The Missionary Society of St Paul, which administers St Joseph Home for Boys, this afternoon issued an apology for the child sex abuse cases for which two of its members have been convicted. It also explained the procedures in place to avoid a repetition of this 'dark chapter'.
In a statement issued through the Curia, the MSSP said:
Following the fact that the criminal court has found two of our members guilty of sexually abusing children residing at St Joseph's Home, the Missionary Society of St Paul, together with the Management and staff at St. Joseph's Home express their numbing sense of sorrow for the pain caused to children abused at St. Joseph's Home during their time as residents. We share the general sense of outrage and betrayal, that this Home, set up as a sanctuary for the most vulnerable children in our society, for some time also became a place where children experienced abuse and harm"
The society said it could not ignore the fact that the case is sub judice following the appeal filed by the two condemned.
"The MSSP reminds that the case was first brought to the attention of the authorities by the Home itself with a staff member reporting the first case of abuse on11th July 2003. This led to the suspension of Carmel Pulis from the Home the next day."
It said that through the direct intervention of MSSP Regional and General Superiors, all the persons accused with abuse at St. Joseph's were never in contact with this Home again.
"Unfortunately, contact with most of the victims was never established, or was lost once legal proceedings began in October 2003. Notwithstanding this, three victims have maintained contact with the Home and have been supported regularly. In this light the Home invites the remaining victims who feel they could benefit, to re-establish contact with the Home, possibly re-visiting individually, as part of their personal process of healing," the MSSP said.
It explained that the care-giving setup has been overhauled, particularly since 2003, with trained lay care-workers and professional social workers running the residential programme.
"The setup at St. Joseph’s Home nowadays, includes mandatory external supervision for staff, strict vetting of all people working with the residents, clear physical and psychological boundaries, and most importantly transparent reporting structures to seek to eradicate the risk of harm to children. Each child in care at the Home, is monitored by two social workers, the residential social worker, and also a field social worker assigned by Agenzija Appogg."
The Home is currently nearing its full capacity of 18 boys, with four children being admitted during this month.
The MSSP called for restraint in reporting from and about the Home itself to help respect the privacy of the current residents.
"This place is still called home by these children, some of them as young as 10 years old; these current residents have also been deeply distressed by the extensive media coverage of the Home. They should never become secondary victims of this case."
The MSSP said it humbly commits itself to continue to seek ways and means to help children most at risk through novel projects and ideas which bridge the gap for children who need residential placements. The Home hopes to find continued supports for its mission of caring for children in need, in spite of this very dark chapter in its history.
It also wished to honour the memory of many other MSSP members, lay workers, and volunteers who had served the children of this Home with selfless dedication and integrity throughout the years.