Published on 15 May 2015 Sections , ,

Catholic seminary ‘abuse’ – the key questions

Allegations of sexual abuse at a Catholic seminary school in Yorkshire have surfaced this week, after a British man confronted a priest in Italy.

Mark Murray (pictured above), 59, secretly filmed an encounter with Father Romano Nardo, 73, from the Verona Fathers, who, he says, sexually abused him at Mirfield trainee school for priests in Yorkshire in the 1970s.

The short clip was posted online by Italian newspaper La Repubblica and you can hear Mr Murray tell Father Nardo: “You have had a massive, negative impact on my life and my family and my children. I tried many times to meet with you.

“Romano Nardo, do you know who I am? I think you do. Mark Murray. Do you remember me?”

In the video, you can hear Father Nardo mumble: “If it is my fault that you bear a heavy cross, I believe I should ask the Lord for forgiveness. I’m sorry. I’m very sorry.”

Who are the Verona Fathers?

The Verona Fathers, also known as the Comboni Missionaries, are an order for priests founded in Italy in the 1840s, who run trainee schools for priests around the world.

What are the allegations?

In 2012, 12 men who attended the school during the 1960s and 1970s decided to launch a civil case against Comboni Missionaries seeking damages for the abuse they claim to have endured. They claimed they were routinely abused at the home.

Although most of the abusers have since died, Farther Nardo – now aged 73 – lives with the Comboni Missionaries in Verona.

In 2014, the Comboni Missionaries reportedly paid £120,000 in total compensation to the 12 men following the allegations.

West Yorkshire police have attempted to extradite Farther Nardo for questioning but the Italian authorities have deemed him unfit to travel.

What do the police say?

Detective Inspector Michael Brown, of the Kirklees Safeguarding Unit, said: “This is a long running and complicated investigation which dates back to alleged offences that were committed in the 1960s. There is an individual who we would like to speak to in connection with these allegations. This person left the UK for Italy at the time of the alleged offences and has not returned since then.

“The allegations were first investigated in 1999 but we were not able to progress at that time. In Spring 2013, new evidence came to light and we reopened the case with the hope of bringing someone to justice.

“We have conducted a thorough investigation and have been in close liaison with the authorities in Italy and the Catholic Church but, unfortunately we need to interview the suspect in this case and he is unable to travel from Italy voluntarily due to ill health.

“All legal avenues have been pursued to enforce his return to UK but his ill health means we are unable to go through the formal procedures to extradite him. I would like to stress that this investigation is not closed but has reached a point where we can’t go any further.

“We are still hopeful of progress and would be keen to speak to anyone who could provide more information or evidence to help us to progress it further.”

What do the Verona Fathers say?

Kathy Perrin, a lawyer with the Catholic Church Insurance Association, which represented the order, said the payment was not an admission of guilt.

She said: “The order chose to come to a settlement because they could not trace their insurance for the period in question so they would have faced a huge legal bill had it gone to trial.

“Everything happened an incredibly long time ago and two of the priests who were accused are now deceased. My clients simply don’t know what happened at Mirfield and don’t feel that it can be established now.”

There are three other cases pending of alleged sexual abuse of Mirfield pupils by priests, she said.