A British man who claims to have suffered repeated sexual abuse at the hands of a Maltese priest in a local school four decades ago, when he was 10 years old, has finally decided to open up about the harrowing experience that scarred him for life.
The 50-year-old Englishman kept his story a secret for many years. Now, however, his psychiatrist is recommending he seeks closure on the incidents that marred his childhood and deeply troubled his teenage and adult years.
Saying he was encouraged by the recent conviction of former Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell for historic child sex abuse, the man has reported the matter to the police and the Curia’s Safeguarding Commission.
The Sunday Times of Malta has chosen not to publish his name, the name of the priest he accuses of abuse, or of the school where the abuse allegedly took place between May 1979 and September 1981. The priest has since passed away.
The commission, which is tasked with investigating sexual abuse claims against members of the clergy said it is investigating the claim and is collaborating with the police on the matter.
The man told The Sunday Times of Malta in an emotional Skype call that the abuse took place sporadically over the three years he spent at the school as a boarder. His family had moved to Malta because his father had a job here.
His brother, who is slightly older, attended the same school.
The man said he had buried what had happened to him until he was 27, when he wrote a letter to his parents from jail, where he was doing time for petty thefts to fund a drug habit.
“From the time it happened, I started rebelling. I lost interest in education and I distrusted educators,” he said.
“When I look back, I am convinced that the troubles I had in my youth and my adult years are a direct result of what happened because I’m not the person I should be. I am speaking up because I want accountability. I am sure there were other people who suffered at the hands of this priest and others who have a good impression of him because they did not know what was really happening.
“I still get flashbacks and nightmares of the abuse,” he said.
He describes himself as having been a naughty lad who struggled to abide by rules.
His discipline came in the form of the ‘fish’ – a stiff piece of leather shaped like a fish used to strike the palm of the hand, usually six times depending on the severity of the offence.
However, this particular priest, he recounted, began asking him to bare his buttocks instead. And that was when the sexual abuse started, taking place in different parts of the school, including the dormitories, the vestibule of the chapel, the washroom and the school secretary’s office.
From when it happened, I started rebelling. I lost interest in education and I distrusted educators
He said that one night, at around 9pm, the priest entered the dorm and asked him and a friend to accompany him to rearrange some books in thesecretary’s office.
“He was sitting at his desk. I stood a little way away but he told me to come closer as he wasn’t going to hurt me. He asked me to read some passages from a book on his desk. I was nervous and struggled to read.
“He put his hand at the base of my back and asked me to try again. While I was reading he moved his hand inside my pyjamas,” he recounted as he went on to describe the sexual abuse in more graphic detail.
The priest then told him: “God will always forgive you”. “He told me that I must not tell anyone about this and I’d be one of his special boys. He even told me he would do the same to my brother and that God would punish me if I told anyone.
“He then left the room and locked me in. He was gone for what seemed like hours but came back and gave me a packet of Bourbon biscuits, which were my favourite,” the man recalled with immense difficulty.
The next incident took place a couple of months later in the vestibule of the chapel after the priest invited him to be an altar boy during a Mass he was about to celebrate. The priest caught him sipping Mass wine from the bottle but he did not get angry at him.
However, he later forced him to perform a sexual act on him, saying God was forgiving the boy for what he had done. He then proceeded to celebrate Mass.
Similar incidents followed and once the priest penetrated him with his fingers, the man claimed.
The abuse, he said, affected him so deeply that he left the school and refused to return.
“I remember having suicidal thoughts at 12. Why I never did it is something that puzzles me to this day.
“The actions of this man changed me. I became a child who always blamed myself for being abused. My mother, father and siblings had to endure some quite horrendous behaviour. I left my schooling with little qualifications and exam results.
“My erratic behaviour continued into my late teens when I became a violent young man with many arrests, court appearances and convictions. It was only in my late 20s after a spell in prison that I started to get my life together.”
He said compensation was not his “driving force” for reporting the case. “I cannot live without getting solace and accountability. I want them to investigate and then do the right thing.”
The man has a 17-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter from another relationship after the breakdown of his marriage. He said his father never accepted the abuse and never wanted to speak about it up to the day he passed away. His mother, who is 75, still lives with regret for trusting him with the priest.
“I’m speaking about it because it was recommended I seek closure and to give others the courage to speak up. But I am also doing it for my mum,” the man said, fighting hard to hold back tears.