Diocese Investigating Whether Maltese Priest Alleged to Have Abused Children in Australia Is in Gozo

By Scott Grech
Malta Independent
October 31, 2010

The Gozo Diocese is investigating whether a Malta-born priest, who allegedly sexually abused an altar boy while living in Australia between March 1979 and November 1982, is in fact living in Gozo, Gozo Curia spokesman Fr Anthony Refalo said yesterday, when contacted.

Once the facts are established, he said, the Gozo Curia will release a statement to the media.

Australian newspaper The Weekend Post reported yesterday that a man has just launched a lawsuit against the Australian Catholic Church after he alleged that he was abused "regularly" by a priest while he was a student and altar boy at St Joseph's School and Church in the town of Cairns, in Queensland, Australia.

The priest in question, Fr Joseph Sultana, was born in Malta and was ordained priest in 1962. He originally left Malta to serve as a priest in South America.

The alleged victim is also claiming that he approached high-ranking church officials to talk to them about his sexual abuse, but they failed to take any action or report the matter to the police.

He added that the Church also failed to remove Fr Sultana from immediate contact with children when they were later alerted to the allegations of abuse.

The Weekend Post revealed that another man, who said he was abused by Fr Sultana at the same school and church in the early 1980s, took his own life in 1998 the same year that Fr Sultana is said to have left Australia for Malta.

Cairns police are investigating the man's allegations and are awaiting information from the Department of Immigration to determine if the case against Fr Sultana who may be deceased can proceed.

Fr Sultana lost contact with his victim after he moved to another parish, which included two churches and a primary school, shortly after a fellow priest was told about the abuse.

A book entitled The Years Between 1953-1985: Catholic Youth Movement details a visit by a youth group to Fr Sultana's home at Ravenshoe, where he settled after leaving Cairns, in the early 1980s.

"On Sunday, 17 March, Atherton Catholic Youth Movement had an outing to Ravenshoe. We visited Fr Sultana, our previous branch chaplain before his appointment, and then went to Millstream Falls. After a swim it was back to Fr Sultana's for dinner," the author wrote.

In a sworn affidavit and statement to police, the alleged victim, who is now 38, said he and his wife had revealed the abuse to Cairns Bishop James Foley in a telephone call and subsequent meeting at their family home in November last year.

In March, he had given a detailed statement to Cairns Police Child Protection and Investigation Unit and had launched a civil suit against the Roman Catholic Trust Corporation for the Diocese of Cairns and the Corporation of the Sisters of Mercy for the Diocese of Cairns, seeking compensation.

In court documents obtained by The Weekend Post, the alleged victim also said that he had told a prominent priest about the abuse while it was still happening in 1981, but the priest had been angry with the then eight-year-old and had accused him of lying before ordering him to visit a school nun, who had caned him.

According to the Diocese of Cairns website, the priest in question is now the presiding priest of three churches in Cairns and chaplain of Cairns Private Hospital. He is not implicated in any allegations of abuse.

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