The victims of clerical sex abuse will file a lawsuit against the Church only after the appeal case over the two priests found guilty of perpetrating the acts is concluded.

The longer it takes, the more chance there will be for the priests to die

Last January, the victims’ spokesman, Lawrence Grech, said the Church had until the end of February to reconsider its decision not to grant financial compensation or face a court case the next day.

However, almost a month after the deadline expired, the victims have said they have dropped the ultimatum following legal advice.

Their lawyer, Patrick Valentino, told The Times the case against the Church would only be filed after the entire appeal process had been concluded.

The Church had ruled out financial compensation last September, saying its legal advice was that it had no responsibility for what was perpetrated by some individuals and “cannot take upon herself such responsibility”.

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

The victims complained they had never been called about such support but the Church said it was prepared to provide help “as soon as victims of abuse by individual pastoral functionaries ask for this service”.

The case involves two priests – Carmelo Pulis and Godwin Scerri – who were sentenced to five- and six-year jail terms respectively following a court case that dragged on for eight years. The priests, who appealed their sentences, were found guilty of sexually abusing teenage boys at a Church home in the 1980s and 1990s.

Mr Grech had 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.

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

Speaking to The Times yesterday, he complained that the priests’ defence lawyers were “complicating matters” in court, leading him to believe the appeal will drag on for years, just like the actual case.

“The longer it takes, the more chance there will be for the priests to die. It’s not fair – we’ve been waiting for eight years, are we going to spend another three years?” he said.

On Wednesday the court is expected to decide the appeal filed by the Attorney General regarding the rape charge of Mr Scerri, who was cleared because the prosecution wrote the incorrect location of the alleged rape.