St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta | Kon-Katidral ta' San Gwann #0649 Just when you thought this twisted, sordid tale of institutional rot and moral bankruptcy couldn’t get any stranger than it already has, the Roman Catholic Church’s clerical child abuse scandal has gone strange. First, the backstory, which is — unfortunately — not strange at all, but instead, predictable. This scandal hit Malta — some time ago, actually, but it’s only now that the extent of the abuse there has become known. The AP via Google News reports on this development (WebCite cached article):

Pope Benedict XVI visits Malta in two weeks, and some victims of sex abuse by priests on the predominantly Roman Catholic island say they want him to use the trip to apologize for their suffering. …

Last week, as the European church, the Vatican and pope were under fire for accusations of covering up sex crimes by its priests, a response team in Malta announced that it had received 84 allegations of child abuse allegedly involving 45 Maltese priests since it was established by the Maltese Catholic Church 11 years ago.

The article mentions the nature of this “response team,” the fact that no criminal charges have been made and likely won’t be made, and notes how intensely Catholic Malta is. But the strange part comes in its last three paragraphs:

One prominent case in Malta involved a U.S. congressman, Rep. Mark Foley.

The Florida Republican resigned from Congress in 2006 after he was confronted with sexually explicit computer messages he had sent to male teenage congressional pages. His attorneys have said that Foley is gay, suffers from alcohol addiction and was molested by a Catholic priest as a teenage altar boy.

The Rev. Anthony Mercieca, who has retired to Malta, has admitted having inappropriate encounters with Foley, including massaging him in the nude and skinny-dipping together. He denies ever having sex with Foley.

Fr Mercieca’s admission of “inappropriate encounters” but denials of having sex, are eerily similar to the old protestation that “I tried marijuana, but I didn’t inhale.” (President Clinton once said something along these lines.) I’m just not buying it.

I’m not sure, but it looks as though Mark Foley is the highest-profile victim of this worldwide scandal.

I’m guessing the Vatican won’t take this report very seriously, and instead, accuse the AP of being “anti-Catholic” for having reported on the Malta response team’s results. Yes, even though the Maltese Catholic Church itself appointed that panel! The black-robed and red-hatted men who rule the Vatican aren’t above a little paranoid irrationality, if it helps them dodge and swerve out of the way of yet another batch of bad news about its own affairs.

Photo credit: p_valdivieso.

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