Curia to hear abuse allegations behind closed doors before filing police report

Apostolic Administator Charles Scicluna was aware of 'human' case dealing with allegations of abuse against Fr Charles Fenech 'but not of criminal case'

Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna
Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna

The Curia’s new commission on the protection of children is investigating an alleged case of abuse that has not yet been referred to the police, Apostolic Administrator Charles J. Scicluna said on PBS’s Dissett.

Scicluna, temporarily at the helm of the Maltese archdiocese pending the Vatican’s decision on the next archbishop, said the church had forwarded two cases to the police.

Scicluna said the new commission, which replaces the Curia Response Team headed by retired judge Victor Caruana Colombo, will be investigating all reports before forwarding them to the police.

He was challenged about the lack of transparency of hearing such cases behind closed doors, and demanding that criminal cases involving clerical sex abuse be heard behind closed doors in court. Even archbishop emeritus Paul Cremona – presenter Reno Bugeja revealed – was allowed to testify behind closed doors in the criminal case against the MSSP priests accused of sexually abusing orphans in their care at the St Joseph Home in Hamrun.

“I did not know of the criminal case… but I was aware of the ‘human’ case,” Scicluna, 55, the Vatican’s former prosecutor on clerical sex abuse, said on PBS about the Charles Fenech case.

“I feel that once the criminal case started, we need to submit ourselves to the judicial process.”

Scicluna also seemed unwilling to contradict claims that one of the victims of the MSSP’s St Joseph Home child sex abuse, was offered relaxants – but not financial damages.

“We believe that it’s the abuser who has to pay for the crime. The Church submits to the law of the State but our principle is that it should be the abusers to pay for the damages,” Scicluna said.

New Vatican role

Scicluna did not rule out the possibility that he may be called upon to serve as an archbishop while retaining his role as president of the new board of review within the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Pope Francis named Scicluna to head a new doctrinal team dealing with appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse.

But he denied suggestions that he would become a ‘part-time’ archbishop. “I will serve in any role the Pope will ask me to serve in… but an archbishop is never part-time. The important thing is that he has good collaborates who are of true help to him.”

“An archbishop is not some Barbie doll who does not take decisions… in these last three months as administrator, I have seen decisions that have long been on the shelf. There are decisions that have to be taken by the new archbishop to give a direction to the diocese.”

Before being named an auxiliary bishop in Malta in 2012, Bishop Scicluna spent 10 years as promoter of justice at the doctrinal congregation, handling accusations of clerical sex abuse.

Spring hunting and divorce

He said that the Church will not be taking any position on the spring hunting referendum, but admitted that he was against hunting migratory species during the breeding season. “We shouldn’t kill them… we should give them the chance to breed so that we can enjoy them in autumn. Hunters who claim they are conservationists should take the opportunity to be true to this calling in spring.”

Scicluna also showed himself to be less than impressed with the Church’s efforts to strengthen the institution of marriage, even despite an increase in Catholic marriages since the introduction of divorce.

“I imaging that the divorce mentality will take time to manifest itself… much of this depends on youth formation,” Scicluna said, as the rate of couples seeking a Church annulment had decreased since the introduction of divorce.


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