Priest Flees Gozo As Curia Launches Sex Abuse Probe

By Matthew Vella
Malta Today
January 22, 2006

The hasty departure of a Gozitan diocesan priest from the Nadur parish to the United States has startled an entire community, after complaints of alleged child sex abuse by the priest were referred to the Curia for investigation.

Yesterday Nadur's archpriest Mgr Salvu Muscat confirmed he referred complaints to the curia from parents whose children they claimed had been sexually abused by the priest, whose name is known to MaltaToday.

He said he was not aware of the outcome of the investigations. Sources told MaltaToday that the parents and children alleging the abuse had already been interviewed by the Curia's Response Team on child abuse.

"It is normal I refer complaints to my superiors. When there is something bad happening I don't leave it hanging. That is my role," Mgr Muscat yesterday said.

The archpriest said the priest had left the island without informing anyone beforehand.

"He never spoke to me about anything and it was his decision to leave," Mgr Muscat said about the unexpected departure of the priest. "We have not been in contact so I don't know exactly where he is."

Curia spokesperson Charles J Buttigieg said the Response Team could not confirm or deny whether it was investigating or not the case due to confidentiality "The Response Team forwards its report and recommendations to the bishop or religious superior concerned. Action is taken according to the particular circumstances of the case.

"The proceedings of the Response Team are conducted in camera… Due to confidentiality the Response Team cannot confirm or deny whether it is investigating or not a particular case."

This week a spate of anonymous emails from a person claiming to have been the victim of sexual abuse by the priest 15 years ago as an altar boy, were sent around Gozo to various recipients, including the local council.

Mgr Salvu Muscat expressed his concern about the situation, where the past week in Nadur was dominated by talk about the departure of the priest and the investigations into alleged child sex abuse.

But the disturbing detail in which the emails describe the harrowing manner the priest allegedly abused him, has only increased tension in the Gozitan town of 4,000. The emails have also been received at the local council's offices.

Bearing the priest's name as pseudonym, the anonymous sender claims he was eight years old when he started being systematically abused by the priest, who was entrusted with the care of altar boys in the parish.

Describing in detail the surroundings of the Nadur parish church, detailing the rooms in which the priest would take him, the sender is claiming his mother's complaints to the then archpriest were never taken seriously:

"When my mother went to the archpriest and the bishop, they told her: 'Please, don't say anything because you will harm the Church.' My mother listened to them, but now I need to speak out for everyone to know of the dirt that exists."

The emails are alleging the priest has been repeatedly accused of harassing children since the 80s, but that no action was ever taken by the Church, with the priest being entrusted with teaching Catholic doctrine to children, and even taking care of altar boys.

Nadur archpriest Mgr Salvu Muscat warned that the content in the email "could have been inflated" and said that people should be prudent about what they read into the emails in the interest of the priest's relatives in Nadur.


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