Refusing to accept

Apparently the Catholic church gets to, or thinks it gets to, decide for itself whether it will or will not be held accountable for years and years of child rape in one of its institutions. The NSS reports:

The Catholic Church is refusing to accept “liability” for long-term sex abuse that went on at the Mirfield Junior Seminary, despite paying out £120,000 to eleven victims of child sex abuse.

The seminary, which closed down in 1984, was run by the Verona Fathers (now known as the Comboni Missionaries) and saw sexual abuse perpetrated by priests against children as young as 11.

But the church can just say no, right? It can just say no we didn’t and we refuse to accept liability, right? That’s how it works with rape, right? People can just say “no I didn’t” and that’s the end of it?

Three Catholic priests of the Verona Fathers are said to have repeatedly abused boys in their care. Now twelve of their victims have joined together to campaign for justice. The former pupils have launched a website to share their experiences of the seminary, called Mirfield Memories, and to offer support for their fellow victims.

A website! Oh my god – won’t somebody please think of the priests? Such accusations should never ever be discussed on blogs or websites! The horror!!

The men’s efforts have led to many of their fellow pupils coming forward to describe their own experiences of abuse at the Mirfield Seminary.

In a press release the “Mirfield 12” describe some of the abuse they suffered at the hands of the Verona Fathers. One of three priests accused of abuse, Fr Pinkman, “used to bring boys, as young as 11 to his bedroom, to explain the facts of life to them and ask them to remove their clothes so that he could explain further. He went on to abuse many of them”.

One of the boys, Anthony Smith, recalls how Pinkman “pinned me against the wall and kissed me all over my face, rubbing himself against me”.

Smith, then 11 years old, felt unable to report the abuse to his parents, as the Missionaries read every letter the children sent to the outside world. Eventually, he informed the Rector of the seminary who “didn’t say a word” in response to the allegations.

But the church says it doesn’t accept liability! So surely all these people who say they were victims have to shut up about it. Don’t they?

The “Mirfield 12” believe that the Catholic Church is still refusing to take responsibility for the culture of sexual abuse that existed at Mirfield.

The sole surviving priest, Fr Romano Nardo, is still living with the Verona Fathers in Italy. On one occasion during the period of the sex abuse, a child was spotted leaving Nardo’s bedroom at night and the priest was immediately moved away from the seminary. West Yorkshire Police have reviewed evidence and concluded that crimes were committed, but are “unable to get an extradition order” to bring Nardo to the UK for questioning. The Comboni Missionary order have stated that the priest is “not in a mentally stable enough condition to travel”.

So there you go – case closed, nobody talk about it ever again.

One of the victims claims the abuse was carried out over two decades. The campaigners note that when Fr Valmaggia was reported, he was immediately sent away to Italy, whilst Nardo was dispatched to Uganda when one child was seen leaving his bedroom at 6am one morning.

The child in question, Mark Murray, reported Valmaggia to the Church and the police in 1997; however the priest was simply returned to Italy. According to the campaign, “none of the priests were ever reported to the police by the Comboni Missionaries, they were simply moved elsewhere”.

So, therefore, no one is allowed to talk about it now. Right?

Recent years have seen a raft of such cases coming to light, and Pope Francis “begged” for forgiveness from the victims and condemned the Church’s “complicity”. For the Mirfield 12 however, the Catholic Church still has a “long way to go before true and honest dialogue and change occurs”.

Nardo remains safe from extradition, and not a single priest involved in the abuse, or the subsequent cover-up, has ever faced prosecution. The Verona Fathers claim that the sex abuse “had not been proven” and after the compensation money was paid by the Comboni Missionaries, a spokesman for the order claimed that “given the passage of almost half a century, we will never know the truth of what happened”.

So let’s just forget all about it and never mention it again. Yes?

On the website, Murray recounts an exchange he recently had with the Bishop of Verona, Giuseppe Zenti, who offered “prayers” to the victims. Murray complains that “I am not short of people praying for me”, and described his frustration with the stonewalling by Church authorities. The forum of the website is full of comments and experiences from victims, a sad testament to the widespread nature of the sex abuse that went on at Mirfield.

At the time of writing more victims plan to speak to West Yorkshire Police about their experiences at Mirfield, and the Mirfield 12’s website has drawn significant attention from former pupils, some of whom believed they were the only victims of Valmaggia, Pinkman and Nardo, before seeing the many testimonies collected on the Mirfield Memories website.

But that’s exactly why you’re not allowed to talk about it! This is all very bad for those rapey priests!! Shut up shut up shut up!!!


  1. Rob says

    Ophelia, I’m detecting a certain level of snark. Not sure though…

    (Yes I bloody well am! I hope a certain group of ‘people’ are cringing and shifting awkwardly in their seats. then again, that would require empathy, reason, logic and the ability to self evaluate.)

  2. grumpyoldfart says

    The men’s efforts have led to many of their fellow pupils coming forward to describe their own experiences of abuse at the Mirfield Seminary.

    A similar thing happened in America decades ago.

    I can’t remember any names or places, but an ex-Catholic student wanted to start a complaint about “Brother Alfonso” (a sexual abuser at his old school). He put an ad in the personal column of the local newspaper. He didn’t include any details because he didn’t want to ask any leading questions. His ad was quite simple: “Do you remember Brother Alfonso?” Apparently he got dozens of replies from people who had been abused at the school.

    I’ve often wondered if he was the one who started the current investigations, or did his campaign wither and these current investigations were started later by somebody else.

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