A Republic not a Theocracy

We are at a defining moment, we are close to being 60 years from Independence, but we have not managed to extricate ourselves from the hold of an insular and conservative Roman Catholic Church domination

File photo
File photo

We are at a defining moment, we are close to being 60 years from Independence, but we have not managed to extricate ourselves from the hold of an insular and conservative Roman Catholic Church domination.   

We are in effect still a Theocratic society.

A domination that conditioned political parties and more significantly the only party (the Partit Laburista) that could have effected changes in society.

The Labour party with all its major faults and horrible and convoluted adventures in institutionalised corruption and environmental destruction have been always been at the forefront of social reforms. 

Though it may read like a ballad from a propaganda pamphlet, the Labour party were crucial to bringing to the fore: women’s equality in status and salaries, civil marriage, social welfare, LGBT rights and so on and forth. 

This would not have happened if the political leaders that led the PL at the time did not take the plunge and confront the tide of conservatism and fear with the courage to get on with it.

Many Labourites, the ones that count when it comes to policies, know that women’s health, is about choice and about a fundamental right known as abortion. 

Nationalist leader Bernard Grech knows this, he also knows that the Partit Laburista is going through great pains to deny it has any intention of introducing abortion. 

The truth is that this is not going to happen during this mandate, but the signs are clear, the younger generation have the confidence to speak out loud and declare that abortion is not only on their agenda but a human right. 

Yes, a human right. 

To those who have grown up immersed in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church this may sound satanic and pagan. But just in case no one has realised, this is all about the modern world that puts men and women on equal footing and their health first.

The stuffiness of the Peppi Azzopardi argument who lacks the knowledge to articulate a logical and intelligent argument against abortion is based on the principle that life is sacred even at the stage that a foetus cannot survive on its own.  And that a woman cannot decide for herself.

Peppi’s approach is Xarabank in style, high in emotion and fast quips, but little attention given to fact.

When he was chosen to be in my programme on TVM, by the pro-life lobby, he was his usual self. But like all 60 and over-60 year-olds we hang on to deep rooted opinions.  And Peppi’s who I have always known as Joe, had one big hang up. 

He has and he has always argued that he has always been at the forefront of every reform so it follows that he should be listened to when he voices his concerns about this amendment.  It sounds like a broken record but that is Peppi. That according to him gives him the licence to oppose this amendment and equate it to the introduction of abortion. 

Even though he does not even know why abortion is considered a woman's right and a health issue in Europe and beyond. 

He like all the others in the pro-life movement are spurned by a deep religious belief. And though he may not look like a fervent Catholic, Peppi has always been mesmerised by the Church’s teachings. Believing that morality is intrinsically linked to the ‘socialist’ Jesus and the Roman Catholic Church.

Those who are no longer emotionally attached to the Church and that is an ever-increasing number of young Maltese see things from a different point of view.

I never quite trusted the Church, indeed I have a great disdain for an institution that has created divisions, promoted ignorance and more significantly drowned reform.  And far from being a virginal establishment, one that has fomented beliefs based on a society that is expected to live in a theocracy.

I realised this not because I was distant from the Church, but because I cared to read about the Church’s history and hegemony over the last centuries.  And more importantly of its behaviour in Malta itself.

Something individuals like Peppi have either not appreciated or simply brushed aside.

That viewpoint has allowed me to see things differently, terminating a pregnancy is to me intrinsically linked to the rights of women and that of her health and well-being.  Not a murder. Abortion is still a distant thing. 

When I militated for European Union accession even before Roberta Metsola dreamt of becoming the EU parliament’s president (today she upholds the belief that abortion is a right according to the European parliament she is president of) I did so in the hope that we would be truly Europeans not Europeans a la carte.

Not second class European with our own mediocre rules.

In the EU Accession Treaty the Nationalist government of the day argued that Malta would not be obligated to introduce abortion.

But that was nearly 20 years ago.

Times are a changing.

And the time may come when Robert Abela may consider that as a politician and a person to see this human right through.  Not in this mandate but perhaps in the next.

The Labour party cannot only be seen as the party that created an economic miracle and upheld social parity.  It has to go beyond that.  It has to be an instigator of social reforms. 

It may be a bruising period for Abela but the courage to believe that change is inevitable will mean that we will finally align ourselves to be whole and full Europeans not half-baked Southerners hanging on to the assumption that we are a Theocracy and not a Republic.