Clergy Abuse Victims Look Forward to Closure - Want Priests behind Bars

Times of Malta
October 30, 2010

[with video]

Five men who have for years alleged sexual abuse by members of the clergy at St Joseph Home, complained today that it had taken the local Church too long - seven years - to establish that there was enough evidence to refer the case to the Vatican.

“When I was young I had opened up my heart but nobody believed me," one of the victims, Lawrence Grech, said.

“The Maltese should remove their blinkers when children speak out and take action. Had they done this, none of this would have happened.”

Lou Bondi, spokesman for the group, told the media that the fact that the case had been before the Church authorities for seven years was 'a scandal'.

He said that the fact that the Church Response Team found that the victims’ allegations were founded did not make the priests guilty. It meant that there was enough evidence to take the case to the Canonical Tribunal.

The response team, he said, took seven years to say that there was enough evidence for the case to start.

This was a scandal and it was unacceptable for the victims.

The process was quickened in past months after Mgr Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s chief prosecutor of sex abuse cases involving priests, met the victims. Their experience with him was positive but they could not say the same for their experience with the response team, Mr Bondi said.

The victims had an emotional meeting with Pope Benedict in Malta last April and had described the encounter as a 'healing experience'.

Mr Bondi' said the Vatican's canonical tribunal may opt to hear the case in Malta instead of Rome but the issue has yet to be decided.

The Church said yesterday that it had found sufficient evidence for the case to be sent to the Vatican for adjudication.

Five of the victims, two of whom appeared in public for the first time this morning, said that they had been informed through letters from the church that the case could proceed.

The victims speaking out this morning were Philip Cauchi, 40, Joseph Magro, 38, Lawrence Grech, 38, Oliver Goodram, 39 and Joseph Mangion, 37.

They have insisted for years that they were abused when they were resident at St Joseph Home for Boys in Sta Venera some 20 years ago,

In the letters, signed by the superior general of the MSSP, Fr Louis Mallia, the victims were told that the response team had investigated their allegations regarding Fr Charles Pulis, Fr Conrad Sciberras and Br Joe Bonett and it resulted that these allegations were founded.

“Therefore I inform you that the case will be passed on to Rome.”

The victims were told that when the allegations surfaced seven years ago, the MSSP had taken precautions for the two priests and the brother not remain in active ministry, particularly with children.

“This decision will remain in place until the case is concluded,” they have been told.

Another priest against whom allegations were made, Fr Godwin Scerri, was not named in the letters received by the victims who addressed this morning’s conference. He may have been named in letters received by other victims, who together number 17.

The only victim in today’s conference claiming to have been abused by Fr Scerri was Mr Goodram.

Mr Bondi said the victims had found support from Archbishop Paul Cremona and their criticism was directed at the Response Team and not him.

He said that the Canonical Tribunal could decide to defrock the priests. The process was not expected to take long.

In the meantime, Mr Bondi said, the victims were also waiting for the local courts to conclude its case.

A criminal case against three priests is being heard behind closed doors and has been going on for seven years.

Mr Grech said this morning that he wanted to see the perpetrators behind bars.

“When I was young I had opened up my heart but nobody believed me.

“The Maltese should remove their blinkers when children speak out and take action. Had they done this, none of this would have happened.”

Mr Mangion said it was important to see justice being done and not to have these things happen again.

Mr Magro said he finally felt free.

The victims are being represented by lawyer Patrick Valentino.


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