5 May 2011

8 years after Malta priests charged for child sex crimes survivors still waiting for justice from state court and Church tribunal

Times of Malta   -   May 4, 2011

Priests' child abuse case nears end

A member of the Church tribunal hearing the case against three priests accused of sexually abusing boys in their care will meet the victims to formalise evidence they gave to the Vatican’s chief sex abuse prosecutor last summer, The Times has learnt.

Fr Brendan Gatt will be meeting the victims in the coming days to confirm the evidence they gave to the Vatican’s Promoter of Faith and Justice, Mgr Charles Scicluna when he visited Malta last year.

“I am not expecting anything new to come out of this exercise since it is just a matter of confirming the evidence and formalising it to be part of the official acts of the case,” Fr Gatt said.

But the victims will also be given the chance to add anything they deem fit to their statements.

He confirmed that the alleged abusers have already been heard by the tribunal and the case was “approaching its conclusion”. However, Fr Gatt refrained from giving a timeline.

The tribunal was set up earlier this year by the Church after a seven-year-long investigation by the Curia’s Response Team found there was enough evidence to support allegations of sexual abuse made by eight men when they were still minors at St Joseph Home in Sta Venera.

A canon law lawyer who was present when the alleged victims appeared before Mgr Scicluna, Fr Gatt was officially appointed by the tribunal to confirm the evidence.

“I will read the evidence to them and give them the opportunity to add anything else they want. It is a formal process since Mgr Scicluna’s investigation last year was a preliminary one,” Fr Gatt said.

The alleged victims had a private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Malta last year, which they had said at the time gave them peace in their hearts.

Three priests were accused of molesting children, aged 13 to 16, while in their care in the late 1980s. The alleged victims are now in their late 30s.

The priests have also been charged in a criminal court with sexually abusing the boys and the case has dragged on for seven years. Court proceedings are being held behind closed doors.

One of the priests, Brother Joe Bonnet, died at the age of 63 earlier this year after suffering from bone cancer.

Bro. Bonett was for some time responsible for the St Joseph Home. In the 1980s he was also involved in the Depiro Youth Centre, where he helped organise the football nursery.

In 1987, when based at St Joseph’s Institute, Bro. Bonett helped set up the Sta Venera football club nursery and remained involved until the early 1990s.

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