The Malta Independent 22 November 2019, Friday

Priest sexual abuse case: One victim offered six-figure sum to keep her mouth shut

Rachel Attard Thursday, 30 October 2014, 07:51 Last update: about 6 years ago

One of the victims of alleged sexual abuse by Fr Charles Fenech was offered a six-figure sum to remain silent by a member of the Dominican Order, to which Fr Fenech belongs, The Malta Independent has learnt.

The victim turned down the offer immediately, and instead went with this information to the police.

The case regarding sexual abuse on vulnerable women by the Dominican priest has been before the Curia Response Team for at least eight years.

The case before the church tribunal is separate to the court case instituted by the police against Fr Fenech.

The Malta Independent yesterday revealed that Fr Fenech, known for his organisation of volleyball marathons in aid of Dar Tal-Providenza, is facing charges of sexual abuse against at least five women. He was summoned to court on three occasions but did not turn up, citing illness.

The Malta Independent made a conscious and responsible decision to publish the name of the priest in full respect towards ethical standards. People who are not priests who are accused of similar crimes have always been named unless the victims were relatives and could be identified. In this case, the alleged victims are not relatives of Fr Fenech. The Malta Independent will not protect members of the clergy if they are accused of such crimes.

In 2001, Fr Fenech was awarded a Gieh ir-Repubblika medal and made a member of the National Order of Merit (picture above)

The case was brought before the Church Response team at the time that Mgr Joseph Mercieca was Archbishop of Malta. The Malta Independent has also learnt that when Mgr Paul Cremona was ordained Archbishop, some of the alleged victims approached him with their accusations against Fr Fenech.

(The Dominican convent in Rabat, where Fr Fenech resides)

Mgr Cremona is from the same religious order of Fr Fenech, and both for a time served as provincials. Fr Paul Gatt, who also served as provincial, and Fr Frans Micallef, currently head of the Dominican Order in Malta, also knew about the allegations. Questions sent to Fr Micallef yesterday remained unanswered. 

In spite of the allegations and his vase being heard in court and by the Church Response Team, Fr Fenech continued to lead the Kerygma Movement, an organisation for young people, and the radio station Radju Marija, also presenting a daily programme until a few days ago when the stories about his behaviour with a number of women began to surface.

Asked by The Malta Independent on what action the Church has taken against Fr Fenech, the Curia spokesman said that the "case is still pending before the Church's Response Team and since an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty and for the judicial process not to be influenced or hindered, no information is going to be given at this stage".

This was the Church's first admission that Fr Fenech is being investigated by the Church authorities following the allegations made. But asked specifically whether the Curia had informed the police about the sexual abuse allegations, the spokesman did not give an answer.

The spokesman did not reply to direct questions made by this newspaper, such as whether Fr Fenech will be stopped from administering the sacraments, limiting himself to generic answers. He said that decisions on this are taken by the diocesan bishop in cases of priests and by the superior general in cases of members of religious orders. Fr Fenech is currently abroad and is expected back in the coming days.

 

 

 

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