Alleged Victims of Clerical Abuse in Malta Demand Quick Action on Cases So Healing Can Start

By George Cini
Canadian Press
October 31, 2010

VALLETTA, Malta Several Maltese men who have accused clergymen of sexually abusing them as boys pressed Saturday for quicker action by the Vatican and local courts so that healing might be possible on this heavily Catholic island.

Five victims spoke at a news conference, including one who went public for the first time to encourage others who suffered abuse by priests to come forward.

"I have bottled up these feelings since the 1990s," Joseph Magro, 38, told reporters. "I was not angry against God but had lost all hope in priests.

The men had an unscheduled, private and emotional meeting with Pope Benedict XVI when the pontiff visited Malta last spring, but they said only urgent action on criminal cases related to their allegations would help them come to terms with the trauma.

They complained bitterly that church authorities were taking so long, as were local courts, which have been holding closed door hearings on their allegations for seven years.

Lawyer Patrick Valentino, who represents the victims, said he believes the courts will wrap up the cases early next year.

Malta is a tiny, churchgoing country of 400,000 people. The overwhelming majority are Roman Catholic.

Lawrence Grech, 38, said he felt especially bad when he would go out shopping with his own children and run across clergy involved in the case as if no wrong had been done.

"The bottom line is that these men committed a crime and they should be jailed," said Grech.

Another victim, Philip Cauchi, 40, said he cried when he received a letter from church authorities saying that the victims were being believed at last.

"This is another step in the process that has taken so long, but I feel healing is impossible to achieve" given the long time, he said.

Twelve other men, also former boarders at St. Joseph Home for orphans and boys from troubled families, were notified in a letter that there was basis in fact for their allegations, but that did not mean that the clergy involved were necessarily guilty. The letter was signed by the Rev. Louis Mallia, the superior general of the Missionary Society of St. Paul, the Catholic order which ran the home for boys.

The religious order has told the three clergymen accused by the five men to refrain from any Church duties, particularly those involving children at least until the case is concluded.

The alleged abuse occurred in the 1980s and 1990s.

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