Banned ‘child abuse’ float minimised gravity of the crime, social workers say

Social workers say banned carnival float was homophobic and minimised gravity of crime of child abuse with gratuitous links to Vatican prosecutor of sex abuse cases

The banned carnival float linked Charles Scicluna to the history of sex crimes that occurred in the 1980s
The banned carnival float linked Charles Scicluna to the history of sex crimes that occurred in the 1980s

The Maltese Association of Social Workers has said a carnival float linking Archbishop Charles Scicluna to the historic St Joseph Home child abuse saga was likely to cause distress to the home’s residents by depicting it as unsafe. 

The carnival float was banned for participation in the Maltese carnival defilé by the minister culture for juxtaposing the Catholic archbishop with two-horned cherubs and the name ‘St Joseph Home’, as well as inserting an LGBTQI rainbow in the pastiche. 

The St Joseph Home was the site of repeated child abuse of orphans who resided there in the 1980s until police investigated the case in 2003. In 2011, Carmelo Pulis, then 69, and Godwin Scerri, then 78, were defrocked and jailed for five and six years respectively after a court found them guilty of sexually abusing ten boys in their care in the 1980s.

The home still houses orphaned residents.

But even Lawrence Grech, one of the survivors who has been repeatedly denied compensation from Scicluna’s archdiocese, yesterday insisted the carnival float should not be banned. 

The MASW today said the flat linking Scicluna and a gay couple with child abuse was inappropriate in a number of ways. 

“While the association supports freedom of expression and is not opposed to satire... [it] is likely to create distress for current and former residents of the home, since the place they call home is being depicted as unsafe and the target of ridicule. 

“The float also negates the efforts of the Archbishop in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, both locally and internationally,” it said of Scicluna’s role as the Vatican’s chief prosecutor of sex abuse cases. “The third issue with the float is that it is homophobic, linking child abuse to gay individuals.” 

The MASW said it agreed with the ban on the float’s participation and expressed solidarity with St Joseph Home staff and residents. “Using child abuse as a form of ridicule minimises the gravity of this crime and works against a society which has a zero-tolerance for all forms of abuse and which is committed to bringing all perpetrators of abuse to justice.”

Presented sketch lacked further details that 'increased the defamatory element' of the float 

Festival Malta announced on Friday that the carnival company would not be allowed to participate in the 2020 edition of Carnival with the aforementioned design.

The company said that it had been warned the design submitted contained defamatory aspects, however, it said that the sketch presented lacked further details that “increased the defamatory element.”

“While Festivals Malta openly disassociates itself from these defamatory elements as they are being proposed to be presented, it is a firm believer in cultural and artistic expression and recognizes that there should not be any barriers that hinder creativity. However, although artists enjoy the unprecedented freedom of expression, the legal parameters must at the same time always be observed and respected.”