilet door.

If I had only known. I had him by throat and didn’t realise it. He knew it though. That’s why, even though he had been sent scuttling off to his room, he had to stick around to know what I had said.

He knew the game could well have been up for him. He needed desperately to know.

However, I had told Fr. Grace nothing – and Pinkie had survived.

I Suspected Bede Mullen had Been Abused | I Was Right

Bede Mullen

I met Bede Mullen at the 4th reunion I went to.

He was 54.

The last time I had seen him he was 12 years old.

I was really looking forward to seeing him again – especially as there were unsolved questions, answers he hadn’t given me all those years before.

Frank McGinnis had been my best friend – but Bede would have been one of the ones that I hung about with most, alongside Francis Locke, Martin Murphy and Peter O’Hagan.

Not Coming Back

So, it was a bit of a shock to me when, as he was packing his bags for the looming holidays, he informed me that he wouldn’t be coming back after the holidays. He was going to be staying home.

This sort of thing happened far too often and was both destabilising and upsetting.

Often people would go home from their Christmas or Easter or Summer Holidays and simply wouldn’t come back. Some of them had decided against it, either because they were homesick, or they had lost their vocation, or it was too strict, or they just didn’t fancy it any more.

Others were told not to come back, often via a letter sent to their parents (as we discovered long afterwards).

The Disappeared

It didn’t just happen during the holidays. It could happen during the term.

Someone would just disappear. You might, or might not, hear the reason why they had been ‘disappeared’. You were seldom officially told – but there were always rumours. The Rumour Mill is strongest in closed societies.

When I was quite new, and in first year, three guys suddenly grabbed me in the toilet, picked me up, and tried to put my head down the toilet as they flushed it.

It was quite terrifying at the time.

They were very unlucky that Pinkie happened to wander into the toilet just as they were doing this (he had that knack).

The three were asked to accompany Pinkie along to Fr. Rector’s office immediately.

Two of them were given warnings as to their future conduct. The guy that was considered the ringleader, a guy called Kerrigan, was instantly expelled. His vocation disappeared with the flushed toilet water.

We were never to see him again.

<h2?Sent Home Quickly

They got rid of miscreants very quickly. There was none of that phoning your parents to tell them to come and collect you whenever they could, which might be in a few days time.

They were gone instantly.

They had to make their own way home, perhaps to distant parts, at the age of as early as eleven. I doubt if they even gave them money. They might have been given the money that they had themselves handed in at the start of each term.

Bede’s Decision

Bede, however, had decided to go home of his own volition. He had decided not to come back after the holidays.

I didn’t know that I was the only person he told this to till 44 years later. Bede didn’t remember telling anybody.

When I spoke to him at the reunion he told me that he didn’t dare tell any of the priests. He was afraid that they would maybe lock him up and not let him go home. This may seem ridiculous now, and they almost certainly would have done no such thing – but the way they acted in those days, it wasn’t quite outside the realms of possibility.

I immediately wanted to know why he was leaving so I could convince him into staying. Most people just disappeared or didn’t come back and you seldom knew the reason why.

This was one tragedy, a loss of, effectively, a brother, that I could prevent and prevent it I thought I could – but I had to know the reason why he wanted to leave first.

And he wouldn’t tell me that.

Related to Father Pinkman

He came close to telling me several times as he packed his suitcase on his bed. He even told me that it had something to do with Pinkie.

Even by this stage I had heard people talking about Pinkie’s Boys, the ones that he used to invite up to his room, his special boys in his special boys club that I wasn’t a part of.

I would have liked to have been part of it and had wondered why I hadn’t been, I had usually been part of the ‘in crowd’ with the teachers at school before – but I was to get my invitation soon.

Connected To Pinkman

The strong inference was that it was something connected to Pinkie and that Bede felt that he had to get out of there.

It wasn’t that he disliked the college.

He didn’t!

It wasn’t that he didn’t have friends.

He did!

It wasn’t that he didn’t have a good time there.

He did!

But, for some reason, that I couldn’t quite fathom, he had decided he had to leave it all behind. He decided that, despite all the good things that had happened there, and despite the friends he had made, he had to leave us all behind, his new family, and get out, never to return.

Never Came Back

It was something I had often pondered in later years, i.e. why Bede just had to get out of a place that he loved. Why did he give up his vocation, his friends, that beautiful place and just leave, never to come back?

Of course, looking through the eyes of a twelve year old I couldn’t understand it at all.

It just seemed crazy.

However, putting the same data through the eyes of an adult, I came to a completely different conclusion.

I didn’t know for certain that something had happened to him with Pinkie, but I was pretty sure that this must be it.

Previous Reunions

I even told the other guys at previous reunions that I thought that something had happened to him and that this was the reason for his departure. Some of them were a little sceptical – but I was pretty sure of it.

He wasn’t keen on coming to the reunion. He told Joe Colby that he had some bad memories of the place and didn’t really want to have anything to do with it. It was in his past – a past he wanted to forget.

It took a lot of convincing by Joe and many emails and phone calls to convince Bede to come.

But Joe warned us all.

Bede didn’t want there to be any discussion about Pinkie – and Joe had promised him that there wouldn’t be.

Bede Mullen’s Return

On the first night of the reunion, we all went out but Joe decided to wait in the hotel for Bede who was supposed to be arriving at seven o’clock.

It was twenty past seven when I decided to go and join the others in the pub.

Another half an hour later Joe joined us.

Bede hadn’t arrived.

“He won’t come” I said. “He’s thought better of it”.

But Joe and Danny Curran were convinced that he would.

Back at the Hotel

About half an hour later Joe and I decided to go back to the hotel. When we got in the door, Joe decided to check the guest book to see if he had arrived.

His name wasn’t there.

Just at that, someone came out of the breakfast room.

I thought he might have been a fellow guest. Joe seemed to think he was someone who worked there.

“Have you seen our mate Bede Mullen?” Joe asked.

“Yes, he’s arrived” said the guy.

“Where is he now? What room is he in?” asked Joe.

“He’s standing in front of you” said Bede.

And Bede was back.

Forty Two Years later

I’d had an inkling it was him whilst Joe was asking him questions.

My 12-year-old friend was back – as a 54 year old.

I still have a very clear picture of Bede as a 12-year-old – a very clear one as he packed his suitcase that day. It is one of those pictures that you have that stay with you forever whilst you forget most other things.

It was great to see him once again – but more than a little frustrating that I couldn’t ask him why he had left. What was it that Pinkie had done?

Talking About Pinkie

Strangely, after telling us not to mention Pinkie while Bede was there, it was Joe that brought the subject up – after we were back in the hotel after having had a meal and a few drinks on the first night.

We actually tried to change the subject a couple of times or tried to make it sound as if it Joe was talking about something else. But Joe was either oblivious to this or was having nothing of it – and surprisingly enough Bede wasn’t uncomfortable with it.

Perhaps he had made the major step in deciding to come at all. Perhaps this was just another smaller step along a path that he decided he was going to take anyway.

Perhaps he expected it.

Bede’s Confirmation

He never did tell us exactly what happened. It’s not the kind of thing that you ask someone unless they volunteer it (at least guys don’t).

But he did confirm that something bad had happened with Pinkie and that it had happened in Pinkie’s room and it had happened more than once.

We didn’t need to know the exact details.

He said that it had caused him a lot of problems in his life.

He surprised us all by saying that he had only just told his wife about it the previous week after many long years of marriage.

He must have taken the decision then, before he even got to us, that the genie was clamouring to be let out of the bottle – and that he was going to let it be opened.

Affected Bede’s Life

Bede had been a very dignified 12-year-old and he was still a very dignified 54-year-old.

He told us that what had happened with Pinkie had affected his life. He had obviously never shared it with anyone till just the previous week, 44 years later, with the person closest to him in his life, his wife.

How surprised she must have been about hearing this secret that he had borne by himself all those years.

The genie was out of the bottle – and I think deep down Bede was pleased. Perhaps pleased is the wrong word. Bede was now comfortable with it – or at least comfortable enough with it now that he could talk about it.

This was all well and good – but the big test would be the next day.

Tour of the Seminary

We were scheduled at 11am the next day, to go on a conducted tour of our alma mater St. Peter Claver College, Roe Head, Mirfield.

What would Bede feel then?

Could he handle that after 44 years away?

I had done the tour twice previously.

This year, Allison, our guide from Hollybank School, which our seminary had become, took us to the usual spots, the old classrooms, the dormitories, the Refectory, The Chapel etc.

There was a lot of reminiscing about old times and ‘this is here we used to….” etc.

But I knew that the big one awaited us.

Pinkie’s Room

We came around the corner from the dormitories and I knew what was coming.

Led by Allison, everybody had actually gone past it altogether and Allison was now showing them the Chapel.

I saw Bede towards the back who hadn’t walked past it yet.

I said to him “that was Pinkie’s room”.

There was no need to tell him of course. He hadn’t casually walked past it like the rest but had hung around. I looked through the thin glass slat in the door, that hadn’t been there 44 years ago, into the room.

What would Bede’s reaction be?

When I took my face away from the slat in the door, Bede walked forward and peered in too.

That was enough for me.

Into Pimkie’s Room

I walked a few steps forward and asked Allison if she could let us into that room.

Only she, Bede and I went in, as the others were more interested in the chapel.

I could see tears well up in Bede’s eyes.

But he remained in control. He always did.

Dignified

He motioned to the corner of the room. “The bed used to be there”. After a pause he pointed to another spot. “The table was there” and paused.

Like Jim Kirby previously, he was seeing events from forty odd years ago.

“A lot of things happened here” he said in his understated way, and for a brief moment he was far away in a time gone past.

Then he pulled himself together and said “It’s just a room. It’s just a room”. He looked at me, nodded his head and walked out the door.

And, in that instant, the demon who had tormented him, had finally been exorcised.

Comboni Missionaries |I Could Have Been a Contender

I could have been a Contender

I reckon I could have made a good priest. I was certainly up for it. I was keen to help Africans by letting them into the ‘God’ secret. I think the Verona Fathers were quite keen to have me too. I had been top of my class in Primary School and got the Dux Prize (as they called it) for being the top boy in the top class in the school.

As I have said elsewhere, I didn’t realise that only about 1-in-20 boys made it through to the priesthood. I thought that once you had volunteered and been accepted that all you had to do was the training.

I think they thought of me as a ‘good catch’. I was keen on them too.

Keeping the Rules

But it was so difficult to keep the rules. They were so strict. And they judged you not on your sensitivity or how good your heart was or how good you were with people but on how well you kept the strict rules.

For instance, you were not allowed to whistle at all. That was completely banned. You were also not allowed to talk in the corridor or run in the corridor. Those in the Junior School were not allowed to talk to those in the senior school on most occasions and especially if you met them in the corridor.

You were not allowed to talk in Study. It seemed all designed to crush your spirit.

I’m sure that you are all working out here that these weren’t rules created for your own good or to help you towards God or to become people who were suitable priesthood material.

These were simply rules that adults created to suit themselves. They didn’t like noisy, unruly children who shouted and talked and whistled and they were in a position to prevent this – and they did.

Crushing the Spirit

It was all about control. I’m afraid they simply try to crush the spirits of those who, like Maria in the Sound of Music, had a bit of spirit in the first place. Wouldn’t Maria have made a good nun? I bet she would have. She wouldn’t have been dull. She would have attracted far more people to the Catholic Church than all those drudges who get through to become nuns.

At the Verona Fathers reunions I meet people who I think would have made great priests but too many of them couldn’t allow their spirits to be crushed to get where they wanted to be.

Those of you who are Catholic (and I would think it applies to other religions too) when you hear the dreary sermons from your local priests you should pause to reflect that the reason that you are bored out of your skull at most of the sermons is that these are the people who managed to survive the spirit crushing because they simply obeyed the rules without question. They are the ones who managed to survive the system.

I’m sorry to sound so negative but these are the people who had little spirit in the first place.

Choosing Between Candidates

I remember reading once what Tom Peters, the workplace quality guru said. He asked some Human Resource people who they would pick between two candidates. The first had a First Class Honours degree and had come straight from University.

The second candidate had a 2:1 degree and had not come straight from University but had taken a Gap Year out and had gone to help people in Africa or South America.

Of course the Human Resources people all plumped for the first candidate who was better qualified and was not a bit of a maverick like the second candidate.

Tom Peters told them that they should grab the 2nd candidate every time. That person will come into your organisation and will try to be innovative. He will try new things. As he said, either they will make a difference to your organisation or they will go. You won’t have to sack them. They won’t cling on.

Staff Turnover

Again I am reminded of a company, who had a high turnover rate of staff, that got in an outside firm to construct a psychometric test so that they could find out which candidates were more likely to leave them and which ones were more likely to stay.

They adopted the programme but abandoned it after two years. The lesson they learned was that the people most likely to leave are the ones that you most want to keep at the company. The ones that are not likely to leave were the ones that you didn’t want in the first place. The first lot were reliable but stodgy. The second lot were innovative and would leave anyway if they were not successful.

I’m sure if Tom Peters, or somebody else, was brought in to do a consultant’s job to let them know why the Catholic Church (or other Churches) were losing ‘market share’, he might well say to them “See those guys that you think are great who never whistle in the corridor, who at the age of eleven always walk and don’t run, who never get into trouble with the teachers, and who always have their homework done on time?”

“Yes?”

Dump the Lot

“Dump the lot of them. They won’t be able to relate to your ‘customers’. What you really want are some of the guys who ‘bend the rules’ a little, who at the age of eleven sometimes have to run, to whistle, to shout with excitement. They’ll understand your customers and your customers will relate to them.

“They’ll give exciting sermons and they’ll enthuse people about God and your religion. Instead of your churches being full of old people and sullen youngsters who have been forced to attend, you might just get yourself a vibrant religion which related to young people rather than just those who feel it is time to book their slot in Heaven”.

Of course they won’t and they can’t do that – and as a result they have lost ‘market share’ to the Evangelicals.

A Bad Boy

I really did want to become a priest at the time but I really couldn’t keep all those rules. I tried to keep them and I did keep them for 98% of the time. But I couldn’t keep it up for every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day, of every week, of every month of the year.

I really tried – but I couldn’t.

So they told me I was a Bad Boy.

Comboni Missionaries | Bungalow Bill

Bungalow Bill

We used to get visits from someone in the Verona Fathers who was a Monsignor Monsignor Cave I think his name was. He had been quite a catch for them as he was a convert and had had a reasonably high position in the Church of England. He was getting on a bit but I was never quite sure what he did.

Whenever he came he always had a slide show and it was always about one thing – him shooting tigers from the back of an elephant. He tried to give a sense of the danger that he was in when out in the jungle looking for tigers with his native helpers. However, even at the age of eleven I couldn’t see where the bravery came from in shooting at tigers from up top a huge elephant.

Slide Shows

The Boys loved to go and see his slide shows. In fact they loved to go and see anything that was in the TV room that would add a little fizz to their day. I wonder how many of them were thinking the same as I was and were sympathetic to the tiger and hoping it would get away. I couldn’t see the point of them shooting it and what the pleasure was in it.

The highlight for the Monsignor was the slide showing his native helpers carrying the tiger away upside down hanging limply from a pole. What were the Verona Fathers doing encouraging him to do this?

He looked more like a great imperialist rather than a priest sent out to help those in need. I think the order looked at him as a great capture who reinforced their own beliefs about the superiority of the Catholic faith to all others and so didn’t want to do anything that might upset this apple cart.

It seems he used to take the slide show around places. It seems if he wasn’t shooting tigers he was showing people slides of him shooting tigers.

I wonder if he had ever taken the slide show to a school in Liverpool. When I first heard the lyrics of the Beatles song Bungalow Bill, released in 1968, it was the Monsignor I immediately thought of. It seemed to have been written for him.

“The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill”

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

He went out tiger hunting with his elephant and gun
In case of accidents he always took his mom
He’s the all American bullet-headed Saxon mother’s son
All the children sing

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

Deep in the jungle where the mighty tiger lies
Bill and his elephants were taken by surprise
So Captain Marvel zapped in right between the eyes, zap!
All the children sing

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

The children asked him if to kill was not a sin
“Not when he looked so fierce”, his mummy butted in
If looks could kill it would have been us instead of him
All the children sing

Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey, Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?

[Eh up!]

Comboni Missionaries | How I was Immersed in the Organisation

On the Committee

It was soon after this that Pinkie decided to set up an Ideas Forum for the lower school. People were to put in ideas (anonymously) about how to make things better. There was a Suggestions Box and people put their suggestions in there.

I was really pleased when I was picked by Pinkie to be on the Committee. In fact I was to be the guy who was actually to pick out the suggestions from the Suggestions Box and read them out.

What power!

I had really arrived. I was becoming part of the inner circle.

Suggestion Box

Making the Suggestion Box anonymous was a huge mistake. Repressive Systems don’t like anonymity – and not just repressive regimes.

It is not only the repressive regimes who are trying to remove anonymity for those who post on the Internet. Anonymity is the great enemy of those in power. Anonymity means that people can say whatever they want.

How horrible must that be to those who are in power? It is not just repressive regimes who want powers to find out who is doing what and who is saying what on the Internet. It is the US, the British and leading European democracies who are trying to stop us saying what we want under the guise of anonymity.

First Meeting

At the first meeting, held in the adjoining First and Second Year classrooms, the Committee (Pinkie, myself and a couple of others were at the front). Now, when organisations have Suggestion Boxes, the real reason they are having them is so that they can find suggestions that benefit themselves. However, staff (or pupils) sometimes get the wrong idea and make suggestions that are for the benefit of those who work for the company or the organisation.

This is mainly what happened here. The suggestions tended to be not to have the horrible porridge that we had for breakfast (which I actually liked) but to have Cereal instead. Another suggestion was to for the sisters to stop putting huge amounts of pepper in the dandelion leaves soup (picked from the grounds) that they were always giving us. Surprisingly these two ideas were implemented.

Regime Criticism

However, there were several ‘suggestions’ and criticisms of the regime put into the Suggestion Box. To my great shame I picked them out, but instead of reading them out, I handed them over to Pinkie with a disapproving look as if I was handling a rotten fish.

The first one or two came as a big surprise to Pinkie and he gave a stern lecture about the kind of person who would make suggestions like that. However, when the next few came out he simply put them in the bin. I can’t remember what they said now but I wonder if any of them made criticism of Pinkie and what he was up to with the boys.

I think under any regime when you give the people an opportunity to say something without the fear of being caught and punished a lot of true feelings and grievances will come out.

Helped the System

I was glad I was able to help the system by intercepting some suggestions from what I saw as some very sad boys who didn’t appreciate what was being done for them.

Pinkie seemed to appreciate what I had done. I could be trusted. Things were looking up. I was in Pinkie’s good books. Better than that, he appreciated what I could bring to the organisation. I was pleased. The future was looking very bright indeed.

It is a shame that this was the last ever Suggestion Box meeting. It was scrapped after that. The boys had been given an opportunity and they had abused it.

Comboni Missionaries |The Rise and Fall of My Vocation

Comboni Missionaries

This website was set up, originally, so that people could post their memories of the Comboni Missionaries (ex-Verona Fathers) and especially of their seminary in Mirfield from the early sixties to the mid eighties.

It has been dominated, recently, by bad memories of the appalling sexual abuse perpetrated by Comboni Missionary priests on young boys as young as 11 in their care. The cover up by the Comboni Missionaries continues to this day.

I had set down my memories of Mirfield and the seminary of St Peter Claver at Mirfield, Yorkshire a few years ago. I haven’t done anyting with them. They have just been lying in my Word folder, although I have sent them to a few of the ex-Boys.

Good and Bad Memories

What I’ve decided to do is to serialise them here. There are good memories and bad memories. I hope they entertain you.

It, also, shows the methods that Father Pinkman and Father Valmaggia used to lure, and groom, young boys. At the time I thought I was the only one. Now, it seems, that it was rife.

I have learned, that someone that I considered my best friend at Mirfield, Frank McGinnis, was being abused by Father Pinkman. I learned this around fifty years after the events took place – although he said some things to me, at the time, about it which I wodered at and didn’t understand at the time – but it seems obvious what he was talking about now.

I’ll publish the first episode shortly.

Paedophile Priests / Great Friendships

Incidentally, if anyone has any good memories of Mirfield, please send them in to us and we’ll publish them.

To me, it was a place with some bad memories but also lots of good memories. I made lots of friendships there – as well as being chased by paedophile priests.

Let’s hear your memories, good and bad.

Comboni Missionaries | Were You Abused by Them?

Comboni Missionaries

For the past few years we have been compiling a list of those that were abused by the Comboni MIssionaries at their seminaries in the UK and especially at St Peter Claver’s College, Roe Head Mirfield from the early Sixties to the mid- Eighties.

Some of us have sued the Comboni Missionaries and they have settled with us outside court rather than go to court. However, two things that they have refused to do – admit that abuse took place and apologise.

So, the fight continues.

Publicity

We have had some success in publicising what happend all those years ago and the extent of the cover up then and now.

There have been articles in the Sunday Observer, Daily Mail Online, Liverpool Echo, Greenock Telegraph (front page), Mifield Reporter and on BBC Yorkshire amongst others.

West Yorkshire Police have investigated and are confident that ‘a crime has been committed’ and that if Father Pinkman and Father Valmaggia were alive then ‘arrests would be made’.

Comboni Missionaries Cover Up

They also want to interview Father Nardo Romano who is accused of abusing Mark Murray and other boys on multiple occasions. However, the very top of the Order has refused that request saying that he the paedophile priest is not mentally fit to answer questions. That is very convenient.

This is despite the Order telling Mark Murray, when he made the accusations, that Father Romano was being brought back from teh missions in Uganda immediately and would never be allowed to be near children again. If they did that, they must have had at least a slight suspicon that it was true. He is now ‘holed up’ at their house in Verona.

The Comboni Missionaries never reported any of the this to the police as they are required to do.  In the UK, the Government is plannning to make it a crime with up to five years in prison for not reporting suspicions of child abuse to the police.

Home Office Panel on Child Sexual Abuse

In the UK they have set up a Home Office Panel to investigate Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. The Comboni Missionaries actions come under that remit, the Home Office panel has decided. Comboni Missiories will be asked to attend and be legally bound to comply.

We are putting together evidence to put to the Panel.

Already, we have uncovered, and documented, hundreds of incidents of child abuse at Mirfield by Comboni Missionary priests.

However, we think that this is still the tip of the iceberg.

It is most important that we get all the evidence that we can. This is a one-off and there will never be another opportunity.

Your Evidence Needed

If you were abused at Mirfield, or elsewhere, by the Comboni Missionaries, this would be the time to let us know. If you know of anyone that was abused by them please let us know. If you have any knowledge or suspicons of any sexual abuse incidents please let us know.

Your evidence will be kept in whatever confidence that you want.

Anyone who was abused is entitled to anonymity in any investigation and newspapers are not legally allowed to use their names.

Don’t let the Comboni Missionaris get away with it.

We need your help – and we need your help now!

Questions for Comboni Missionaries on Clerical Sexual Abuse

Comboni Missionaries

Some of us are very confused as to the reactions of the Comboni Missionaries to accusations of clercial sexual abuse by priests at their seminaries of boys as young as 11. Here are some questions for them. If they want to answer them for us we will gladly publish their answers.

Questions for Comboni Missionaries

Do you agree that sexually abusing young boys is a sin?

Do you agree that not acting on reports of sexual abuse is a sin – especially when the abuser continued to abuse children after you had been told?

Do you agree that sexual abuse of young boys is a crime?

Which course of action do you agree is most appropriate when you have been told that a crime, i.e. sexual abuse of a minor, has been committed:-

a) You report the crime to the police or

b) You hide the crime from the police and you protect the person who has committed the crime?

Psychological Damage

Do you agree that young boys who have been sexually abuse by priests will be psychologically damaged by it?

If the police contact you with questions about sexual abuse perpetrated at a seminary where your order operates do you:-

a) Tell them all you know about the crime (for that is what it is) or

b) Tell them that you know nothing about it (when you did)

If a boy tells you that a criminal act has been perpetrated on him by one of your priests do you:-

a) Report this accusation of a crime immediately to the police

b) Bring the priest home from the missions, hide him away in a Comboni Missionary house in Italy, tell the boy that the priestwill  no longer have access to children and tell the boy that he you are sorry and that he is in your prayers?

Aiding the Police

If the police want to ask questions to a priest who has been accused of sexual abuse do you:-

a) Tell the police “We will help you in any way we can” or

b) Refuse the police permission to interview the accused priest telling them that he is not mentally able to answer questions

Do you belive that the correct response when a crime is commited is to:-

a) Report the crime to the police

b) Hide the perpetrator of the crime?

Jesus Christ

Jesus said “Suffer little children to come unto me”.

What do you think that Jesus would have said if he had been told that some of his followers were sexually abusing young boys?

Lastly, are you happy with the way that you and your order acted when told about child sex abuse at the hands of your priests?

Are you happy with the way that they are continuing to act when they have overwhelming knowledge of crimial acts by members of your order?

When contacted by journalists about these crimes are you comfortable telling the press that “We will never know what happened all those years ago?”

Ninth Commandment

Are you aware of the 9th commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbour”? Do you remember you used to teach us about Sins of Omission? Does this not cover this?

In this whole matter which does the Coomboni Missionaries resemble most:-

1) A responsible, godly organisation which respects those put under its command and respects the laws of the land

2)  The Mafia with its code of Omerta?

the cover up of sexual abuse against children goes right to the top of the Comboni missionaries Order. As regards the Comboni Missionaries, their actions, their leaders and those who are amongst them, Jesus once said “By their Followers Ye Shall Know them”.

Are your actions in this matter more akin to:-

a)  The actions of those who want justice and the rule of law upheld

b) The actions of those who want to preserve as much of the wealth and reputation of the Order no matter the rights and wrongs of the matter?

Meeting Your Maker

Lastly, when you meet your maker, do you think he might mention your part in covering up the sexual abuse of young boys as young as 11 years of age and the mental damage your order did to them and which is continuing to affect many of them?

When you meet your maker, you will not be able to equivocate like a Jesuit by using Canon Law.

You may think that the needs of your order and the needs of the Catholic Church are above the laws of the land.

You may find that different on Judgment Day!

Members of your order abused children in their care. There is overwhelming evidence of it. You are still covering this up till this day?

Do you never feel any shame?

How can you continue to go out and give Catholics moral advice when you have helped cover up terrible crimes that would have had Jesus in a rage?