QUENCHING OF THE SPIRIT – BY THE VATICAN —- Brian Mark Hennessy

QUENCHING OF THE SPIRIT – BY THE VATICAN

Written by Brian Mark Hennessy

In 2014, Pope Francis ordered an investigation into the Italian diocese of Albenga-Imperia, situated on the Italian coast between the port of Genoa and the state of Monaco. The Papal Nuncio, Adriano Bernadini, was given the task of finding out the truth behind the headline scandals in the Italian press. Shortly after he reported back to the Vatican, a new bishop, Guglielmo Borghetti was sent to the diocese to act as the de facto Bishop – and ultimately the former Bishop of 25 years, Mario Oliveri, handed in his resignation – which has been accepted by the Pope. Why?

Part of the reason is that Bishop Oliveri was a “traditionalist” – or at least he tolerated “traditionalist” priests who refused to abandon the Latin Tridentine Mass which was introduced in 1570 and was discontinued after Vatican II. This Mass, referred to now as the “forma antiquior”, is still favoured by some today even at the highest levels and, whilst it may be said by a priest in private, it is unacceptable in a public liturgy. Pope Francis admonished a Cardinal Prefect just a few weeks ago for publicly supporting it – and it is clear that the Tradentine is now a certain “gonner” in the public domain. Nevertheless, however much the old-headed Bishop, Mario Oliveri was under Vatican pressure on that issue, he did not resign over that matter specifically and just shortly before his normal retirement age. The reason is somewhat more topical and truly a scandal of major proportions.

What the Papal Nuncio Bernadini uncovered was a host of lurid claims: priests and seminarians posting naked photographs on gay websites and on Facebook, the sexual harassment of parishioners, accepting clerics from other dioceses with either questionable reputations or who had been dismissed already for misconduct by their previous Bishops, playboy priests moonlighting as barmen, priests who had committed theft from parish revenues, one priest accused of operating an under-age prostitution ring – and others living in non-celibate , openly gay relationships.

Jose phine McKenna, writing in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR online) says that Bishop Olivera distributed a farewell message on the diocesan website stating that he loved his diocese “and especially his priests”. The new bishop, Borghetti, said that he would seek to renew the diocese and his actions would please neither “traditionalists” and nor “progressives” – by whom he means, I suppose, clerical barmen and actively gay seminarians and priests who post nude photographs on Facebook and gay websites – and any priests running prostitution rings.

It might seem to some readers that the culture of the Irish Maynooth seminary, referred to in my recent article on this blog, has influenced the goings on in this Italian diocese – or vice versa – for both are running concurrently in the news. How did we get to this situation whereby it seems to be common practice now for clerics to indulge in unseemly activities “full face” in the glare of the public? Well in short, we have not just got to it now. It has always been there – both openly and in the background. The difference is that modern technology moves the shadowy, indiscreet, sexual and sometimes depraved acts of clerics into the public domain and limelight before the Church Hierarchy, traditionally more centrally placed in the aristocracy of both national and local communities, could stamp their foot on it. Yet – it does make you wonder what is still under wraps today – and what cannot get out into the public forum easily because it is still controlled by and within the impenetrable walls of the Catholic Church itself.

One such matter is the physical and sexual abuse of nuns by priests. The Vatican has known about this dark secret throughout history, but it has not yet surfaced to any extent, because it happens “in house” and is suffocated by vows of silence and obedience – and female oppression by dominant, male figures in cascades of ultimate authority over them. It is further complicated by the physical vulnerability of women who have no rights of appeal to anyone other than the male priests and male bishops in the local hierarchy. The record of the Vatican is not a beacon of light in this regard. An expert, professional, independent, civilian study of the large scale and widespread abuse of nuns, particularly in Africa and in Asia, was presented to the Vatican decades ago. The National Catholic Reporter in the United States took the issue on at the time. There was an initial clamour – then silence. The Vatican took no action that was made public. Nuns were told to report such matters to their Bishops. This the nuns had already done in many, if not all, cases before, but the Bishops had not even reported it to the Vatican as Canon Law dictated. They dealt with it locally by taking no appropriate and meaningful action at all against the priests – other than ultimately relocating them to places where they could re-offend. The blistering expert, professional, independent report was consigned to a “pending” office tray in the Vatican – from where it has never reached the light of day since. In this case, St Paul’s famous and oft’ quoted, “Quench not the Spirit” has been well and truly quenched by the all-male Vatican traditionalists.

That is not the end of the story, however, and there is hope. Some nuns have been emboldened by their female counterparts in civilian life and may no longer be prepared to accept the indignity of being abused without recourse to their full rights of justice – which include the full and rightful list of punitive measures of both Canon Law and the Civil Law being taken against offending clerics. The official Vatican taboo of uttering a single word about the physical, mental and sexual exploitation of nuns by priests may just be about to crack open again – and that opened can of worms may soon be swarming all over the marble floors of St Peter’s Square. For the readers of this blog who anticipate that somewhere in this article I will be making a reference to the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona Italy in this same regard – you need not hold your breath any longer – allegations of abuse of nuns by clerics of that Order are known to have been made.

Brian Mark Hennessy

 

 

The Shifting of the Moral High Ground – by Brian Mark Hennessy

The Shifting of the Moral Ground  –  by Brian Mark Hennessy

The Art of Telling Lies

I begin with a question. Do clerics have a monopoly of the “Truth” simply because they wear a white collar around their necks? For some, we would hear the riposte, “What is “Truth”? The answer to that is complicated – because there are ways, of course, apart from telling direct lies, of avoiding the truth. Language skills can achieve this by adding a simple word of condition such as “if”. Silence is another tactic that is disingenuous to the “truth” by suggesting “innocence” or “unaccountability”.  Semantics – the art of analyzing the subtle shades of the meanings of words – is widely employed to find an alternative that adeptly conceals the “Truth” – or suggests that another man’s sincerely attested “Truth” can be doubted.  Sadly – I should say regrettably – I know priests who use these ploys of ambiguity repeatedly. However, in the moment of their shameful utterances, most observers will see through them, their pious disguise will be undone – and the character of their “priesthood” will dissolve into a murky, meaningless morass. Any outward hint of the china-white charism they once appeared to have possessed is then shattered to the degree that it cannot be reconstructed without all the stained and dirty cracks offending the eyes of their beholders.  Despite the linguistic skills which some clerics engage to disguise their subversive purposes, even the most common of men will recognize their deceit at a glance. The white collar around their necks is no badge of “Truth”!

This blog has related so many incidents of clerical duplicity that it is pointless to reiterate them again. Suffice it to say, that, amongst others, the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, has deployed spokespersons with all the refined devices of denial in the repertoire to avoid admitting the truth of allegations of child sexual abuse that took place at their “now notorious” St Peter Claver College Mirfield Seminary in England. Such is the blind, inept folly of their cloak of self-righteousness – that they are unaware that their keen observers espy from afar their moral vacuousness through the fickle façade of their ecclesiastical robes. Nevertheless, the Comboni Missionary Order remains steadfast in committing themselves in perpetuity to their deliberately vague, but unconvincing denial of “Truth”. Those clerics of the Order that engage in this activity at the London Provincial and Roman Curia levels betray Christ Himself who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Light. No one comes to the Father except through Me” – words which demand that they both acknowledge and represent Christ as the “Way” to the Father and the Defender of “Truth”. Thus a dishonest priest plays a deadly game of charades. Deadly for themselves that is, for if they believe in what they profess, then they risk forfeiting their souls.

Hostile Litigation versus Honest Dialogue

Unfortunately, the Comboni Missionary Order is not alone amongst the clerics of the Catholic Church in their belief in unaccountable silence and the perversion of the “Truth” by any means. Most probably, the cause for their adoption of this tactic has a mixture of elements – which include clerical narcissism and arrogance – both of which conceal an inherent fear of disgrace and humiliation. To obviate the resultant unpleasant degradation that might ensue, therefore, they adopt the process of litigation which has an inherent, endemic posture of hostility – rather than straight forward humility and honesty which are the moral signposts to closure, healing and reconciliation. Litigation requires, ultimately, that they seek to destroy the reputations of the very victims that they themselves know to be telling the “Truth”. How much they expend in the preservation of their self-perception of dignity matters not – for the sole aim is not to admit the guilt of their knowledge of the abuse and their failure to prevent further abuse. It seems that they do not put a price tag on that. The sky is the limit. A simple example of this is that the Comboni Missionary Order were quite happy to ex-spend almost half a million pounds sterling (and much more by the time litigation has been completed) in legal fees without any admission of guilt in order to retain an aura of innocence of the claims of sexual abuse laid against them. Yet, all the claimants wanted was an apology foremost – moderate reparation and a dialogue that led to reconciliation. What the clerical establishment of the Catholic Church does not understand, due to their elitist isolation, is that their observers – the canny parishioners in the pews and the man in the street – can see through the bellicose smokescreen of litigation to the underlying act of damage limitation in which the Church is involved. That man in the street abhors and detests the vilification of victims of clerical abuse by the Church to a degree that equates to repugnance – and they will side, unsurprisingly, not with the Monolithic Conglomerate which is the Catholic Church, but with the hounded and wounded underdog – the victim.

The Man in the Street Gains the High Ground

The result of this clerical predilection for the expensive and hostile legal option is that the moral ground of the Catholic Church appears to have shifted away from its clerics in the former Christian, but very local heartlands, that were once typified by small communities living and working around their parish churches and religious communities. In the new media inter-related world, where news spreads globally faster than any ferocious forest fire ever could from one field to the next, it is now universally manifest that it is not the clerics, but the lay people in every walk of life that have sustained the righteous, moral outcry about the sexual abuse of children. Those lay people are horrified with the extent of the clerical abuse that has been endemic and unseen for so long in Catholic dioceses, institutions and Religious Orders. Moreover, what they have witnessed is that the abuse was and has remained largely unchecked, unreported and covered over by Bishops, Religious Leaders and the Vatican even when they had full knowledge of it. The huge scale of the Vatican’s comprehension of clerical sexual abuse is not a myth. The Vatican’s very own UN Ambassador, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, reported in 2014 that, in the previous decade, 3,400 incidents of clerical abuse (of whom 848 ended in defrocking) were reported to the Vatican. That is almost one case a day – and it is only the tip of the icebergs seething in the turmoil of Diocesan, Religious and the Curial murky seas of denial and cover-up.

Moreover, there is no point in the Curia Cardinal Muller at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith using statistics to point out that the percentage of paedophile clerics is no greater than that in civilian populations. We accept, albeit most reluctantly, that in the secular world there are many people with disturbed natures who, for either psychiatric or immoral reasons of self-gratification, target the innocents of the world. In comparison, Ordained clerics and Religious under vows, by virtue of their vocation, have always been set apart from that secular world and have been considered to be in a unique place of trust. The white collar and cassock were once akin to their badges of honour. They were often treated as members of the family and they were perceived, historically, to be utterly dependable. That trust is no longer there. The current, clear evidence for this lack of trust is that recent research in the United States, meticulously undertaken by eminently qualified economists and statisticians, demonstrates that, because of clerical child abuse, Catholic parishioners have stopped contributing to the Church and have walked away from its doors. Many have joined other religious denominations for worship. Some have withdrawn their children from Catholic schools – which has resulted in many school closures.

It is both undeniable and sadly unconscionable that the Catholic Church is in the distant “rear guard” in leading the fight to protect children from harm – and that the lead forward comes from the civil institutions at local, national and international levels. Despite some very creditable work (such as the Nolan Report, Cumberlege Report in the United Kingdom, and, in many countries, the establishment of Catholic Safeguarding Organisations) the Catholic Church, as a whole, continues to deny the full and hidden scale of abuse. It appears impervious to the “Truth” uttered by the voices of Victims and remains in denial and determinedly belligerent – even when the evidence is overwhelming and fully substantiated. Most grievously, as in the case of the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona Italy, clerics who have admitted historically that they were aware of the “Truth” of the abuse – because it had been reported directly to them by witnesses, now deny any knowledge of it. They do so on the instructions of their unscrupulous lawyers or superiors. By perpetrating their lies, they fail the “truthfulness” test of their priesthood. The laity, thought that priests were different – that they were always caring, straightforward and, ungrudgingly, downright honest. We were wrong.

Against this background, this erring Catholic Church is in disarray. It has already lost the moral high ground – and it is now fighting a confused, uphill, rearguard action of inept denial, pious rhetoric and blame shifting. It insinuates that survivors have false memories, vague recall due to the length of time since the event in the past or are abject liars. The Vatican issues edicts which are not followed. Nobody appears to know who is really in command. Its Cardinal and Bishop ranks do not agree nor act in a concerted way. Few individuals amongst them know who to follow – or they choose the leader that most accommodates their individual objectives or preferences. Some miscreant clerics who step out of line are hung, drawn and quartered. Others are given a pat on the back for the same offence. It is a game of “Lucky Dip” with awful consequences for the losers – who are sometimes those who part ranks with their derelict and depraved superiors and endeavor to choose an honest, humble and moral way out of the quagmire. It is not a pretty picture. You do not need a prophet to foretell the outcome. A brief perusal of the very recent press demonstrates the ongoing confusion.

Bless Me Father – For I am Confused

A few weeks back in June, Pope Francis decreed in an edict that Bishops and Religious Leaders guilty of looking the other way or covering up child abuse by priests within their congregations had committed a “crime” and would be removed from the clerical state.

The National Catholic Reporter stated this week that Archbishop Bernard Hebda, the newly appointed head of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese in the United States maintains that his diocese, which protected a paedophile priest who is now in prison, was guilty only of “failures” and not a “crime”. His precise words were: “A failure isn’t the same as a crime. That is a legal question, not a moral question. Committing a crime implies a criminal intent and is something altogether different from failing.” The Archbishop neglected the fact that in civil terms a “failure” to report a known paedophile is a crime in some jurisdictions, albeit I accept it may not be in others. More to the point, Pope Francis has stated quite clearly that he regards that such “failures” are “crimes” in both the Vatican State Jurisdiction and in Canon Law – which applies also in Archbishop Hebda’s diocese, presumably. As to the matter of intent – failure to take reporting action, whether to the civil and/or Church authorities, against an individual who sexually abuses a child (which is a criminal offence in all jurisdictions that I know of) cannot be said not to have been done without some degree of “intent”. Such a failure is a most serious moral issue and this year, canonically, has become a criminal issue also within the Catholic Church. Why does Hebda split hairs? A crime is a crime – not a spade.

At the same time as the above, it was reported in the Associated Press and NCR that Msgr. William Lynn, the first U.S. church official convicted for his handling of clergy sexual abuse allegations, has been released from prison on $250,000 bail. Lynn, 65, served as secretary for clergy for the Philadelphia archdiocese from 1992 to 2004. In the case, originally held in June 2012, a jury found Lynn guilty on a charge of child endangerment by not taking appropriate action in the case of the former priest Edward Avery. At the bail hearing, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams confirmed that his office will retry Lynn on the child endangerment charge. The civil courts in this case clearly believe that Lynn had intent – and his action to protect Edward Avery could not be construed as a “failure”, but must be understood as a “crime”. Clerical understatement has lost out in this case it seems?

Archbishop Hebda has also indicated that he considered that the separate issue of his predecessor’s alleged sexual behaviour was not a diocesan matter – but it was a canonical matter of the Roman Curia, (despite that it occurred within the diocese), and, therefore, any action should be taken not by him, but by the appropriate Vatican Congregation. It appears that despite his Civil and Canonical law degrees and whilst it is true that Canon Law does not allow a cleric to criticise his superiors in a hierarchy, he has not heeded the Vatican Guide to Canon Law that places responsibility for the original report on allegations and the initial investigation clearly on the shoulders of the Diocesan Bishop – which is now Hebda himself. If it were otherwise, how would the previous Bishop be held to account? Archbishop Hebda ignores also that his predecessor was not his superior anyway, but his equal. He is scrubbing his hands, somewhat vigorously, of the responsibility he has to ensure that his predecessor accounts for his grave sexual misbehaviour.

To add to the confusion and contradictions in the above passages, NCR recently reported that Bishop James Johnston Jr., head of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese since last November, was forthright in acknowledging charges of abuse by his predecessor, Robert Finn, the resignation of whom, Pope Francis accepted in April. The incident followed reports of sexual abuse in the diocese and Finn’s failure to report the abuse and remove priests from their parishes. No washing of hands there! All done and dusted!

Also reported in NCR was that the Vatican envoy to the United States quashed an investigation into alleged sexual activity on the part of Archbishop John Nienstedt, and ordered a piece of evidence destroyed. Fr. Dan Griffith, then-Delegate for Safe Environment for the archdiocese concerned, stated that in April 2014 Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., ordered two auxiliary bishops to have a law firm quickly cease its investigation – and later that month instructed the law firm to destroy a letter they had sent to Vigano in an effort to resist his request. At a subsequent press conference, attorney Jeff Anderson said the documents show the presence of a cover-up and urged Pope Francis to take “definitive action” against the officials involved, (presumably, Vigano, Nienstedt and the auxiliary bishops) by putting them in jail and removing them from the clerical state. Anderson said, “So Pope Francis, if your words mean anything, just do it. You have the power and the evidence is before you. Do it!” No action has been taken to date against the offending clerics!

The French press, Associated Press and the National Secular Society have all reported about the civil legal case concerning the most senior cardinal in France, Lyons’ Cardinal Philippe Barbarin. The charges against him were that he had failed to report suspicions of child abuse by a priest under his control, as is required by French law. The Pope, controversially, said publicly before any court decision on the case, that it would be “nonsensical and imprudent” to seek the archbishop’s resignation – despite the fact that Cardinal Barbarin, had already admitted to his errors in the management of certain priests who were alleged to be paedophiles. In other words, Cardinal Barbarin took no action against them and failed – with intent – to report them as he should have done – and the Pope was aware of this situation. Is this a case of double standards or not? Moreover, soon after the Pope’s comments, on the very day of an important court hearing in the charged cleric’s case, the Pope gave Barbarin an audience! Was this a deliberate act of intent by the Pope to put pressure on the French Court to save a friend – or pure coincidence? Subsequent to the events described above, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin was informed by the prosecutor, that the charges that he had failed to report suspicions of child abuse by a priest under his control, had now time expired. This “grand poisson” has got clean away!

In strange contrast yet again, Catholics in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraiba woke just a few weeks before to find that Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto was stepping down after having his resignation accepted by Pope Francis. The Vatican said the pope accepted his resignation in accordance with Canon 401.2 of the Code of Canon Law, which covers “ill health or some other grave cause”. In a letter about his resignation, the archbishop said he always tried to give the best of himself and admitted he made mistakes. “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. I made the mistake of being too trusting,” stated the letter. In fact, some of the priests taken in by Pagotto had been accused of pedophilia! The case was precisely the same as that of Cardinal Barbarin of Lyon, but the result was diametrically the opposite.

As late as 2015, Bishop Accountability wrote to the Philippine Government’s Council of the Welfare of Children regarding 12 specific priests, amongst a much larger number of about three dozen, for whom they had information of worrying, urgent, creditable allegations of child sexual abuse. Several of these dozen priests worked at some point in the United States, but were banned from U.S. dioceses following serious allegations of child rape and molestation. Apparently the priests sought refuge in the Philippines where they or their superiors believed they would escape either notice or the “arm of the law”. The letter further states that Filipino bishops appear to have legal impunity in retaining credibly accused priests in the service of the church and working in pastoral duties (and lists the specific locations of four of these priests). It is a matter of grave significance that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ document, “Pastoral Guidelines on Sexual Abuses and Misconduct by the Clergy”, categorically stated at that time that the Philippine Bishops, quite specifically, are not to adopt the practice of reporting accused priests to the law enforcement agencies. Bishop Accountability requested that the Government agency begins formulating legislation that would hold church officials accountable for preventing child sexual abuse by clergy. However, to date it appears that most, if not all of the specified priests are still active in the Philippines in parishes or institutions where they have uninhibited access to children.

Furthermore, the Monsignor Canonist for the archdiocese of the smiling Cardinal Archbishop of Manilla, Luis Antonio Tagle, pipped by some hopefuls to be the next Pope, stated in the Catholic Press that the parents of children abused by Catholic Clerics and their lawyers should “stop meddling in Church Affairs”. In others words, once you have reported the abuse, “butt out – because what action the Church takes against the cleric after that is nothing to do with you”. Cardinal Tagle skilfully explained this lapse in another way – “I think for us (in the Philippines), legal action, exposing persons, both victims and abusers, to the public, either through media or legal action, (just) adds to the pain.” The latest that I have heard about a solution to the Philippine Church’s diametrical variance with what is now decreed to be the categorical, universal Catholic practice of an “obligation” to report sexual abuse to the civil authorities – is that the Vatican has rejected the new draft proposals put before it by the Philippine Catholic Church – because it still contains the provision allowing priests to father one child in ministry – in what is scathingly called locally as the “one child per priest quota system.! (A check, before going to print, of the current Guidelines prepared by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines details two fundamental principles: “the protection of children and the preservation of the integrity of the priestly ministry. Through these Guidelines, the bishops commit themselves to transparency, accountability, and cooperation with civil authorities when handling cases of sexual abuse of minors committed by the members of the clergy”. I am unsure, however, how these principles are carried out in practice ).

Cardinal Luis Tagle, until a few weeks ago anyway, was still smiling profusely and, despite the grave inaction of his Bishops in the matter of child sexual abuse for decades, he has been rewarded by Pope Francis with the Presidency of Caritas International – the global charity of the Catholic Church – which presumably provides funds for children in need – possibly even for children who have been sexually abused by clerics or those fathered by Filipino bishops and priests. Currently, however, the Filipino Cardinal Tagle is not in the mood for rejoicing and has stopped smiling totally. The reason is that the new President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, claims he was abused as a child by a Jesuit priest in his Philippine Province of Mindanao – and he appears to be no friend of clerics. Recently, he insulted the Pope as a “Son of a Whore” on the latter’s visit to Manila – and has asked his supporters, “You know the most hypocritical institution? It is the Catholic Church! Even some bishops”, he stated, “were secretly married and forever begging favours from politicians”. “You sons of whores,” he said, “aren’t you ashamed?” Quite what will happen next, I am not sure. Will Cardinal Tagle offer the new President Duterte help to overcome the impacts of the sexual abuse that may have affected his psyche since his childhood – and has, perhaps, provoked the President’s current, unbridled rage – or will President Duterte, when he has solved the Philippine drug problem by extra-judicially eliminating and burying all drug users and sellers, turn his attention to rounding up and jailing abusive priests? Eventually, I suppose, what goes around – then comes around! So, perhaps Cardinal Tagle had better start to get his house in order – rapidly.

Nearer to home, in the Republic of Ireland, reports of rife homosexuality and abuse of junior seminarians by both clerics on the staff and senior seminarians (some of whom can be spotted in Gay Website photographs) has left the Irish Bishops in a flummox – apart from Archbishop Dairmund Martin it seems – who has sent his seminarians to Rome (another known hotspot for top to bottom rampant clerical homosexuality – I am told by an ex-Comboni Missionary Order scholastic who studied at the Vatican’s Gregorian University). The stories of abuse and abandonment of celibacy have been in the Irish press for an age – but there is, as yet, no sign of any action at all. Silence reins in the Conference Hall of the Irish Catholic Bishops regarding Maynooth. They appear to be content for the time being with their inaction! Perhaps those are grounds enough for Pope Francis to fire the lot of them. We do not expect anything so startling very soon, however. Nevertheless, those readers interested in spotting and questioning these twenty-five bishops about their apparent satisfaction with things as they are – and who continue to send vulnerable and immature young men to the institution in Co Kildare, Ireland, now known as the “Maynooth Gulag”, where they are “experimented on and turned into sex addicts” – according to Bishop Buckley (?) – can contact the latter’s “Wise Catholic Blog” and check out their photographs and the last place that the bishops were spotted. Reports can be made direct to the Vatican – who should by now, be on their tails also! Nevertheless, drawing on my personal experience – do not expect an answer soon – if ever.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is, most seriously, that within the Catholic Church, despite all the rhetoric, many known and, no doubt, many undisclosed, paedophile clerics remain protected in its midst and are often working with children and minors in the full knowledge of and acquiescence with the Prelates of the Church. The Pope himself openly appears to fail to act upon his own edicts with any uniformity whatsoever – and the offending Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops and Religious Leaders are not uniformly brought to account as the Vatican decrees that they should be. The Vatican Congregations, with many competing views, that may well be the result in some cases of “turf wars” for greater influence between their Prefects, are routinely at odds with each other and with those Prelates appointed to chair Papal Commissions. As a Consequence, there are unending contradictions in interpretation of edicts between these individual prelates and the hierarchies of diocesan Bishops and the Religious Superiors of the hundreds of Church Orders of men and women. A civil corporation would either be intolerant of such disorder – or go rapidly out of business.

The Vatican Curia has neither opened up and nor published the archives of its carnal history of child abuse despite United Nations claims that it should do so. Vatican Courts continue to determine the guilt and innocence of clerical sexual crimes in secret and without reference to Victims, instead of being openly informative for all to see. Moreover, the Catholic Church traditionally follows a blatant preference for this secrecy and silence in order to “avoid scandal’. I know it is thus depicted – for I have seen the word “scandal” written brazenly on 19 occasions in a Religious Order’s Code of Conduct which is authorized by the Curia Congregation to which it is subordinate. What is at the root of this secrecy? Simply, it is to continue a Medieval system of coercion and control – to hide truth and shame – to maintain arrogant clerical elitism – and to ensure ignorance of the laity by intellectual subjugation. What you do not know, hear or see cannot be questioned. Cloistered secrecy in trials of clerics, in some instances on pain of excommunication, has been a widespread practice in the history of the Church – even in the recent 20th century Church. Clerics from Rome to the ends of the earth have corrosively inherited this archaic mindset. Such practices amount, in their totality, to living the lies that they seek to conceal and refuse to confess. In stark contrast, all but the dictatorial and despotic Civil regimes of justice, are utterly transparent with their evidence, defence statements, deliberations, verdicts and the punishments of their judicial processes. In civil proceedings both claimant and defendant are present – and the outcomes are published unhesitatingly.

Globally, the Catholic Church expends not hundreds, not thousands, but millions in attempts to deny justice, reparation and rehabilitation to those who have been so grievously harmed by clerics when they were children. Through litigation the Catholic Church routinely provokes hostility within its ranks towards those that their clerics have so unjustly treated and victimised. What they have got so totally wrong – grossly wrong in fact – is that their misplaced pride rejects anything other than the meanest and most minimal admission by them of the disgraceful facts of their historical errors. Moreover, they still fail today, shamefully, to address their need to care, with universal, meaningful, Gospel-driven, contrition and humility, those that their wayward clerics have abused and abandoned. Whilst they claim to be the proponents of “Justice and Truth” – which are, according to their teachings, “Divine Attributes”, they fight a rear-guard action to deny those very same tenants of their religion to the victims of clerical sexual abuse. That is manifestly unjust and discreditable.  This combination of denial and indifference is a sign of abject arrogance, which hypocritically appeals for exemption and earthly impunity to an unearthly extraterrestrial authority – even in the most prosaic and universal earthly matter of a right of victims to processes of common justice. These are both gross moral failures and a spectacularly ridiculous and divisive lost opportunity to be seen to be occupying the high grounds of the very Justice and Truth that they preach. Their failure to be decisive, uniform and visible in the matter of the offending clerics is the Vatican’s new millennium “own goal” and a sensational media gift to its detractors. It is no wonder, universally, that congregations are walking out of church doors – never to return!

The title of this “tome” is “The Shifting of the Moral Ground”. There is a strong case to allege, however, that the moral ground may never have shifted. History suggests that this sophisticated, secretive, canonical, dogmatic, fabulously wealthy conglomerate – the Catholic Church has, as the rigidly hierarchical Curia-led “institution” of the Vatican – never occupied the high ground of morality since the days of the early Christian Church. That was before Emperors usurped the Church for its own purposes of Imperial security, legal domination and population control – and instituted a metamorphosis of the humble, enlightened, biblical bishops of local churches into the wealthy, worldly and politically motivated princes of an Empire. Before and since those days, the true moral high ground was “always” occupied by the uncomplicated believers who are the hard-working and unstintingly humble, dedicated preachers, laymen and women in the pews, fields, factories, offices and streets of every continent of this world!

The Pride of Lucifer

The Catholic Catechism proclaims that the sacrament of ordination “configures the recipient to Christ by a special grace of the Holy Spirit, so that he may serve as Christ’s instrument for His Church. By his ordination the priest is enabled to act as a representative of Christ, Head of the Church, in his triple office as Priest, Prophet and King. The Priest is the Defender of “Truth”, who stands with Angels, gives glory with Archangels, causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares Christ’s Priesthood, refashions Creation, restores it in God’s image, recreates it for the world on high and, even greater, is divinized and divinizes”. For me, as a layman, this tract from the Catechism projects a surrealistic image of priesthood that I neither recognize and nor, in anything like its fullest extent, can rationally equate to any priest that I have met. I am not saying that I have not met priests whom I have admired – for I most certainly have, but they were and remain today men of exceptional charism. Undoubtedly, there are more such men out there. Notwithstanding, if you push me, I am happy to go along with the Catechism definition of the ordained priest to the point that he most certainly “should” be a “Defender of Truth”. Yet, having said that, every person should have “Truth” as one of the fundamental building blocks of their character. Not all do, of course, but certainly, for a priest it must be an intrinsic quality. The priest owes that to himself and his vocation, his God, his Church and his flock. In essence, the priest should always choose the uncomplicated “Truth” when they know it – and with all the humility that it sometimes takes – and leave hostile litigation to the worldly realm of purely civil matters.

The Prophet Ezekiel tells us that there once was an Angel who held himself to be greater than his God – and he was banned from Eden – and his sin was pride. If “Truth” fails a priest in any circumstance for want of humility, his ordination is nothing more than a charade. If “Truth” fails a whole Church due to arrogance, then that Church becomes the corrupted ‘Betrayer’ of the Christ about whom it preaches – and it becomes the cataclysmic embodiment of the ‘Antichrist’. The Catholic Church must fear, lest by neglect, they bring that judgement upon themselves.

 

‘Act justly ..Love tenderly Walk humbly with your God’? — by F. Healy

‘Act justly ..Love tenderly Walk humbly with your God’?  

 

I want to express my feelings on hearing about the latest strategy of the Comboni Fathers to extricate themselves from the shame of protecting a paedophile priest from within their own ranks. I am shocked to hear that they have issued a summons for Mark Murray, (one of the survivors of such abuse), to appear before a court in Italy on 14th Sept 2016.

The charges are patently false: entering a place of worship through sliding doors represents trespass?; wanting to offer forgiveness to the one who abused you, represents interference in another’s life?; asking for permission to speak to someone & acting in accordance with the permission granted, represents stalking? I don’t think so.

How ironic that the charges include words such as ‘trespass’ ‘interference’ & ‘stalking’. While not referring to the possible legal interpretation of these terms, the following thoughts sprang to mind.

Have the Comboni Fathers not reflected on the words of Christ whom they profess to follow, ‘Forgive us our trespasses ..’ Who in this case needs forgiveness – the victim of the crime? – or the perpetrators? I am using the plural noun here because it seems to me, that it is not only Father Nardo that is guilty but also those who have protected him over the years.

For them now to accuse one of his victims of ‘interference’ in his life, is an extraordinary & shocking accusation, especially in view of the circumstances. It so happens, that for an adult to sexually interfere with a young boy as was the case at Mirfield, is a crime

The Comboni Fathers have offered to pray for Mark Murray & for those others who lives have been blighted by the interference they suffered as young people, while in the care of this religious institution. Well, when the Reverend Fathers engage in these prayers, do they ask for enlightenment? Do they plead for an understanding of the horrific nature of sexual abuse? Do they ask for the courage to do what is right & do they ask for forgiveness for their contribution to the suffering endured by all those, who in one way or another, have been affected by the actions of paedophile priests in their Order?

With regard to ‘stalking’: Do these representatives of Christ, in bringing the case against Mark Murray, (albeit under the guise of Fr Nardo’s legal guardian), have any concept of the way in which victims of sexual abuse, continue to be stalked by the experience, for the rest of their lives? But – who cares? Apparently not the Comboni Fathers

I am incensed, scandalized & hugely saddened by what they are doing by taking out this case against Mark Murray. I find it inconceivable that a survivor of sexual of abuse by a priest could then find himself subjected to this form of intimidation by other priests. Why? I can only imagine this is an attempt to protect their own reputation & to silence the erstwhile victim. The situation is compounded by the apparent rank hypocrisy & cowardice of the Order in lacking the integrity to put its own name to the summons.

‘Power corrupts’. What an excellent example of what this means.

Mark Murray is simply asking for an acknowledgement that the abuse took place & for an apology? That after so many years this request is still being ignored is in itself = a scandal.

Eventually we all have to account for our own actions. I doubt that I would be sleeping too soundly had I been party to issuing this summons. The fear of an even greater call, to stand before the throne of God, might keep me awake. However to experience such unease, I would have had to examine my conscience.

I cannot see Christ reflected in the actions of these so called ‘missionaries’. Isn’t there something in the bible that instructs us to: ‘Act justly ….. Love tenderly Walk humbly with your God’?

Pause for thought anyone?

 

 

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.

Mark Murray in Verona — by Brian Mark Hennessy

Mark Murray in Verona

By Brian Mark Hennessy

 

In his final paragraph of his narrative at Santa Marta in 2014, His Holiness, Pope Francis said, “Jesus comes forth from an unjust trial, from a cruel interrogation and he looks in the eyes of Peter, and Peter weeps”. This is the reference to Peter who had thrice denied that he knew Christ – and the cock crowed as Christ had foretold that it would. That Cock continues to crow within the Catholic Church as clerics obfuscate, as secrecy covers the truth, as the avoidance of scandal denies justice, as Victims like Christ himself are falsely accused, ill-used, have suffering upon suffering heaped upon them by a sometimes un-Christian, malicious priesthood which is akin to that of the Pharisees and Saducees who were bent on preserving their hierarchical dominance, their self-deception of moral superiority and the comforts of their “way of life”. Peter wept for his sins of denial and gained Redemption. Yet, there will be no Redemption for those clerics of the Catholic Church who continue to deny the sexual abuse of children in their care.

 

The Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, have been severely wounded by the accusations of numerous incidents of sexual abuse of minors by clerics of their order – yet they show none of the repentance of Peter. They have not yet taken the trouble to undergo the rigorous and painful self-examination necessary to grow morally and spiritually enough in order to accept the reality that members of their Order abused kids and that they knew about, did nothing about it – and have concealed it and denied it ever since. The psychologist, Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea, puts it well: “The earliest response of the (Church) institution is to preserve its long-held identity as a source of goodness and godliness. Yes, its leaders acknowledge in a vague way that of course there is sin within the church, but the sense is always that sin is somehow a general thing and not assigned to specified actors in the church drama. I sin, you sin, we all sin is an implied mantra that attempts to diminish the criminality and evil of priests who sexually violate kids, and of bishops (and religious Superiors) who protect perpetrators and cover up abuse. Church officials lie, deny and project blame on victims, on parents of victims, on a sexually liberated and sexualized culture, on bad apple priests, on the ’60s and on the media. They can see the enemy and it is not them”.

 

A British Admiral, famously, once put a telescope to his blind eye and announced, “I see no ships!” and he then proceeded to disobey his orders. The Comboni Missionary Order in their cruel, moral blindness have claimed, “I see no Victims!” and they have then proceeded to ignore every moral creed, Church Canon, Civil Law, obligations to the Bishops’ Conferences of the British Isles, their undertakings to Safeguarding Practices and their very own Code of Conduct. Their Redemption, that can only be gained through Gospel-inspired humility. Yet any repentance on their part is a far distant hope, as the following tale witnesses:

 

A meeting between Mark Murray, one of many Survivors of clerical sexual abuse at the Comboni Missionary Order’s Mirfield seminary, Yorkshire and his Abuser, Father Romano Nardo, had always been denied by the Superior Generals of the Comboni Missionary Order, but Mark never gave up on the possibility of the chance of achieving an understanding as to why the abuse had taken place – why this man who had so befriended him as a child – had then cruelly betrayed his trust and destroyed his innocence. Thus in April 2015, Mark Murray took it upon himself to journey from North Wales to Verona in Italy in a final attempt to confront his Abuser. Mark has been in trauma for the most part of his life. For his own peace of mind Mark needed to know “Why?” this priest, who had already admitted that he had taken the boyhood Mark Murray to his bed, had committed the long series of sexual crimes against him. He knew those crimes had taken place – because they happened to him – and the details of the abuse recurred constantly in his mind. Since Mark had first made the allegations of abuse, the Order had brought Mark’s abuser back from Uganda investigated the allegations and then confined him to the Mother House of the Order for some two decades so that he had no further contact with children – and that priest had accepted his confinement without apparent complaint. It can be logically deduced the neither such confinement by the Order nor acceptance of it by the abuser would have been reasonable behaviour if there was not good cause!

 

As Mark Murray arrived at the Verona Mother House, he walked through the open gateway and up the path and then straight in through their first set of sliding doors. There he asked the receptionist if he could go and pray in the chapel; she said that he could – and opened the next set of doors and pointed him in the direction of the chapel door. He entered the chapel and walked around it and then sat at the back on one of two chairs. He composed himself and then decided “This is it!” and that that was the moment he needed to face Father Nardo. So he went back to the receptionist and, using the name of Christophoro, the Italian equivalent of his third name, he asked her to see Padre Romano Nardo. He listened as the receptionist was speaking on her intercom and announcing to Father Nardo that Christophoro was here in the chapel. Whilst Mark was sitting there in the chapel, he was crying in his heart, not knowing what to do. Father Nardo was on his way and he was afraid of losing his courage at the last moment. Then the sound of a cuckoo, and the yaffing call of a Green Woodpecker distracted him, calmed him and gave him strength.

 

When Father Nardo entered the room, he looked at Mark Murray in complete shock. Then, after a few seconds Mark said, “ Do you remember me?” Father Nardo appeared unable to speak and initially stood in silence, saying nothing, but then mouthed inaudibly the word “No” and so Mark said “I am Mark Stephen Christopher Murray.” There was no response from the priest, who then sat down next to his unexpected visitor. The two remained there, side by side in silence, for a long time – each struggling to recall the events of the sordid past that they had experienced together. “Do you remember Mirfield?” Mark persisted. “Look at me! Look at me! Can you look at me?” After a while, Mark then said, “Do you realise what effect the abuse you did to me has had on my life, my wife’s life and my children’s life? You abused me. I spent many years thinking I would wake up one morning and start abusing children because I was abused by you.”. Father Nardo got off his chair and knelt on the floor mumbling : “If it is my fault that you bear a heavy cross, I believe I should ask the Lord for forgiveness, for having erred. I’m sorry. I’m very sorry. If what happened in your life was caused by me and if what you are saying is true, I am truly sorry and ask for forgiveness”. Mark Responded, “I came here to forgive you”. Mark Murray then told Father Nardo to get the Superior or someone in authority. Father Nardo left the chapel. Mark waited for about ten minutes and as Father Nardo had not returned, he went outside and discovered Father Nardo walking up and down the corridor. He was on his own and then another man appeared. Mark noticed that he was a member of the Order, but he recollects that this man had more the manner of a “Security Official” than a cleric. The “Official” could not speak English and so Father Nardo had to translate what Mark was saying to him. It was a surreal experience Mark later remarked. Mark asked the “Official”, if he knew who he was. Nardo translated and , yes, the “Official” knew his identity. The two clerics argued then about how Mark had managed to get in the house and why Father Nardo had come down to see him. Soon after this, Mark left saying that he would be back the next day to speak to Father Sanchez. As it was stated then that Sanchez, the Superior General, was in Rome, Mark said, “Get him to fly back from Rome. Get the Superior of this house here tomorrow. I will be back”. He left, shaking, crying and struggling to retain his self control.

 

The next day, Mark returned to the Verona Mother House of the Order and he was let in. This time a different Priest arrived who said that he was the Vice Superior of the house. He was surly in his manner and Mark was already on his guard for an unpleasant encounter. It was hot and Mark asked for some water. The response from the Vice-Superior was that there was no need for Mark to be there and he then threatened Mark with the Italian law of trespass for being on private land. When Mark asked the priest if Father Nardo was there, the priest said that he was not. The priest again threatened Mark with the force of Italian law and in a game of semantics, the Vice Superior changed tactics and said words to the effect of, “Father Nardo is not here. You can see he is not here. He is not in this room. Can you see him?”. After further unsatisfactory exchanges, Mark turned to leave with the Priest calling after him in slanderous and defamatory words to the effect that Mark was just another “money grabber”. Mark said that he would return in the evening at 6.00 pm. The Priest told him that the Superior of the house, who was apparently in Bari in the South East of Italy, had decided to come back early to see him and Mark should be happy that he had decided to do so. Mark responded, “How dare you tell me when I can be happy”. The Vice Superior laughed in sardonic derision at Mark and smirked as Mark turned to leave.

 

Mark returned at 6.00pm as arranged and introduced himself as Mark Murray. The Vice Superior and the “Official” arrived and Mark was led into a side room where he was to wait. Mark asked for a glass of water and said that he wanted to see the Superior of the House and the Superior General, Enrique Sanchez. At that point the “Official” left. The Vice Superior remained in the room standing. He rubbed his eyes, refused to answer questions and distracted himself by fiddling with the door handle. Mark told him that he was the most arrogant man that he had ever met. The Vice Superior laughed scornfully and replied that Mark was the first person in all his 75 years of life that had ever told him that he was arrogant. The Priest had not liked that charge of arrogance. Mark noticed how mortified and taken aback he was and so he said to the Vice Superior, “You have no empathy, nor understanding about the psychological abuse you and your order continue to do to many men that were abused by your priests at Mirfield. How do you sleep at night?” The Vice-Superiors response was, “I sleep very well”.

 

The “Official” then returned with the message that it was not the Superior of the House that Mark needed to speak to, but the Superior General, Enrique Sanchez, who was in Rome. The Vice Superior and the “Official” then went outside and had a conversation in Italian. On entering the room again, the “Official” informed Mark that the Order’s legal representative was on his way. He arrived about 5 minutes later – obviously having been briefed of Mark’s presence beforehand. Mark left the room and asked the legal representative if he spoke English, but the man intimated that he did not. Mark repeated that he wanted Enrique Sanchez “to come here to Verona and tell him why he was harbouring a child abuser in the Verona Mother House”. They were taken aback by this charge and they countered by threatening Mark again that he had broken the Italian law on privacy by entering a private house – to which Mark responded that he had entered through an open door. They then said that Mark had broken a law by not using his full name, albeit “Christopher” was one of his names and presumably, he can use which of his names that he wants, and they said that they were now on the phone to the Carabinieri. Mark left.

 

The Superior General never came to speak to Mark, but the Superior of the House, who had cut his holiday short arrived back in Verona and a meeting was arranged for the next day. On arrival, Mark noted immediately that the Superior had a more relaxed manner than his deputy and he introduced himself as “John” and offered Mark coffee. Nevertheless, it was a relatively brief meeting and the outcome was not positive. Mark said, “I saw Nardo yesterday” and the immediate response from the Superior was, “You are not supposed to see him.” Mark asked, “Why not?” and the response was, “Because he is here for a special reason – he is not well and so he cannot see anybody. The only person you should be in touch with is Father General. Here we want privacy; we are sick persons. We do not want you to encounter anybody here. I do not know anything (else). The only thing I know is we do not want you to meet anybody here.” Mark then said, “I met Nardo here two days ago.” and the rejoinder from the Superior was, “You were not supposed to – he is not well.” The Superior continued and asked, “Do you know Father Martin Devenish?” Mark’s reply was , “Yes.” “You deal with him?” inquired the Superior. “I do not.” was Mark’s answer and he continued, “He threatened me with the police last time I spoke with him.” The Superior then moved the conversation again – on to the inevitable subject – and asked, “How can the institute apologise? For what?”   “The abuse!” Mark responded. To that the Superior said, “I cannot say anything.” Mark’s reply was, “That is all I get. Everyone says to me, “I cannot talk (to you). The only person that has talked to me was Nardo. You are not talking to me!”. “(That is) because I have nothing to say,” was the Superior’s response. Mark was feeling frustrated at the lack of any substantive response and stated, “You have a man here in this house who abused children!” The Superior replied, “And he is taken care of.” Mark continued, “I came two days ago and he came down stairs to see me!”. The Superior replied blandly, “Somebody made a mistake.” The Father Superior continued, “Rather than concentrating on an apology you should look towards the future with a positive attitude. (Being) here will not help you in any way. So it does not pay for you to stay in Verona because you (will) not see anybody.” Mark responded, “I am here until I see someone who apologises.” The reply from the Priest was, “You will be waiting in vain.” At this Mark asked in exasperation, “Why are (the Comboni Missionaries) so frightened of apologising? You (only) say you will pray for me!” The pious rejoinder of the priest was, “There is nothing greater than prayer.”It was not what Mark wanted to hear and he said in a determined tone, “It has not helped me!” Then the final words of the Father Superior were, in the circumstances, a lame, “I hope it helps!.”

 

Mark realised that since his arrival nothing had changed. Their cold hearts remained frozen. Their ears were still deaf to cries for help and the need for suffering to be addressed. The Order’s denials to his plight had been re-stated with the same indifference that the Order had displayed for years previously. It had been demonstrably stated, in fact, that his needs were subordinate to those of the paedophile priest who had abused him as a child and who had scarred his life ever since. He had been offered not one word of comfort or hope. He had received none of the assurances he had been seeking. There was no breakthrough, no offer of apology, no reconciliation, just prayers and more prayers. In an unwilling moment of frustration, resignation and a sense of failure, he said a curt, “Goodbye!” and left. Mark thought to himself “More prayers!” He did not want their prayers. He had had enough of their prayers over the years. Their prayers were just a convenient and pious “cop out” that shirked their true responsibilities to the Victims of this world. Their prayers had not assuaged his anxieties and suffering. An apology, just might have been the start of a new beginning. An apology turned out to be a hope too far!

 

The meetings described above are worthy of comment for what happened was not just a chilling exposition of the arrogance and pitiless behaviour of clerics in our own age, but it was a role reversal of sorts. The former Victim had metamorphosed and was now a man of courage. He had arrived unannounced in the den of the Abuser and those protecting him and he had suddenly caught them off guard. The Abuser, Father Romano Nardo, could not look Mark Murray, the Victim, in the face. When people avert their gaze they pretend not to see what they have just seen and pretend not to realise what they have just realised. For a man accused of crimes, his mind would then have harboured the fear of losing, in the future, the things that he now has. Father Nardo was wounded by the meeting and in trauma. He had suddenly had to deal with the confusion that his self-deception of a lifetime had been a lie. He had thought this moment would never come and that his life-time of comfortable self-belief would have continued until he was committed to his grave. He had made an “if” apology, but what was that apology for? He had not conceded his guilt. That would have destroyed him totally and he was not able to endure that. So his “if” apology was not a specific apology for crimes committed, but it took the form of a vague and evasive comment which had no precise meaning. In those moments, he had been faced with a myriad of mental tasks to grapple with. His mind was unable to grasp control of the unexpected dilemma of his “guilt” for crimes and suffering. So, he must have wrestled in his mind with his options, which were to remain silent or to walk away.

 

The Vice Superior of the Order, who perceived himself to be the giant in his own cloister, was diminished in stature and displayed the apparent, unconcerned behaviour that many men demonstrate when they are faced with unexpected and disturbing odds that had not been  previously encountered. He suddenly could not continue to play his role in the Order’s game of “deafness to the cries of victims” any more and his contempt for the abuse Survivor was akin to those pointless efforts that are made when someone of self-perceived esteem is confronted by a degree of strength and determination to which he is unused. Thus he sought to retain control by derision and by taunting the Victim of his Order’s neglect, insensitivity and indifference. There is another word for this kind of arrogance. It is called “Revictimisation”.

 

The Superior of the Order’s Mother House was more relaxed and pleasant to Mark Murray. However, his words were not what Mark had wanted to hear for what he said in effect was. “Go Home. You will get nothing from us. Buck up and get over it!”. That is not the sort of advice one would expect from a concerned and well-intentioned pastor, but more the language of someone who is totally disinterested in the person being addressed. This is important to note in the overall context of this document. Mark Murray is a Victim who has contemplated suicide. The Comboni Missionary Order know this as it is in his statement. In the United Kingdom, suicides amongst men of all ages have been increasing year on year and currently they account for almost 80% of all suicides. It has been deduced by substantial research that one of the most significant factors contributing to male suicides is the pressure of society on men to repress anxieties and get on with life. “Man up!”, “Grit your teeth”, “Grin and bear it” and “Get a grip” are the common expressions aimed at men anguished by a dilemma or problem. Thus what this research reveals is that a man’s induced inability to talk about his anxieties to another person and his failed attempts to manage those anxieties within himself is one of the main contributory factors of a male person’s suicide. In effect, therefore, the Comboni Missionary Order’s failure to accept any responsibility for the abuse of minors at their Mirfield seminary, coupled with their determined efforts to have no dialogue with Victims about it at all is a most damaging strategy. Mark Murray had arrived in Verona after many decades of suffering from anxieties about his abuse. He needed to talk about it. He had made many attempts to get a dialogue going and one by one they had refused to talk to him. That continuous failure of care of the Order that had at times been hostile, is what had forced him to make his trek to Verona unannounced. What happened? He was told to go away and sort it out himself. That is not just devastating revictimisation. For some, such disinterested denial of dialogue could be a “death sentence”.

 

Unknown to the Order, the Italian Media Company, La Repubblica, had expressed a wish to cover the story of Mark Murray’s visit to Verona to seek dialogue with his Abuser. A co-operation on the visit thus ensued betweeen them and was ultimately revealed to the Order. The subsequent actions of the Order in the days following this confrontation appears to demonstrate that they may have glimpsed the realisation that their game of denial was at an end and that a new unpleasant and unfamiliar reality called the exposure of the “truth” was rushing towards them with gathering speed. Soon, the exposure of a sordid history of lies and cover-up might mean that their control of their little Veronese empire might be at an end and that then only moral oblivion awaited them. Their arrogance and pride and false self-esteem, in which they had found such comfort, had become the harbinger that would foreshadow their own ultimate downfall. Their response to Mark Murray’s visit and their fear of exposure to the world at large was to try to scare him off. Thus they informed La Repubblica news outlet who was running the story of Mark’s visit to Verona, that they intended to sue Mark Murray on the grounds that:

 

 

  • Firstly, they claimed that Mark had entered the Mother House using a false name to gain entry, albeit Christopher is one of his names and he can choose, presumably, whichever of his names he wishes to use.
  • They claimed that he was drunk, because their lack of understanding and empathy failed to assist them in the realisation that what they were witnessing was not drunkenness, but the reactions of a man whom they had denied for two decades – and that this venture to seek an apology, truth and reconciliation had taken enormous courage and emotional control – and thus there had been a severe toll on him in terms of strain, agitation, frustration. foreboding and fear of both failure and a loss of courage.
  • They claimed that his drunkenness had forced them to call the Carabinieri – albeit they told him that they had called the police because he was trespassing on private property. In respect to that claim of trespass that had been made by them, they appear to have neglected that he had walked through an open gate and an open door and talked to the receptionist, who then allowed him to enter the chapel and who subsequently called Father Nardo to meet him. Moreover, their claim of trespass was stridently false in relation not only to the first visit of Mark, but also for the remaining visits, because the Comboni Missionary Order had agreed for him to return for further meetings at specific times, which he had done.
  • They claimed he might return and injure Father Nardo for which there was not a shred of evidence – for the two had sat in silence side by side in the Chapel for most of the visit and had exchanged only a relatively few quiet words.
  • They claimed that Father Nardo had now been victimised and that Mark Murray was the persecutor, albeit Mark Murray was only asking for an apology, which is what a Victim would ask for and he did not make any threats. Father Nardo may have suffered “trauma”, but he was not the “victim”. He was the Abuser of the Victim.
  • They claimed that Mark Murray and all the other claimants associated with him, were only trying to extract money from the Order, albeit Mark Murray did not mention the word “money” once, but what he did say was that he wanted an “apology”.

 

Before these events, Mark Murray was invited, along with two other survivors, by the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service to address a Conference in Rome that will be attended by the English speaking Bishops of the world and by professionals and experts in the field of Clerical Child Abuse. After his invitation was announced, the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, have, through the courts of Verona, initiated prosecution proceedings for crimes that Mark Murray committed against Father Romano Nardo and the Order whilst he was in their house in Verona.  The journalist, Marco Ansaldo, who covered the original story in the Italian News outlet “La Repubblica”, has also been summoned. It seems that to save themselves from the difficult process of rigorous and painful self-examination, the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, have decided to discredit both the Victim of Child Sexual Abuse and his Messenger.

 

As Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea has said of Clerics of the Catholic Church who seek to conceal the sexual abuse of children, “I sin, you sin, we all sin is the implied mantra that attempts to diminish the criminality and evil of priests who sexually violate kids, and of bishops (and religious Superiors) who protect perpetrators and cover up abuse. Church officials lie, deny and project blame on victims, on parents of victims, on a sexually liberated and sexualized culture, on bad apple priests, on the ’60s and on the media. They have seen the enemy and it is not them!”

 

Well – the sexual abuse of children surely is a sin theologically, but it is also a crime – and covering up a crime and protecting paedophiles is complicity in the crime. The populations of the world understand that and civil institutions of the world acknowledge that in their legal systems. The Catholic Church and its Bishops and Religious Leaders cannot claim extra-terrestial exemption – and they will be brought to account – if not in the Law Courts that can impose sanctions – in the much more devastating Court of public opinion.

Removal of Bishops or Heads of Religious Communities Negligent on Sexual Abuse — by Joshua J. McElwee, Rome

Francis gives Vatican authority to initiate removal of bishops negligent on sexual abuse –  by Joshua J. McElwee,    Rome

The new measure, comprised of five short articles, allows “the competent congregation of the Roman Curia” to begin investigations of local bishops, eparchs, or heads of religious communities when the congregation suspects a leader’s negligence has caused “physical, moral, spiritual or patrimonial” harm.

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Pope Francis has signed a new universal law for the global Catholic church specifying that a bishop’s negligence in response to clergy sexual abuse can lead to his removal from office.

The law also empowers several Vatican dicasteries to investigate such bishops and initiate processes of removal, subject to final papal approval.

The move, made by the pontiff in a formal document known as a motu proprio on Saturday, appears to represent a significant moment in the worldwide church’s decades-long clergy sexual abuse crisis.

In case after case in the past, the Vatican and church officials would dig in to protect bishops even when there was substantial documented evidence of negligence on their behalf. Now, the pope has formally mandated that the church’s offices in Rome must prosecute bishops who fail in protecting children.

“Canon law already foresees the possibility of removal from the ecclesial office ‘for grave causes,'” Francis states in a short preamble to the new law, given the Italian name Come una madre amorevole (“Like a loving mother.”)

“With the following letter I intend to specify that among those ‘grave causes’ is included negligence of bishops in the exercise of their office, particularly relative to cases of sexual abuse against minors and vulnerable adults,” he continues.

 

 

Marie Collins, a member of Francis’ Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and an abuse survivor, told NCR she welcomes the new procedures and “hope they will succeed in bringing the accountability survivors have waited for so long.”

“The most important aspect of any new procedure is its implementation and that is what we must wait to see,” she said.

Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the head of the commission, called the motu proprio “clearly an important and positive step forward.”

“We are grateful that our Holy Father has received the recommendations from our Commission members and that they have contributed to this new and significant initiative,” he said.

The new measure, comprised of five short articles, allows “the competent congregation of the Roman Curia” to begin investigations of local bishops, eparchs, or heads of religious communities when the congregation suspects a leader’s negligence has caused “physical, moral, spiritual or patrimonial” harm.

“The diocesan bishop or the eparch or whoever has the responsibility for a particular church, even if temporarily … can be legitimately removed from his position if he has by negligence, placed or omitted acts caused serious harm to others, whether their physical persons or the community as a whole,” states the first article.

“The diocesan bishop or eparch can be removed only if he has objectively been lacking in a very grave manner the diligence that is required of his pastoral office,” it continues, specifying: “In the case of abuse against minors or vulnerable adults it is sufficient that the lacking of diligence be grave.”

The law obliges the Vatican to notify the local bishop or leader of the investigation and to give him the possibility to produce relevant documents or testimony.

“To the bishop will be given the possibility to defend himself, according to the methods foreseen by the law,” it states. “All the steps of the inquiry will be communicated to him and he will always be given the possibility of meeting the superiors of the congregation.”

 

 

The law states that “if it becomes necessary to remove the bishop” the congregation involved in the matter can either proceed “to give, in the shortest time possible, the decree or removal” or “to exhort the bishop fraternally to present his resignation within 15 days.”

“If the bishop does give his response in that time, the congregation can release the decree of removal,” it states.

All decisions by Vatican congregations, the law states, “must be subjected to the specific approval of the Roman Pontiff.” The pope, it continues, will be assisted in making his decision “by a special association of legal experts of the designated need.”

The new law appears to modify a suggestion Francis was given last year by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to create a new tribunal at the Vatican to judge bishops who respond inappropriately to sexual abuse claims.

Where a new tribunal would have likely required much time and effort to create, the law deputizes current Vatican offices to undertake that work.

The U.S.-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said in a statement they were “highly skeptical” of the pope’s new law.

“A ‘process’ isn’t needed,” said the group. “Discipline is what’s needed. A ‘process’ doesn’t protect kids. Action protects kids. A ‘process’ is helpful only if it’s used often enough to deter wrongdoing. We doubt this one will be.”

Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, said in a note Saturday that four Vatican congregations would be charged with investigating prelates: for Bishops, for the Evangelization of Peoples, for the Oriental Churches, and for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The Vatican’s chief doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, will not be involved with the new law “because it is not a matter of crimes of abuse but of negligence of office,” Lombardi said.

The spokesman also said that the “special association” that is to assist the pope in deciding on these matters will be a new group of advisers and “you can foresee that this association will be composed of cardinals and bishops.”

The new law is to take effect Sept. 5.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent.

His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

 

Goddard Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse – also known as IICSA

A new category has been added to the veronafathersmirfield.com Blog.

The category comes under the heading the ‘Goddard inquiry.’

This Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA( will investigate whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales.

The Inquiry, more commonly known as the Goddard Inquiry will:

– identify institutional failings where they are found to exist;

– demand accountability for past institutional failings;

– support victims and survivors to share their experience of sexual abuse, and make practical recommendations to ensure that children are given the care and protection they need.

The Inquiry is independent of government.

The Inquiry is led by Hon. Dame Lowell Goddard, who is supported by a Panel, a Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel, and other expert advisers.

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If there are people who were abused as children by the Comboni Missionaries, and want the Comboni Missionaries – also known as the Verona Fathers – to be questioned and held accountable for the childhood abuse they suffered, they can contact the Goddard Inquiry direct by using the link:

https://www.iicsa.org.uk/share-your-experience

…or you can make contact through the Blog.

Mark.

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

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.