The Church has again dissociated itself from the Ġesù Salvatur Christian community after an investigation confirmed reports that it was giving a confused and wrong interpretation of Church teachings.
In a statement, the Maltese Episcopal Conference said the five-month probe was led by Mgr Hector Scerri, theologian and President of the Doctrinal Commission within the conference.
The probe began last July when the media published interviews with three former members of the Catholic group, who claimed it had discouraged them from dating non-members. Another woman claimed she had been told not to keep her lesbian daughter at home in case she was under some form of curse.
As an interim measure, Archbishop Charles Scicluna had instructed members of the clergy not to host Catholic members of the Gesù Salvatur community in any premises belonging to the church.
The community is led, among others, by Clyde Attard, who in the 2011 divorce referendum had formed part of the non-Church opposition to the legislation of divorce, under the banner ‘Kristu Iva Divorzju Le’.
Attard’s daughter, Amy, had broken ties with the community that her father leads, taking to Facebook to describe it as “a cult”.
“I used to be a part of this community, which I’d rather call a cult. I was brought up in it, having my father as a leader, I believed everyone was my family and loved me.
"Some months ago I decided to stop going as I understood that it wasn’t for me anymore, and it was taking up my whole life, ruining relationships as well. Couldn’t have had the courage to leave without my boyfriend and his whole family... My own parents told me I would get sick and I would be condemned to go to hell if I left.”
Attard said community members had suffered, claiming they were “too afraid to speak as they fear they will send curses to them”.
After leaving the group, Attard said she had been blocked on Facebook by former friends in the community.
The Church commission, which heard the experiences of those willing to meet up, including the leaders of the community, said Komunità Ġesù Salvatur was giving “a wrong and confused interpretation of Church teachings, an erroneous interpretation of scriptural texts, and an attitude that hurts those who are passing through challenging situations in life”.
The commission concluded that irrespective of the spiritual good that could have been done by the community over the years, “one could never justify the alleged psychological and spiritual abuse perpetrated within this community”.
“With the help of several experts, it has been confirmed that the Komunità Ġesù Salvatur demonstrates the sociological characteristics of a closed and rigid community which causes harm to many persons, even if a number of people joined the community in good faith,” it said in its statement.
Through a decree issued by the Maltese Episcopal Conference, the bishops of Malta and Gozo ordered priests and religious clergy not to participate in meetings organised by the Komunità Ġesù Salvatur; that such meetings cannot be held in churches of chapels or in any other property belonging to the Archdiocese of Malta, the Diocese of Gozo, religious orders and ecclesial lay associations; and that lay persons should not attend activities organised by Komunità Ġesù Salvatur.
The church also acknowledged that some people may have been adversely affected by the community over the years and has therefore offered free support services by professionals.
Those who would like to receive this support are invited to call on the helpline 25906510 (during office hours) or send an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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