The men who were sexually abused by priests say they never suggested a €10 million settlement from the Church although they do insist on the need for compensation. Sunday’s news bulletin on the Labour Party’s One TV quoted Church sources as saying the victims were expected to ask for €9-€11 million and the Missionary Society of St Paul was planning to sell a property in Gozo to cover the sum.
But the victims and their lawyer – who is meeting Church authorities to discuss compensation tomorrow – have denied ever speaking about financial sums.
Lawyer Patrick Valentino said when contacted that compensation cases abroad, “even in America”, did not ever come close to a million per victim.
“I totally exclude these amounts. We never spoke about sums. What we want is a holistic package that includes social workers and psychologists to help the victims emerge from the state they are in,” Dr Valentino said as he listed the daily challenges faced by the 11 victims.
“When a psychiatrist certifies you as unfit to work, you have a problem. When you can’t hold onto a relationship, you have a problem. When you wake up and instead of leaving the house, you stay in all day on the PlayStation, you have a problem. When you are afraid to wash your kids because you might abuse them, you have a problem.
“When the magistrate describes the atrocities you faced in your childhood and you, a grown man almost in your 40s, have to run out of the court hall to vomit, you have a serious problem,” he said. He pointed out that victims were “motionless” inside the courtroom when the priests’ sentence was read out, unlike normal victims of crime who would clap or cheer at having seen justice carried out.
“These are broken people. From 11, only two or three are managing to overcome what happened, even though it remains at the back of their minds. This is why there has to be a gesture from the Church.”
When contacted, victim Lawrence Grech said he felt dizzy when he heard the sum claimed by One News and joked that he hoped it was true, but denied ever speaking about figures.
However, he said compensation was important particularly for his friends (most of the other victims) who till today were unable to find work or have a home.
“But those of us who are still living uncomfortable lives because of what we went through should at least be given the means to finally live as we deserve to live,” he said.
Reacting to The Sunday Times’ interview with a very apologetic Fr Frankie Cini, who today runs St Joseph Home, Mr Grech seemed unconvinced.
“It is not just the abuse that hurt me. It also hurt me that so many priests gave testimonies in court to try to destroy us. Now they are saying sorry but now it is too late,” Mr Grech said, adding that even Fr Cini testified that the now defrocked Charles Pulis was a good priest.
Some, he said, had even claimed that Mr Grech paid the other victims to give false testimonies.
“If these men (the abusive priests) had been let off by the court, because someone corrupted the system, would the Archbishop have met us and our families as he did? I think they would have sued us for libel, even though they knew we were telling the truth.”
Mr Grech declined Fr Cini’s offer to come and seek closure by visiting the home again.
“I don’t want to go back and see the rooms in which I was abused. I don’t think that will help my healing process.”
Fr Cini said in his interview he was concerned about Mr Grech because it seems “nothing will appease him”.
He also explained how the priests of the home could not make contact with the victims during the eight-year-long court case so as not to influence the proceedings.
“Maybe I am too negative. But even in a spiritual sense, a priest working for God should leave his 100 sheep to seek the one that has gone astray,” Mr Grech said.
However, he agreed with Fr Cini that it was only an apology from the offending priests which mattered.
“When the Archbishop apologised to me I told him: It’s not you who has to apologise. You never did anything to hurt me.”
Meanwhile, another of the 11 victims, Joseph Magro, said he too found it difficult to accept Fr Cini’s apologetic words because he never showed the appropriate keenness to bring the priests to justice.
Mr Magro also said he does not see the point in visiting the place where he was abused. He still wanted to hear the convicted priests admit wrongdoing because their denial exacerbated the pain.
Regarding compensation, Mr Magro said the victims never discussed a sum and would prefer if instead of the money he could be given a pill which would make him forget everything he had experienced.
“But in the absence of that, some money would at least ease other daily problems.”