Forty-Five Cases of Alleged Abuse by Clergymen on Minors in 4 Years

Malta Media [Malta]
October 7, 2003

Archbishop of Malta Joseph Mercieca referred to the current controversy over alleged sexual abuses by four friars on a number of children at St Joseph's Home and said that he never stopped or is going to stop anyone from reporting anything to the police.

Statistics provided by the Curia show that since 1999 its Response Team (RT) investigated 65 cases, including four revised cases. Forty five of these cases concerned minors. Twenty cases were alleged to be committed by lay persons, the rest of the alleged abusers were either priests, monks or nuns. The RT found that in ten of these cases no proofs were submitted. It also found that in 13 cases the alleged abuse most probably did take place, while 13 others were found to have most probably not occurred. The RT abstained in one case since the accused was not a pastoral functionary. 26 of these cases are still pending.

The Church in Malta assured the public that she follows any directives the Holy See issues on the matter.

According to current Holy See norms, Church authorities are duty bound to inform the Vatican about the outcome of preliminary investigation when it is found that a member of the clergy was actually involved in child abuse.

This was stated by Charles Buttigieg, public relations officer of the Curia, when contacted by MaltaMedia. Mr Buttigieg added that the Church policy was primarily drawn to protect and safeguard the well being of all, particularly children.

The Church unequivocally rejects and condemns any abuse inflicted by a priest, a religious or a pastoral worker, and feels duty bound to show compassion towards the victim and strives to help him or her in the best possible way.

In reply to questions posed by MaltaMedia, Mr Buttigieg said that before formulating its own policy and procedure on cases of alleged sexual abuse, the Church in Malta consulted procedures which have been adopted by the Catholic Church elsewhere. Furthermore, advice was sought from distinguished local and foreign experts in the matter.

Mr Buttigieg explained that in order to ensure a fair and sound preliminary investigation, the Church appointed a retired judge, Victor Caurana Colombo, to chair the RT, which is made up of various experts in various fields. The proceedings of the RT are conducted in camera in accordance with the Canon Law and with norms issued by the Holy See in November 2001. This procedure has the aim at assuring the complainants' confidentiality. Nevertheless, the alleged victim has the right to report the matter to civil authorities even while his or her case is being heard by the Response Team. The RT, on its part, is fully bound by confidentialy and so cannot give any information on its deliberations.

Mr Buttigieg also explained that the conclusions and recommendations of the RT are communicated to the Church authority concerned, and the persons directly involved in the case are also informed of the outcome of its preliminary investigation. However, these deliberations remain of a preliminary nature and are in no way intended to substitute the State's role and responsibilities when dealing with investigating, examining and judging allegations of abuse.

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