The former Archpriest of Xagħra, Gozo, is under police investigation over allegations of sexual abuse against a teenage altar boy dating back 20 years, the Archbishop’s Curia confirmed with The Malta Independent on Sunday yesterday.
The story that the high-ranking Gozitan priest, Mgr Eucharist Sultana, has been accused of sexual misconduct against a boy in his parish was published on the blog of Manuel Delia on Friday evening.
Contacted yesterday, a spokesperson for the Archbishop also confirmed that the Church’s Safeguarding Commission will assess “any possible wrongdoing by Church personnel, which will then recommend disciplinary measures”.
The allegations against Mgr Sultana were received by the Archbishop of Malta and the Bishop of Gozo on 29 July 2018 and the Bishops immediately alerted the Church’s Safeguarding Commission about the alleged “non-recent” abuse by Mgr Eucharist Sultana.
The abuse of the minor, who served as an altar boy at the parish church, allegedly took place over a four-year period between 20 and 16 years ago, but it is only now that the victim has come forward for reasons still unknown.
However, since the abuse took place so long ago, it is questionable whether the police would even be able to take action given that, as the law stands, the defilement of minors is time-barred after five years, meaning no criminal action can be taken if the case is reported more than five years after it took place, while the rape of minors is time-barred after 15 years.
In the meantime, the Curia has also confirmed that, upon receipt of the accusation, Mgr Sultana was “immediately suspended from all public ministry, without prejudice, pending any civil and canonical processes”.
The case was also referred to the Police by the Church’s Safeguarding Commission which in addition to the Police investigation, “any possible wrongdoing by Church personnel will be assessed by the Safeguarding Commission which will then recommend disciplinary measures.”
In his article, Delia says Mgr Sultana is alleged to have groomed the boy with gifts when he was a teenager, in exchange for which he would summon the victim for sexual encounters. The abuse is believed to have ended when the victim was 17 years old.
Delia also reports that at least two senior Gozitan clerics had known of the allegations for up to two years before they were made to Archbishop Charles Scicluna at the end of July. He also reports that when in 2016 Fr Sultana was confronted by the allegation he asked a clerical colleague to mediate with the victim and ensure his silence. Those mediation efforts appear to have fallen flat.
In a comment to this newspaper, the Safeguarding Commission said it is “grateful to victims who show great courage to speak out about the abuse.
“We encourage anyone who has knowledge of a crime to report directly to the Malta Police Force.
“Anyone who has a concern about Church personnel can also contact the Safeguarding Commission on firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Original article found on The Malta Independent