9 May 2011

Malta priest condemns media for exposing clergy abuse but says nothing about perpetrators of child sex crimes

The Malta Independent - May 9, 2011

Yes to divorce, no to child abuse

by Stephen Calleja

It was one of those school activities I hate attending, but feel duty-bound to go to. I was about to doze off but I perked up when I heard the priest delivering the talk mention the media. What others think about my profession always interests me. Soon enough, however, my blood was boiling.

This happened at the height of a scandal involving the abuse by priests of children under their care. It was a story that had shocked Malta and rocked the foundations of the Catholic Church. They were soon followed by other stories, not only on this little island, but spread all over the world. All with the same pattern, all with the same ending: priests responsible for vulnerable children or teenagers, male or female, abusing their power, with the wheels of justice – Church and state – then turning extremely slowly, if at all.

When I heard this priest mention the media I knew what was coming. And I wasn’t proved wrong. He embarked on a fully-fledged attack against the media for exposing the scandal, for bringing it to the attention of viewers, listeners and readers, for daring to talk and write about the abuse.

He was unlucky because he did not know that, in his audience, an editor of a newspaper was listening. Had he known, he might have been more careful. Or perhaps he would have said the same things anyway, thinking I would not have the courage to stand up to him; the arrogance of some people knows no bounds.

I let him talk for five or six minutes, during which he never once condemned the behaviour of his colleagues, preferring to concentrate his venom on journalists rather than the real perpetrators. He strongly suggested that the media reports were causing great harm, as if it was the journalists, not the priests, who had committed the crime; and he never once asked for drastic action to be taken against the offenders.

When he had exhausted the argument, and was trying to change the subject, I raised my hand and stood up. He stopped talking and looked at me. The moment I told him who I was and the position I held, I could see his face immediately turning bright red.

“Is it the media that is in the wrong?” I asked. “Are we journalists in the wrong for exposing this story, or is it the perpetrators who are in the wrong for abusing children, physically, sexually and emotionally, destroying their innocence and ruining their life? You have not condemned the behaviour of your colleagues, and yet you condemn us for telling what is happening.”

There followed an exchange, a rather heated one at that, as he continued to defend the mistakes that had been committed, at one point going close to justifying such despicable behaviour, and I continued to point out that it is the media’s duty to talk about these things, and not hide them as if they do not exist.

All the other parents sat in silence. Probably they feared that their children would be discriminated against if they showed some kind of support for me.

When one of them finally did speak up, it was only to try to shut me up, saying that he had not gone there to hear a lecture on how the media works and its duties. I could not believe it. I wonder what he would have thought had his son or daughter been one of the victims.

But I think that everyone has a right to be a Church lackey, after all. Priests use the advantage of never being challenged to ram things down people’s throats, which is what was happening in that school hall that day, and which is what happens wherever priests have the privilege of being leaders in the community.

I was sure that, in the eyes of most parents, I was the one who was doing the wrong thing in confronting the priest. He speaks with authority, I am just an editor.

So I walked out.

* * *

This incident has frequently come back to mind over the past few weeks, for various reasons.

I can’t even begin to imagine how many children have been abused by priests, nuns and other so-called religious people, and how so few of these stories have come to light. I am sure that for every one that is brought to public attention, there are tens that remain unheard.

I just wonder how many of these priests are now going to homes to tell everybody to vote against divorce because it goes against Jesus Christ’s teachings. I just wonder how many of them are saying Mass and giving sermons about the harm they perceive divorce will cause to society. I just wonder how many of them are distributing leaflets against divorce and also refusing to give Holy Communion or absolution to people who say that they will vote “Yes” on 28 May.

What hypocrisy.

The Church is making such a big fuss about divorce. It may seem to many that it is holding back, since its interventions on divorce are well masked through what are its day-to-day activities but, believe me, the Church’s presence in the public debate on divorce is overwhelming.

Now, just compare this with what the Church has said and done about child abuse by its own bishops, priests and nuns, and you will realise that the Church has done so little to combat abuse within its own confines. Has anyone ever heard a priest giving a sermon about child abuse committed by his own colleagues? Well, if any of them did, I am sure that he blamed the media.

If divorce goes against the teaching of Christ, as the anti-divorce lobby group led by the Church is saying, what can we say about child abuse? And yet the Church goes on a crusade against divorce, but keeps silent on the abuse of children by its own officials.

Why is the Church so silent on child abuse by the clergy, and so vocal about divorce? If I, as a citizen, commit a crime against a minor, my name would be splashed across all the newspapers when I am charged in court, long before I am cleared or found guilty. But the Church keeps all accusations of child abuse by priests and other religious people within its four walls, and their names and stories are hidden from the public.

Who knows, maybe your son or daughter is in one of the Church-backed movements for youths, or a volunteer in a parish group for young people, led by a priest who has been accused of molesting children or teenagers, but who has been allowed to continue his pastoral work.

As a parent, wouldn’t you want to know?

This article was found at:


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

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

Christian Brothers school built by sex abused child slaves depicted in film on tragedy of UK's child migration scheme

New York Times article details Benedict's failures to act sooner against child abuse, Catholic apologists 'shoot the messenger'

Vatican's top Cardinal blames sex crimes scandals on homosexuality in speech in Santiago, where Chilean priest raped girls

Pope calls on Catholics to repent, but condemns critics, while Vatican attempts to rewrite history

Catholic abuse crisis pits Church against society and moral legacies of two popes against each other

Lawsuit against Australian diocese alleges 20 year neglect of child sex crimes, Bishop's statement revictimizes survivor

Trial of priest charged with sex abuse of boys in Rome as recently as 2008 undermines Pope's promises to protect children

Catholic dissidents protest at Vatican to urge change, Pope calls in priests to celebrate year of priesthood

Pope & Church tested by children's voices crying out for accountability and justice long after childhood

Cover up of sex crimes by Chilean priests an example of how the church has handled abuse allegations globally

Vatican officials, including future pope, refused to defrock "evil, remorseless sociopath" priest until 9 years after his first conviction for sex crimes

Why should the pope and other church officials get away with violating the rule of law and the rights of children?

Pope's promise to restore the purity of Catholicism almost impossible with scandals implicating entire church hierarchy


  1. The Maltese Connection (Or: The Forgotten Children of Malta)

    by Lewis Blayse, Commentary on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Australia) July 5, 2013


    Image: Malta’s Child Migrant Memorial (Source: Times of Malta


    Malta was a source of “child migrants” to Australia. Most attention has been placed on the child migrants from the U.K., largely because there were 7,000 from the U.K. and about 300 from Malta.

    In both cases, children were promised a good life in Catholic Church Children’s Homes in Australia. The reality, of course, was very different, with many suffering all of the known forms of abuse at the hands of their supposed “carers”.

    Maltese boys were placed in Castledare Junior Orphanage, Clontarf Boys’ Town, St Joseph’s Trade and Farm School, Bindoon, and in St Mary’s Agricultural School, Tardun. Previous postings have covered some of the abuses at these Christian Brotherhood institutions.

    About 50 girls were sent out to Western Australia and were placed in the St. Joseph Girls’ Orphanage, Subiaco and Nazareth House, Geraldton. Nazareth House was run by the Sisters of Nazareth (see previous posting) who were responsible for abuses at other institutions they ran in Australia. It closed in 1977 and is now a residential aged-care facility. St. Joseph’s was founded by the Spanish Benedictine Monks and closed in 1974. It catered for girls from six to sixteen years of age.

    While significant information exists about abuses suffered by the boys from Malta, not much is available concerning the girls. It is to be hoped that the Royal Commission will provide more.

    The first group of 27 boys, on assisted passage, left Valetta Grand Harbour on March 26, 1950, for Freemantle in Western Australia, aboard the “Ocean Triumph”. A memorial plaque and sculpture (see photo above) have been placed on the site (activists had wanted a list of names included, but this did not happen). The plaque reads:

    Inaugurated by
    the Hon. Lawrence Gonzi
    Prime Minister
    2 March 2008

    Monsignor Philip Calleja, who ran the Maltese Church’s Emigrants’ Commission for many years, wrote a paper about Maltese child migrants in 2008. It was read out during the unveiling of the child migrants’ monument at the Valletta Waterfront. Following on Prime Minister Gonzi’s 2008 apology, Archbishop Paul Cremona apologized, in 2010, for the Maltese Church’s involvement in the child migration scheme.

    The Australian Government has also apologized.

    In 2011, three former Maltese child migrants began legal action against the Christian Brotherhood for sexual and physical abuses. In Malta, the issue appears to remain contentious, particularly with regard to the role of former Emigration Minister, Dr Cachia Zammit (see Times of Malta link, below)

    continued below

  2. One former child migrant, Raphael Ellul, returned to Malta to reconnect with his past, but also to close a traumatic chapter in his life when, as a 10 year old child, he endured physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the Christian Brothers in Australia, in their Tardun and Castledare facilities (see yesterday’s posting). “Ray”, as he became known, was born in 1960 in Cospicua.

    Dr Patrick Howard, who worked with stress-disordered Vietnam veterans and with children in institutions run by the Christian Brothers, states that the six years at Tardun’s Agriculture Farm left Ray with “chronic depressed mood, low self esteem and a feeling of hopelessness.”

    In Tardun, he was forbidden to speak the Maltese language with other Maltese residents and was subjected to beatings whenever he was heard speaking it. During this period he received no specific English language instructions, which inhibited his chances to apply for non-manual jobs later on in his life. Lack of English was a further protection for the Brothers from having victims alert community members to the abuses.

    A few of the Maltese child migrants fared better in their new country, particularly those who were later re-united with family who migrated to Australia as part of the large migration scheme from war-torn Europe.

    One of these was Professor David Plowman who came out at the age of ten, followed three months later by a brother. Eight years after their arrival, Plowman and his brother sponsored their mother and younger brother, who joined the two brothers in Australia as normal migrants. To the Western Australian government’s frustration, half of the Maltese child migrants were reunited with their families within two years, with most choosing to move interstate.

    In 1993, Professor Plowman became Director of the Graduate School of Management at The University of Western Australia. “I have been lucky,” he has said. “Of those who were at Tardun at my time, I’m the only one that I know of with a university education.”

    In the 1990s, the Maltese Professional and Business Association set up the Child Migrants of Malta organisation to help the former child migrants, with Professor Plowman as chairman. He has written an extensive account of the Malta child migrant scheme for a Maltese history journal (see reference below). For these activities he was awarded the Queen’s Birthday honour of Medal of the Order of Australia.

    Hopefully, the current government of Malta will participate in the deliberations of the Royal Commission when the Maltese connection comes up there.

    Read more here:









    TOMORROW: NSW enquiry – week’s wrap-up