Abuse survivor accused of stalking the priest he set out to 'forgive'
A man who documented a trip to Italy where he confronted the priest who abused him as a child faces a trial for trespassing, writes Catherine Deveney
Published 17/07/2016 | 02:30
A British man who travelled to Verona in an attempt to forgive the Catholic missionary who sexually abused him at Mirfield seminary in Yorkshire almost 50 years ago, is being prosecuted in the Italian courts on three counts of "trespassing, stalking and interference in private life".
Mark Murray (60), who filmed his encounter with Fr Romano Nardo at the Verona headquarters of the Comboni missionaries in April last year, said he was "appalled and disgusted" when a letter summoning him for criminal proceedings in Verona on September 14 arrived last week at his home in Wales.
"The Combonis know these 'crimes' are not true. They are trying to intimidate me," he said. "It's all about power and control. They are trying to send out a message, 'Don't dare take us on'."
In 2014, the Observer reported exclusively on widespread abuse at Mirfield in the 1960s and 70s after a group of 11 British men settled out of court with the missionary order, receiving sums of between £7,000 and £30,000.
Mr Murray, who has suffered life-long psychological problems as a result of his experiences, received the maximum sum after revealing a horrifying litany of sexual and emotional abuse that included having a cross carved in his chest with a finger nail. "This has all had a massive effect on my emotional well-being," he said.
The film of his visit, posted online, shows him entering the Verona Mother House unimpeded, asking for Nardo, then waiting quietly in the order's chapel. During a brief conversation, Murray tells Nardo of the devastating effect his actions have had on his life. Nardo sinks to his knees and replies: "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."
Murray, who became a brother of the missionary order for two years in Uganda after leaving Mirfield, said his journey was always about catharsis.
"When I was sitting in that church, I was in control. I was no longer a child. For the first time in my life, I had total control and it was so powerful that I was able to forgive him."
His anger now focuses on the order's response rather than on his abuser.
"'Interference in private life' is a disgusting thing to say to someone who has been abused," he said. "What about the interference in my childhood and adulthood? And stalking has awful connotations. As for trespassing, I walked through an open door and spoke to a receptionist.
"What the Combonis are doing now is re-victimising me and compounding the abuse I experienced as a child. It's the opposite of what Pope Francis has said about treating abuse victims with understanding and compassion. Why are they doing this to me and my family?"
A lawyer has been automatically assigned to Murray by the Italian courts and he faces significant legal fees. During his visit to Verona, he sought the assistance of one of Italy's most renowned newspapers, La Repubblica, to film his encounter with Nardo. Journalist Marco Ansaldo has now also been contacted by police and told to log his address with the courts.
"The police told me it was with regard to my article," Ansaldo told the Observer, "but I don't have any official papers yet."
Mr Murray's case was thoroughly investigated, said Ansaldo, as was the Observer report.
"I checked my sources. We had three journalists on the case. What can the Combonis say? I think their objective is to pull down Mark Murray and because he was listened to by La Repubblica, they would like to bring us down too. It will be a battle - and we will see what the outcome is."
A spokesperson for the Comboni Missionaries in the UK said: "The Comboni Missionaries in the UK are not pursuing any legal action against either Mark Murray or Marco Ansaldo and cannot comment on cases which may be being pursued in Italy."