Police Investigate Priests for Alleged Paedophilia in Church Institution
By Karl Schembri
Malta Independent [Malta]
Downloaded September 28, 2003
The police are investigating what is alleged to be a long history of paedophilia in a Church home for boys involving at least four priests, some of whom were still in charge of children up to a few weeks ago.
The cases of child abuse reported to the police go back to around 1983 and have been allegedly going on with other children up to this year, when all the priests involved were reportedly removed from having contact with children.
Confirmed by very high-ranking members of the religious order running the institution, the allegations have been kept under wraps by the Curia, which received reports from ex-residents earlier this year.
The Malta Independent on Sunday has taken the decision not to publish the name of the institution so as not to stigmatise children who reside there and the staff who work there. However it will follow closely the developments and investigate the degree of complicity in the alleged cases.
The police received the reports from at least four alleged victims late last month. Three men who filed separate reports implicating the same priests are aged 31, 26 and 27, while another one aged 15 still lives at the institute.
Seen by The Malta Independent on Sunday, the reports filed in writing to the police record in detail a series of allegations of sexual abuse. All of them mention a particular priest who used to take care of them, and three other priests are also implicated separately.
One victim says that a year after he was admitted into the institution aged 11, a priest started abusing him whenever they were taken to swim during the summer holidays when they were living in a summer residence. He claims the priest kept abusing him every summer until he was 13, when he was transferred with older boys to the care of a different priest.
“When I was around 13 and a half, Fr ........ put me in a large room next to his, where the children who were about to leave the institution used to stay,” the alleged victim says. “He used to put his favourite ones there. I used to feel special to the others, so much so that the other children used to make fun of me... After about three months, confidence increased and at night, when he used to put us to bed, he used to touch my private parts... This used to happen around three times a week, until I reached 14 and a half. ... He used to give me pocket money, take me out with him.”
The same man has also shown the police photographs of himself taken while he was asleep, which he had found later in the priest’s room.
Another man claims that when he was admitted to the institution aged nine, the first priest described by the other alleged victim used to get in close contact with him. He claims that when he reached the age of 13 he was sexually abused between three to four times a week by another priest at the order’s summer residence. He says the following summer another priest started abusing him.
In his report, the man claims that when he was 17 he was hurt during a football game. A brother had undressed him to rub cream and ended up touching his private parts. This allegedly went on regularly until he left the home aged 18 and a half.
The same man, who is reportedly suffering from a serious depression and has attempted suicide, says in his report that he feels incapable of having a serious relationship with a woman.
Another man also refers to the institution’s summer residence where he was allegedly abused by one of the priests mentioned by the others for two consecutive years.
When he was 14, another priest also referred to by the other alleged victims tried to abuse him but he became aggressive and stopped him.
“Although we were forbidden to do so, I had put a sort of lock on the door of my room so that he could not come in,” he says.
In a fourth report filed to the police, the alleged victim claims that he was abused by a priest mentioned by the other ex-residents when he was 15, whenever the father went to wake him up in the morning.
“I knew that I was being abused sexually but I could not open my mouth (speak about it) because he was like a father figure to me and I was in his care,” the man claims.
Lay staff members at the institute who spoke to The Malta Independent on Sunday on condition of anonymity vouched they never realised what was allegedly happening.
“What I cannot understand is why all this is coming out now, after all these years,” one employee said.
Another one acknowledged that children at the institute regard priests as father figures and being dependent on them makes it very difficult for children to speak out.
In fact, one of the priests mentioned had celebrated the wedding Mass of several ex-residents, and some had kept in touch with him for years after they left the institute.
Questions sent to the Archbishop’s spokesman remained unanswered. The Malta Independent on Sunday asked the Curia whether it persisted with its policy of secrecy in such cases, refusing to refer them to the police in line with the policy of other curias abroad. Sources say the Curia did not refer the case to the authorities the police were only informed by the alleged victims.
One of the ex-residents who filed his report is understood to have done so in a bid to prevent any new cases of abuse after having found out that a priest who had allegedly abused him was still
in charge of children at the
Sources said one of the implicated priests was sent by the order to Rome for an upspecified length of time, complicating police investigations. If he fails to return in the coming weeks, the police can issue an international warrant of arrest, paving the way for the arraignment of the four priests
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