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Bishop Scicluna calls for secret ballot on civil union bill

Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna calls on MPs to hold a secret and free vote on the forthcoming civil union law.

Jurgen Balzan
14 January 2014, 12:00am

Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna has called on MPs to hold a "free and secret" vote on the civil union bill to ensure that they vote "conscientiously" and honour the oath of allegiance.

Writing on the Church news portal newsbook, Scicluna said that faced by fundamental legislation which will legally recognise new forms of families, "all MPs, whoever they are and whichever party they represent, should be given a free vote and the possibility to express themselves in a secret manner."

However, Scicluna overlooked one important factor. MPs cannot cast a secret ballot according to the House of Representatives' standing orders, which clearly says that "Votes shall be taken openly and entered in the minutes of the proceedings of the House."

Moreover, the Constitution stipulates that the Speaker has the right to exercise a casting vote if the votes are equally divided. Allowing a secret vote would defeat the purpose of this Constitutional article because as confirmed in a ruling given by former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi in 1994, when he was Speaker of the House, it would make little sense to hold a secret ballot while allowing the Speaker to cast his vote in the eventuality of a tie.

In his blog post, Scicluna argued that in their oath of allegiance, MPs "call on God to be a witness of their personal loyalty towards the people and the Republic."

In the first sitting of each legislature, MPs solemnly swear that they will "bear true faith and allegiance to the people and the Republic of Malta and its Constitution. (So help me God)."

According to the Auxiliary Bishop, this oath is "not only a civil act, but above all a religious act, because to swear means calling on God to be a witness to your commitment. This commitment is guaranteed by what is good and what is right, which is God."

He went on to compare the oath taken by MPs to the one taken in Court, which if broken, would result in a felony.  

Scicluna wrote that the fact that MPs take an oath invoking God, when they have the choice to make a secular oath, meant that their commitment is "guaranteed by their faith in god and his presence."

Moreover, Scicluna told MPs that "God is witness to their every action," and warned them that they cannot divest themselves of their faith when performing Parliamentary duties, "but their faith guides them to ensure that their decisions are enlightened by God's scriptures and law."

In recent weeks, Scicluna has been in the limelight for a series of bold statements he made on the civil union bill which if approved by Parliament would also allow same-sex couples to apply for adoption.

In a recent interview with Avvenire, the Italian daily newspaper owned by the Italian Episcopal Conference, Scicluna said that a Catholic MP who supports the Civil Union Bill and the right for same-sex couples to adopt would be committing "a gravely immoral act."


This interview provoked firm reactions by both Prime Minister Joseph Muscat who reaffirmed the separation between State and Church affairs and PN deputy leader Mario de Marco who retracted “One could indeed argue whether it would be immoral to vote against [the bill]."

Jurgen Balzan joined MaltaToday in 2011, specialising in politics, foreig...
Michael Schembri
Could this latter day Mikiel Gonzi PLEASE get out of our face! Does he seriously want to take Malta back to the Middle Ages? Is this why the Vatican dumped him on Malta?
The auxillary bishop is inciting homophobic hate and he is still living in 600BC! Infront of God's eyes we are all equal and nobody is above the law. To suppress a minority group is an immoral act, gay people are not sinners. They contribute towards the economy, pay their taxes and NI contributions. I tell the auxillary bishop that we are living in Malta which is a liberal and democratic country. This is no Afghanistan or Iran where human rights are unheard of.
joe mifsud
Mons.Scicluna its better if you try to work out why only 4000 families filled the questonnaire you sent into our homes,the pope is not going to be happy about the results.It seams you are not doing a good job.Try to keep the church and gove. seperate ..Its not your call to call for a vote.
The bishop is trying to do his duty and keep away any laws that go against the teachings of the church. By the way such teachings are found in other religions as some behead homosexuals and not give them the right to a civil union. Politicians will do what they think is best for our country and then they pay the price in the next election.
Nicholas Farrugia
" In the first sitting of each legislature, MPs solemnly swear that they will "bear true faith and allegiance to the people and the Republic of Malta and its Constitution. (So help me God). " Allegiance to the people and The Republic of Malta NOT to the Curia or the Bishop. There should be CLEAR separation between Church and State matters.
The church does not have any right to interfere in the laws of the country
Xiky, would you rather we returned to the dark ages of the CC?
eddy privitera
Anthony Busuttil
Fejn huma l-Arcisqof Cremona u l-Isqof Grech? qed niehdu l-impressjoni li din hija gwerra ta Charlie u huma ma jaqblux mieghu. Dan huwa tahwid kbir ghal knisja u qed tigie mohmija hafna hsara ghal l-istess knisja.
paul sciberras
Back to the 60s?
Andrew Bezzina
This guy should stop spewing such bollocks, if he want the church to retain any from of credibility.
Godfrey Pirotta
Bishop Scicluna nows wants us to change our Parliamentary procedures because he fears that Catholic MPs in Parliament would not vote according to their conscience. This shows a complete lack of trust in these MPs and conveys the message that these so-called MPs are Catholic only in name. No Bishop Scicluna, we are not going to invent a new rule despised by all free Parliaments to make it easy to get your way. These so called Catholic MPs, notably PN, because they feared more lost votes supported Civil Unions before the election. Now they have only two alternatives: either to act honestly and act according to their electoral promise or resign their seat.
peppi x
"call on God to be a witness of their personal loyalty towards the people and the Republic." And that how it should be. MPs should show their "loyalty towards the people and the Republic" towards the people who elected them which should be above other loyalties to any individuals or societies.
Anthony Busuttil
Mons. Scicluna qed jindahal wisq. Nesa li dan il gvern ghandu mandat car ta 36,000 vot? Sa fejn jien infurmat l-ebda vot sigriet ma ttiehed biex intghazel l-Isqof Scicluna imqar bejn il kapillani,imma kien impost.
Lawrence Galea
Can the Ajjutallah Scicluna please refrain from interfering is State affairs not to do more damage to the Church than his predecessor Gonzi did in the 1950's and 60's?
Ramon Casha
MPs are representatives, and their constituents have the right to know how they are voting, so a secret vote on any matter in parliament is out of the question. They swear their loyalty towards the people and the Republic, not to the Vatican or to the Curia or to a bishop whose first loyalty is to Western Europe's last official dictator.
Joseph Sant
Without entering into the merit of the case. It appears that Mons Scicluna does not know what he is and much more what he is saying. The constitution does not allow secret votes in Parliament. After all the Maltese citizens have the right to know what their MP;s are saying and discussing and even how they vote. Secondly by suggesting 'a secret vote' Mons Scicluna is sending a wrong message to us Christians. A true Christian should never be afraid of declaring openly what his conscious says. After all why is it that only Mons Scicluna is interfering in something that is beyhond him.?
m borg
Do we the faithful ever consulted on who should be Pope, Cardinal, Bishop, Monsignor etc ..... NO So why not shut the muck up Mons Scicluna you are becoming boring and stale , causing more harm to the church than contributing to its resurgence......... Scicluna wrote that the fact that MPs take an oath invoking God, when they have the choice to make a secular oath, meant that their commitment is "guaranteed by their faith in god and his presence." Exactly then it is between the MPs and God mons Scicluna means puck all.
Glor Findel
Next step: complete separation of church and state! ... Thanks to bishop scicluna this step is now crucial, as it has become evident that he's worse than any taliban and simply wants to govern Malta by hook or by crook.
Scicluna should stick to his merit and let others live their lives. They may not be members of his club so his rules don't stick. After all isn't celibacy not unnatural?
U dan il-melha kemm se jdum jindahal pubblikament fejn ma jesghux. Jien nifhimha li bhala kap (sic) tal-Kurja f'Malta - ghax QATT ma se naccettah bhala rapprezentant ta' S.G.K. - ghandu dritt jaghti l-fehmiet tieghu. Imma QATT mhu se naccetta li dan il-melha Gonzi Version 2014 ghandu jindahal f'affarijiet civili u indirettament jhedded bl-infern lil minn jivvota favur l-Unjoni Civili. Hallina Scicluna u mur lura minn fejn gejt.