2 Feb 2011

Malta priests charged in 2003 with sex abuse still have not faced justice, survivors tell Pope they are disgusted by church inaction

Times of Malta - January 9, 2011

Church tribunal to hear child abuse cases in Malta

Alleged victims write to Pope

by Herman Grech

The Vatican has instructed the Maltese Church to set up a tribunal to conduct the judicial process into allegations that three priests sexually abused boys at an orphanage two decades ago.

Judges from the Metropolitan Tribunal will be involved in the tribunal, which will be set up in a few days’ time, a Curia spokesman yesterday told The Sunday Times.

The latest development is a major step towards the conclusion of Church proceedings against three priests accused of molesting children, aged 13 to 16, while in their care at St Joseph’s Home in St Venera in the late 1980s.

The alleged victims, now in their late 30s, have repeatedly accused the Church of using delaying tactics and being reluctant to take action against the priests.

The Curia said last October that following its investigations by its Response Team, there was enough evidence to support allegations by eight men that they were sexually abused as minors and the case was referred to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith for evaluation.

A Curia spokesman said yesterday that after studying all the documentation gathered by the Response Team, it is now up to the Church’s judges to decide whether to summon witnesses for the tribunal. When asked, the Curia said that no timelines have been established for the tribunal, which is responsible “in conscience” to see that justice is done.

A priest could be defrocked either at the end of a judicial process or by a decree of the Pope, the Curia said.

Lawrence Grech, one of the complainants, said yesterday he hoped the Vatican’s goodwill in resolving the case would be similarly reflected by the local Church authorities.

“I fear the Curia is purposely delaying matters to wait for the outcome of the court proceedings. I don’t mind giving further evidence if I’m asked, but this case has clearly been dragging on for far too long. These priests should have been defrocked,” he told The Sunday Times.

The priests have also been charged in a criminal court with sexually abusing the boys.

Last Thursday the priests filed a constitutional case claiming their right to a fair hearing in court had been breached due to the media spotlight on their case. Though the four priests were charged in 2003, the case is still pending before the courts and the constitutional case is expected to delay proceedings further.

In another development, the alleged victims wrote to Pope Benedict XVI on December 27 to express their dismay over the delays.

While thanking the Pontiff for meeting them during his visit to Malta last April, the letter signed by seven men – written in Italian – said they were disgusted that the priests in question had not yet been defrocked. The men said the priests had admitted their wrongdoing in 2003 and yet the Maltese church was acting as though nothing had happened.

“Why does the Maltese Church still protect these scandals?... We are still suffering injustices after seven years. Please help us,” the men said.

See also:

Vatican tells Curia to set up abuse tribunal • Sunday, 9th January 2011

Clergy abuse victims look forward to closure - want priests behind bars • Saturday, 30th October 2010

Archbishop in bridge-building meeting with 'abuse victims' • Sunday, 11th July 2010

Priest facing abuse allegations never questioned, did not flee • Sunday, 13th June 2010

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