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Cardinal Prospero warns against relativism, indifference to Church teaching

Defending the Maltese Church from criticism over its role in the divorce debate, Cardinal Grech reminds media that “referendums don’t count” as far as the Church is concerned.

Raphael Vassallo
6 August 2012, 12:00am
Cardinal Prospero Grech in an informal meeting with the press at the Archbishop's Curia. (Photo by Photocity, Valletta)
Cardinal Prospero Grech, Malta's highest ranked prelate, does not share the widespread view of Malta as an increasingly pluralised country.

The octogenarian Cardinal has lived in Italy since 1946, and this is his first visit to Malta since his ordination last year.

In an informal meeting with the press at the Archbishop's Curia today, he outlined the Church's overall mission to re-evangelise Europe ahead of the forthcoming 'Year of the Faith'

Echoing Pope Benedict (a personal acquaintance, whom he referred to as 'Ratzinger' throughout), Prospero Grech identified "the dictatorship of relativism" as the greatest problem facing the Church in modern times.

"I agree with Ratzinger that there is a lack of a scale of values against which to measure good and bad, and to distinguish between right and wrong."

He partly attributed this lack to a diluting of traditional European culture through what he referred to as the increasing pluralism of society.

"Today we talk of a pluralised society: at least in countries like the UK, France, Italy, and so on, where Christians have become more or less scattered. However I doubt we can really talk about Malta as a pluralist society. When I tell my colleagues about how Sunday Mass attendance here has 'dropped' to 70%, they start laughing..."

Nonetheless, the same process that led to a dismantling of the traditional Christian social model in Europe is visibly at work here also.

Defending the Maltese Church from criticism over its active role in the divorce debate, Cardinal Grech reminded the media that "referendums don't count" as far as the Church is concerned.

"The Bishops were only following the Church's teachings, and the Church only follows the Gospel."

He however acknowledged that some individuals within the Church may have been too outspoken. "More elasticity would have caused less damage, certainly. But even flexibility has its limits."

The bottom line, he insisted, is the Church stood by what it believed to be the truth. "The Church is against divorce. If it changed this position according to fashion or popular demand, it would no longer be a Church."

Divorce also stood out in Cardinal Grech's assessment of the secularisation of Europe. One of the ill-effects of divorce, he said, was that the resulting instability caused more people to choose cohabitation rather than marriage. Children brought up in this environment are not always given the necessary grounding in religious education.

"If young people are moving away from the Church, it is partly because they do not fully understand the Church's teachings. Take a child raised by a mother or a father who doesn't believe, or both, and who opt out of religious instruction. How will that child be exposed to catechism?"

Cardinal Grech drew a distinction between this category, who drift away from the Church through ignorance, and others who do know and understand the Church's position on issues, and leave the church because they disagree with it.

And yet, when a small group of Maltese nationals expressed disagreement with the Catholic Church and tried to formally end their association with it, they found all the doors practically slammed shut in their faces - to the extent that they even initiated legal proceedings.

Faced with this example, Cardinal Grech (who freely confessed he was unfamiliar with local goings-on) acknowledged that similar efforts had been made in Italy under the battle-cry "sbattezzamento" (de-baptism).

"But it is only a trickle, and they are mainly hot-headed people who want to make a point," he said. "And even so, their baptism will still remain valid; so much so, that if any of those people choose to return to the Church, perhaps because God inspired them to, they will not need to be baptised again. But normally, people who want to leave the Church just do so quietly on their own, and without any fuss."

Nigel Lawrence
"Take a child raised by a mother or a father who doesn't believe, or both, and who opt out of religious instruction. How will that child be exposed to catechism"--- WHY should that child be exposed to mythological brainwashing?
albert leone
Dictatoship comes from moral absolutism and I am afraid that that is what Cardinal Grech is promoting. I would have understood a moral objectivist stance even if I might not agree with it but I am afraid that his approach is that of a blinkered theological intellectual detached from the real life of the ordinary people.
kenneth azzopardi
Referendums dont count is that why the court has fought such a fierce battle on the divorce isssue and spent over 250,000 euro because this issue does not count. You have the maltese public opinion and this is what counts whether you want to accept or not is a different matter but Malta is now a secular country so stop trying to meddle in our politic.
Larry conti
Hasibna li hajja xi fairy tale andikun dan,kif jghixuwa huma.
lslsj@bigblue.net.au
The cardinal's comments show how out-of-touch he really is. Absolutism (to which the Catholic Church subscribes) and complete relativism are both extremes and typically the Cardinal misrepresents the position of many by accusing them of relativism. Its moral teachings when it comes to sexuality is not necessarily absolutist but heterosexist. This heterosexism being employed to camouflage the sexuality of many members of the hierarchy, making them look like identifying with straights. I ask what is the point of taking an absolutist position with a gay man and a lesbian? It also has much to do with the level of abstraction. When people like Cardinal Grech speak of relativism they are either deliberately misrepresting the position of many or simply out of their league. After all, we are now living in a postmodern age and the Cardinal and his beloved Ratzinger still have to get over the Enlightenment.
M Saliba
The church need not be followed. The Maltese Church has no means to bind anybody and it has the right to 'teach' whoever lends an ear but specifically those who are believers. Anybody who is so contrary to what the Church says is so free to let its words skim their feathers. Being so confrontational against the Church reveals something in the inner self ... there can be many reasons and one might do more good to himself if he dedicates sometime to reflect on this ... the real non believer is the indifferent ... the conforontationals are non conformists because of inconvenience ...
Christian Thorn
What has Cardinal Prospero to say about local priests and their involvment in politics, even being part of Political party's strategy team and making obvious their political inclinations treating half the population as "children of a lesser God"?
Christian Thorn
What has Cardinal Prospero to say about local priests and their involvment in politics, even being part of Political party's strategy team and making obvious their political inclinations treating half the population as "children of a lesser God"?
Christian Thorn
What has Cardinal Prospero to say about local priests and their involvment in politics, even being part of Political party's strategy team and making obvious their political inclinations treating half the population as "children of a lesser God"?
Christian Thorn
What has Cardinal Prospero to say about local priests and their involvment in politics, even being part of Political party's strategy team and making obvious their political inclinations treating half the population as "children of a lesser God"?
Christian Thorn
What has Cardinal Prospero to say about local priests and their involvment in politics, even being part of Political party's strategy team and making obvious their political inclinations treating half the population as "children of a lesser God"?
Christian Thorn
What has Cardinal Prospero to say about local priests and their involvment in politics, even being part of Political party's strategy team and making obvious their political inclinations treating half the population as "children of a lesser God"?
Glor Findel
Dear prospero - Sorry to say that u disappoint me because i had expected better and more from u! Through this jibber jabber u show that u are far removed from normal peoples lives and that u are an intellectual who spent his life shut away in the comfortable confines of the vatican, chatting with ratzinger - another horror who kniws precious litte of the real world! I wont go into the merits of ur understandings but i only wish to point out to ur eminence that it is NOT ONLY ignorance that made people go away from the church (oftentimes it was actually the opposite!) -- reflect on the abuse, the humiliations, the marginalizations and exclusions to those who think differently, the harsh judgements that ur church makes on a daily basis ON OTHERS (not on herself) and u will find a lot of HURT that ur church inflicts which may also be maybe reasons why ur church in turn is shunned. I am catholic but i also want this church to back off politics in this little island of ours! And if it cannot bring peace it should at least stay silent and stop sowing hatred!
lifeislife
" When I tell my colleagues about how Sunday Mass attendance here has 'dropped' to 70%, they start laughing..." " Laugh all you like - 50% is more like it and the average attendance age is around 65.
Alf Galea
The church speaks one way in Malta and so differently in other countries, even in Italy. Why? Because they still think that they are in control in Malta and the church still thinks they can threaten us with hell if we dare open our mouths. They wouldn't dare do that in Italy, because with a church going public of less that 15%, they would risk even losing this. Let's not talk about France, Spain etc., where the church going public is much smaller.
Nigel Lawrence
the dictatorship of relativism--- nothing, of course, like the dictatorship aka the catholic church.
Ramon Casha
I think the problem the church is facing is irrelevancy. The most earth-shattering breaking news to come out of the church is the debatable interpretation of an interview by the Pope to mean that condoms are admissable to prevent infection, while the rest of us are exploring Mars, discovering new subatomic particles and peering at the furthest reaches of the universe.