Scicluna’s appointment ‘sign that good guys don’t always finish last’

By Matthew Vella
Malta Today
March 2, 2015

Charles Scicluna – his leadership has made him “a hero to reformers everywhere”.

One of journalism’s most prolific of Vatican insiders and the leading American authority on the Holy See, John L. Allen, has dubbed Malta’s new archbishop a Catholic “hero” for his role in successful prosecutions of clerical sex abusers.

Allen, formerly of the National Catholic Reporter and now writing for The Boston Globe, said Charles Scicluna – appointed on Friday as Malta’s new archbishop – was a highly respected churchman all across the Catholic world, apart from being a “gifted canon lawyer.”

For years serving by the side of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as promoter of justice in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Scicluna, 55, spent 10 years handling accusations of clerical sex abuse, gaining a reputation for treating victims with compassion and respect, and for insisting church officials respond to allegations clearly.

“His leadership on the church’s effort to recover from its child sexual abuse scandals, especially his role in the prosecution of the late Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, have made him a hero to reformers everywhere. His appointment will thus be taken not only as an important moment for Malta, but also a sign that good guys don’t always finish last!” Allen said.

Only a month ago, Pope Francis named Scicluna president of a Vatican board hearing appeals in clerical sex abuse cases. Now he succeeds Archbishop Paul Cremona, who resigned for health reasons last October at the age of 68.

A contributor to The Catholic Herald, Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith, described Scicluna as a man of “proven ability and wide experience”.

“His role in Rome in dealing with the Church’s response to the child abuse scandals has won him deserved admiration. He has confronted what so many wished to deny, and this marks him out not just as a very able man but one with great leadership potential. At a time when there is a lack of leadership not just in the Church but in the world, Malta is lucky indeed to have Charles Scicluna.”

Fr George Dalli, a well known face on television, writes in an open letter in MaltaToday (page 24) that Scicluna will inherit a Church whose members are “looking to grow up more and more in spirituality.” 

“Those in the Church who are supposed to lead and give direction, are stuck. They are giving neither direction nor motivation. From the part of its leadership the Church needs a great change in spirit, direction  and personal,” he wrote.

Fr Mark Montebello, the Dominican monk and historian of Maltese philosophy who once remarked that the Maltese church was “on the road to extinction”, had no comment to make on Scicluna’s appointment.

Since being appointed auxiliary bishop in Malta, Scicluna remained the Vatican’s first reference on child protection, travelling to Geneva in 2014 to testify before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. In April 2014 he also collected testimony in Scotland in a case against Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the former archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, who resigned in 2013 after admitting to sexual misconduct.

When Benedict XVI announced Scicluna’s appointment as auxiliary bishop in Malta, it was believed that a man who had done his job well on the Vatican’s hard-line stance against sex abuse was being punished through a “face-saving promote and remove” tactic. But as Scicluna himself said before leaving Rome, “if you want to silence someone, you don’t make him a bishop”.

The Toronto-born bishop has been anything but silent, having blogged and tweeted his views on gay marriage and the sale of citizenship in Malta. When MaltaToday asked the bishop why he was so eager about entering into controversy, Scicluna replied: “Because Charles Scicluna’s in town, and that’s who I am.”


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