Church Safeguarding Commission concludes 26 cases of abuse in 2023 - 18 involved minors

The Safeguarding Commission's head, Mark Pellicano said that a substantial number of victims who are adults choose not to refer their complaints to the police

(Photo: James Bianchi)
(Photo: James Bianchi)

The Maltese Church’s Safeguarding Commission concluded 26 cases of abuse within the church last year, 18 of which involved minors.

This was announced during the publication of a report on the commission’s work in 2023. The commission investigates cases of abuse within church structures and promotes the wellbeing of children and vulnerable adults.

Assessments concluded in 2023
  Minors Vulnerable adults
Total assessments 18 8
Historical cases (occurred 10 or more years ago) 9 4
Substantiated 4 4
Partially substantiated 1 0
Unsubstantiated 1 0
Unfounded 0 0
Not a safeguarding concern 1 1
Investigated internally by organisation 3 0
Referred to the personal Bishop out of Malta 2 1
No further action could be taken 6 2
Complaint involved diocesan priests 4 2
Complaint involved nuns/religious priests 7 2
Complaint involved laypersons 7 4

Of the 18 cases which involved minors and were concluded last year, four cases were substantiated, one was only partially substantiated, and another case was unsubstantiated. 

The commission’s head, Mark Pellicano explained that another case was not considered a safeguarding concern, while three other cases, “were investigated internally by the organisation concerned.”

Two of the cases were forwarded to the personal Bishop of the subject of the complaint. Six other cases did not require further action, as Pellicano said that this could be due to cases which had been closed in the past. Diocesan priests made up four of the subjects of complaints in situations involving minors, while religious and laypeople made up the other seven cases.

The commission also closed eight cases involving vulnerable adults, four of which took place 10 or more years ago.

Of the 18 incidents involving minors, nine took place 10 or more years ago. Four of the cases in which minors are involved were substantiated. 

Substantiated complaints involving minors
Role of subject of complaint Diocesan priests Laypersons
Number of cases 2 2
Allegation Sexual abuse, emotional manipulation and breach of professional boundaries Sexual abuse/sexual harassment
Recommended a restriction Yes Yes
Was the alleged victim an adult at the time of referral? Yes No
Case referred to civil authorities? One of the two cases was referred to civil authorities Both cases were referred to civil authorities

Meanwhile, the commission also closed four substantiated cases involving vulnerable adults. Here the complaints involved breaches of sexual boundaries, sexual abuse and breaches of professional boundaries.

Substantiated complaints involving vulnerable adults
Role of subject of complaint Nuns/ religious priests Laypersons
Number of cases 2 2
Allegation Sexual abuse/breach of sexual boundaries Sexual abuse/breach of sexual boundaries
Recommended a restriction Yes Yes
Case referred to civil authorities? No No

Pellicano explained that it is not a rare for adult victims to tell the commission that they would not like the entity to refer their case to the police. He explained that while the reasons may vary, many who choose to speak up about abuse - especially if this occurred when they were much younger - do so because they want to be heard by professionals within the entity. Daunting court procedures were also among the reasons why some chose not to speak to the police.

The commission appealed to anyone who might have been a victim of abuse at the hands of individuals involved in the church to approach the commission. This can be done by email on [email protected] or by calling 22470950. The commission's website offers more information for potential victims as well.