The Malta Independent 14 October 2019, Monday

Curia announces new process to deal with cases of sexual abuse, says investigations will be quicker

Neil Camilleri Saturday, 29 November 2014, 10:57 Last update: about 6 years ago

The Archbishop's Curia this morning announced new procedures for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. These include the procedure for cases of sexual abuse by members of the clergy.

The Curia said the emphasis is on education and preventing abuse and investigating it in a short time if it occurs, according to the national and church laws.

The revision of the procedures was carried out at the request of the Maltese Bishops and religious superiors. "These new procedures strengthen the Church's resolve to offer psychological and spiritual help to victims of sexual abuse, whether they are minors or adults.

The church said it is launching a Safeguarding Commission made up of competent professionals. Among other things, the commission will have a duty to make risk evaluations in every case.

The new structure will allow investigators to gather all information related to an abuse case in the shortest possible time. They will establish the facts and determine whether abuse was carried out by members of the clergy as well as laymen and members of organisations related to the church.  

The head of the delegation will be responsible to help formation institutions like schools and catechism centres and pastoral institutions like parishes and organisations to improve and strengthen their safeguarding initiatives. The Church authorities are committed to announce the new team by the end of January. The new procedures can be seen at knisja.org/safeguarding

Earlier this month it was reported that the Curia team that investigates claims of sex abuse will be overhauled by the end of November. The announcement followed criticism on the team's handling of the investigation on Dominican priest Father Charles Fenech, who has been accused of sex abuse. The Response Team has been investigating the case for more than eight years. 

Apostolic Administrator Charles Scicluna, who has temporarily assumed leadership of the Church following Archbishop Paul Cremona's resignation, confirmed that the procedures to deal with sex abuse cases were being tweaked and the process included restructuring the Response Team, but denied that the revamp was a reaction to the recent case. He said the review of the Response Team has been going on for the last four years.

However, both Mgr. Scicluna and the former Archbishop had criticised the length of time taken by the Response team to investigate the case of Fr Fenech.

The team had already faced similar criticism when allegations of sexual abuse by orphans, which led to the defrocking and prosecution of two priests, also took eight years to conclude. The internal Church investigation was only concluded after the Vatican got involved and sent Mgr. Scicluna, then its chief prosecutor, to interview the victims.

 

Mgr. Scicluna asks for forgiveness, cooperation

In the meantime, in a pastoral letter issued today Apostolic Administrator Charles Scicluna called on the public to cooperate with the church. People should not only report abuse but also speak out on dangerous situations.

In his first pastoral letter since taking over from former Archbishop Paul Cremona, Mgr. Scicluna said the church shares the heartache of people on cases of abuse.

"Several people have expressed their heartache when they see signs of frailty in priests. "Their heartache is also the heartache of the Church. You are able to acknowledge that we priests are people made up of flesh and blood who, at times, falter in the course of our pilgrimage. Our sins are considered to be grave when they are to the detriment of others. Our sins cause great suffering: they are a humiliation to us all and they confound many of you. I wish to enhearten you and pass on a word of encouragement to everyone - not just to my brothers in the priesthood, but to you all, dear Christians, people of God."

The Apostolic Administrator said the church was launching the Safeguarding Commission because it is not only committed to fighting the phenomenon of sexual abuse of the innocent, but also to prevent similar situations from occurring.

"I need the cooperation of each and every one of you, in order that abuses may be reported and stopped, and in order that any dangerous situations may be detected and averted. In all humility, I beg forgiveness for all those things which could have wounded some of our brothers and sisters, and I commit myself to do my part in order that, together with the other Bishops and Religious Superiors, we may uphold our duty to safeguard our flock to the best of our abilities, and as far as we are able to.

As the Church in Malta awaits its new Archbishop, may I take the opportunity to ask for your prayers. In the coming months, I shall be committed towards being with you and being there for you, just as I promised two years ago when I was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Malta. Together with you, I wish to thank God for his constant help, for the beautiful witness of Archbishop Emeritus Cremona and together with you, I pray that we will have a shepherd in accordance to the heart of God."

 

 

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