The Malta Independent 22 February 2020, Saturday

Indepth: Specialised training on abuse provided to 2,000 people in 2017 by Church commission

INDEPTH online Friday, 19 October 2018, 09:32 Last update: about 2 years ago

The Church’s Safeguarding Commission provided specialised training to 2,000 people in 2017, the head of the commission Andrew Azzopardi said on the latest edition of Indepth.

Asked by Malta Independent Editor in Chief Rachel Attard about what type of scrutiny is done to make sure potential abusers do not find their way into the Church, Azzopardi said that not only was there a formal procedure in place, but the commission also provided specialised training to over 2,000 people across last year.

In terms of recruitment, Azzopardi said that the church insists on “safe recruitment”, and that enrolling a person to help within the church is subject to a formal procedure which involves a transparent process of application, an overseeing board, and written references for each candidate.

Azzopardi admitted that this is a concept which not everyone understands, and in a world where the number of volunteers participating in the community is ever decreasing many believe that such due diligence is turning more and more people away.  Azzopardi said however that such a process was something that the commission emphasised upon.

He said that the commission also provides specialised training to a range of volunteers; priests, teachers, volunteers and people even outside of the church.  The training provided focuses on identifying abuse, on what the law says in relation to abuse, and on how to react in a potential situation of abuse.


Thus far, Azzopardi said, the training is not obligatory as the team that provides the training is still very small; but there are hopes that in the future the team and the training is expanded further.


Ninety-five per cent of abuse cases on minors are carried out by married people and not members of the Church who are celibate, the head of the Church's safeguarding commission Andrew Azzopardi said on the latest edition of Indepth.

Asked by The Malta Independent editor-in-chief Rachel Attard about whether there was a correlation between celibacy and sexual abuse of minors, Azzopardi said that neither through research done on the subject nor through his own experiences in the field, both in Malta and the UK, has any correlation between celibacy and sexual abuse of minors proven. 

Indeed, he explained, 95 per cent of sexual abuse cases are carried out by married people. Azzopardi hastened to point out that this did not justify in any way cases that emerge from the Church, and called for reforms in the Canonical Law to provide proper guidelines for consistent punishments in such cases.  He said that it was unacceptable for convicted abusers to only be given a suspended sentence.

Asked about the fact that cases such are time-barred, Azzopardi said that the commission has been calling for the removal of such prescriptive periods ever since it's foundation.  He said that in many, people don't initially realise that they were abused as children, and that when they eventually do, it could take years, sometimes decades, for them to come to terms with the trauma of the abuse. 

Azzopardi said that anybody who, upon seeing a case of abuse which is alleged to have happened 10 or 20 years ago, questions why the victim has come forward so long after the alleged case simply does not understand the dynamics of abuse.

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