Cardinal told of Bishop's bullying nature

Letter in 2014 warned Cardinal Reinhard Marx that Gozo bishop was ‘bully’ with a ‘manifest attachment to material wealth’

Gozo bishop Mario Grech
Gozo bishop Mario Grech
Cardinal Reinhard Marx
Cardinal Reinhard Marx

Gozo bishop Mario Grech’s “reprehensible behaviour” could have cost him the post of Archbishop which Paul Cremona vacated last year due to medical reasons.

A letter that MaltaToday has seen shows how members of the clergy raised their concerns on Grech with high-ranking members of the Holy See, including Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who heads the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community.

Sources said that Grech was favourite to fill in Cremona’s boots but that the Vatican opted for Charles Scicluna at the eleventh hour, when it is thought that the protests voiced by members of the clergy swayed the decision Scicluna’s way.

This apparently soured Grech’s relationship with some elements of the Gozitan Church who warned the Vatican of his negative and “hostile” attitude.

Various clergymen spoke to MaltaToday since its report last week on how Grech had failed to carry out the Vatican’s order to defrock Dominic Camilleri – up to last week Camilleri still said mass in a private chapel and presented himself as a priest.

In the letter to the Cardinal in 2014, Marx was urged to ensure that the Vatican and its representative in Malta “thoroughly investigate this allegation of professional misconduct by Bishop Grech.”

Following this newspaper’s report last Sunday, the Gozo curia this week confirmed the shamed priest’s dismissal despite the initial refusal to answer questions on the case.

The letter to Cardinal Marx shows that members of the clergy were angered by Grech’s failure to execute Camilleri’s dismissal, and sources said this could be connected to the shamed priest’s alleged threats to expose other cases of sexual abuse involving Gozitan priests.

The letter, which was also copied to Pope Francis and the Congregation of Bishops, described Grech in no uncertain terms as a “bully” who nurtures a “bullying culture” and that he “thrives on a media spin culture.” 

Marx was warned that Grech “is utterly unfit” to become archbishop and told in unequivocal terms that the bishop is “the embodiment of a heady combination of spiritual authority and power with the lack of human accountability”.

The Cardinal was told that during Grech’s nine-year tenure in Gozo, the Gozo Church has been run by the “grin of a Cheshire cat” and that Grech’s promotion would be a “sheer disaster”.

It alleged that Grech’s “aggressive” attitude had led to a number of resignations within the Gozo Church while others were sidelined, deliberately overworked and verbally assaulted in public.

Moreover, the Gozo bishop – who still lives with his parents – was also accused of allowing his family to interfere in the running of the diocese, which had allegedly led to “bad pastoral decisions” and “misfits” appointed to pastoral ministries.

The letter sent to Cardinal Marx also accuses Grech of having “a manifest attachment to material wealth” and that a retirement home for priests built by his predecessor Bishop Nicholas Cauchi, had been occupied by a priest’s mother for a number of years instead of some 20 priests.

“The Church in Gozo has been run for the last nine years by a ‘grin of a Cheshire cat’. It would be a sheer disaster if Bishop Grech were appointed archbishop. He is utterly unfit to lead the Metropolitan See. The Maltese Church requires a robust leader,” the letter concluded.

Marx acknowledged the letter and in a reply suggested that the Apostolic Nuncio to Malta be informed of its contents.