The church is investigating sexual abuse claims made by a woman against a priest who is due to appear in court to face criminal proceedings over the allegations.

A spokesman for the church said the matter was being investigated by the Church's Response Team, which was set up to deal with such allegations.

The spokesman said the Curia was not going to comment further on the case so as not to interfere or in any way influence the proceedings, both before the Response Team and those in court.

Times of Malta, which broke the story last Sunday, decided not to name the priest involved – in line with what it believes is an accepted norm in ethical journalism, save for truly exceptional circumstances – because he has not yet been charged with the offences in court. This media organisation will not deviate from this position even though it has been aware of the priest’s identity all along.

The 54-year-old priest from Rabat is due in court to face charges of violent sexual abuse against a mentally unstable patient.

He is also being accused of holding the woman against her will and committing indecent acts in public.

The incidents are alleged to have taken place at various locations over a period of years. The woman, in her 40s, was receiving treatment following a suicide attempt at the time the sexual assaults allegedly took place.

The police are also investigating claims of sexual abuse against the priest made by other women.

The priest is denying all charges.