Abuse victims give Church ultimatum
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Abuse victims give Church ultimatum

Lawrence Grech: “I’ll fight for what I believe is right.” Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Lawrence Grech: “I’ll fight for what I believe is right.” Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

The victims of clerical sex abuse are giving the Church until the end of February to reconsider its decision against compensating them financially or else they will take their case to court.

When I see and touch the pain the Church has inflicted on the victims I feel I have to do something

“We are giving the Church an ultimatum because we cannot remain abandoned any longer,” Lawrence Grech told The Sunday Times. Mr Grech, who spoke on behalf of the 11 men who were abused as boys at a Sta Venera orphanage, said the Church had also failed to provide the support it had promised.

Last September, the Church had ruled out financial compensation saying it had received legal advice that as an institution it did not have any responsibility for what was perpetrated by some individuals and “cannot take upon herself such responsibility”.

However, it had said it would set up a structure that would include psychiatric, psychological and social professionals to provide victims with the necessary help.

“To date, nobody has sent us for us; not even a phone call,” Mr Grech said.

If the ultimatum expires, the very next day the victims plan to file a case in court – represented by their lawyer Patrick Valentino – and if this is lost they will take it to the European Court of Human Rights.

Last August, two priests – Carmelo Pulis and Godwin Scerri – were sentenced to a five- and six-year jail term following a court case that dragged on for eight years.

The priests, whose appeal will be heard in court on Friday, were found guilty of sexually abusing teenage boys at a Church home in the 1980s and 1990s.

“When I see and touch the pain the Church has inflicted on the victims I feel I have to do something. It would have been different had the Church been blind to what was going on, but it’s not the case,” he said. The Church worldwide, from Ireland to Memphis, has paid out millions to victims who suffered abuse at the hands of priests, and Mr Grech cannot understand why Malta should be any different. “The Church has to pay as this will serve as a lesson and ensure it won’t commit these mistakes again. Unless there is a deterrent it will not learn. These are not victims of war, but victims the Church created itself,” he said.

“The Church needs to know there are consequences to its actions and it should face up to the hurt it has caused,” Mr Grech said.

Mr Grech said the Vatican’s sex crime chief prosecutor, Mgr Charles Scicluna, had opened their eyes to financial compensation when he said in an interview with The Sunday Times they had every right to seek damages in the civil courts.Was he tired of fighting in court?

“I will never give up. I know what happened was wrong and I will not stop fighting for what I believe is right.”

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