The Church declared today that it has been given legal advice that it does not, as an institution, have any legal responsibility for the recent clerical sex abuse convictions 'perpetrated by some individuals' and it cannot take upon itself such responsibility.

In a three paragraph statement issued following a meeting between the bishops and the Conference of the Religious Major Superiors, the Curia added that without referring to any specific cases, without prejudice to civil cases which may arise in the future, and without renouncing to the rights of defence in court, it is setting up a structure which will include psychiatric, psychological and social professionals to help people involved in such cases.

"This applies for every individual who, in any way, is proved to be a victim by individual pastoral functionaries. The Church is doing this as part of her pastoral and spiritual ministry," the Curia said.

Archbishop Paul Cremona over the past weeks has had two meetings with a lawyer representing clerical abuse victims after two members of the Missionary Society of St Paul were convicted of clerical sex abuse. Compensation to the victims, under various forms, was discussed.

The case, however, is still pending an appeal decision.