Whose side is the Church on, anyway?

I might be mistaken, of course: it’s not like I rush off to ‘get myself to the Church on time’, whenever Archbishop Charles Scicluna delivers a sermon on the subject (which, of late, has been pretty much ‘every Sunday’...)

OK, I have to admit: this is all getting slightly… confusing.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but: wasn’t the Catholic Church supposed to be AGAINST ‘Bill 28’? You know, the one which removes criminal sanctions in cases where “the termination of a pregnancy results from a medical intervention aimed at protecting the health of a pregnant woman suffering from a medical complication which may put her life at risk, or her health in grave jeopardy”?

I might be mistaken, of course: it’s not like I rush off to ‘get myself to the Church on time’, whenever Archbishop Charles Scicluna delivers a sermon on the subject (which, of late, has been pretty much ‘every Sunday’...)

So I could very easily have missed out on that one occasion, where His Grace suddenly turned round, and informed a (stunned) Maltese congregation that: “Hey, guess what? We’ve changed our minds! Maybe it’s NOT such a bad idea, after all, to actually try and save at least the mother’s life: in cases where a health complication may threaten both her, and her unborn child’s, survival…”

And to be perfectly honest: it wouldn’t even particularly surprise me – well, not THAT much, anyway - if Archbishop Charles Scicluna does indeed one day gravitate towards that very opinion. After all, stranger things have been known to happen. Pope Francis, for instance – whom some of you may recognise as, um, the ‘Head of the Global Catholic Church’ - has only just DEFROCKED a US priest (Fr Pavone) for, apparently, being:

a) too ‘radical’ in his pro-life views (!), and;

b) ‘too outspoken, in his support for Donald Trump’ (!!)

I mean: who would ever seen that one coming, huh? Suddenly, Catholic priests can be ‘too pro-life’, and ‘too supportive of radically pro-life politicians’, for even the Vatican, no less! (Almost makes you wonder why Pope Francis is taking so long to defrock around 90% of the Maltese clergy, while he’s at it. After all, their views aren’t all that different from Pavone’s, are they?)

But anyhow: from that same perspective… how utterly ‘inconceivable’ is it, really, for the Maltese archdiocese to also experience a sudden, seismic ‘policy-shift’ of its own, on the subject of ‘female reproductive rights’? How long can it realistically be, before the Maltese Catholic Church similarly realises that… “Hey, you know what? Maybe there IS actually a limit to how far we can realistically stretch this whole ‘pro-life’ business… before we start looking as though we’re actively promoting the death of a mother, under the guise of ‘trying to save an unsavable foetus’”… (and, while I’m it: “before some lunatic out there finally carries out just one of the countless death-threats, that pro-choice activists have been receiving for the past four-or-so years?”)

At the same time, however: I do concede that it’s rather unlikely for such a thing to have really occurred. If nothing else, it would have been instantly called out by the Maltese press as the ‘Mother of all U-turns’ (while, quite possibly, also precipitating the second-most catastrophic schism, in Catholic history, since Martin Luther first nailed his theses to the Wittenberg Cathedral door…).

This leaves me to believe that the Catholic Church has NOT actually diverted from its previous position on the subject of Bill 28… and that it still objects to this amendment, for all the grounds made public so far.

These include that, inter alia, that by extending the bill to cover ‘health conditions’ – as opposed to limiting itself only to ‘when a mother’s life is in imminent, physical danger’ – the law would ‘open the door to abortion-on-demand’.

But this only brings us back to the source of all this confusion. If that is indeed the Malta Archdiocese’s position – oh, and that reminds me: just in case I’m being misunderstood… that’s absolutely fine by me, you know. It should go without saying that – just like everyone else in this country – the Catholic Church is perfectly free to express any opinion it likes, on any subject under the sun...

Heck, that reminds me of something else: Fr Joe Borg is also perfectly right, to complain about being told to ‘shut up’, simply because he is (in his own words) ‘male, old, and a priest’.

Now: I might not exactly qualify as the last of those three things, myself: but I am male; I am (much as it pains me to say it) more than three-quarters of the way to Fr Borg’s age; and… why, just the other day, I too was told to ‘shut up’, by someone who couldn’t have been a day older than Justin Bieber…

… because I was ‘too old’ to understand why contemporary pop music is ‘way cooler’ than any of ‘that boring stuff you had in the 1970s…’

So, what can I say? Yes, Fr Joe… I understand you perfectly. I, too, felt an overwhelming – almost insurmountable – urge to just whack that little snot-nosed twerp (who knows NOTHING about 1970s music! NOTHING, I tell you!) right across the mouth, as hard as I could… and then throttle him, with his own earphones. (There, just had to get that off my chest, that’s all…)

As you can see, then: I’m perfectly on board with this idea that even ‘old, male priests’ – yes, and ‘nuns of any age’, too – are every bit as entitled, as everyone else, to have their own say, in what is ultimately supposed to be a ‘national debate’ (which, in this case, happens to also touch upon their own beliefs rather closely, don’t you think?)

But still… that the same Catholic Church which opposes this amendment so vehemently, would also be the one to publish a survey that… well, pretty much fires the equivalent of a torpedo, directly into its own campaign engine-room?

Again: it’s the sort of thing that – like St Thomas before me (imho, the most practical and level-headed of the Twelve, by far) – I’d need to actually dip my own finger into, before actually believing. Yet there it is, in black-on-white: “A Church-commissioned survey has revealed that 80% of respondents to a Misco poll are in agreement with the termination of a pregnancy ‘in circumstances where a woman’s life is in danger…’”

And… um… how did that amendment go again? “… protecting the health of a pregnant woman suffering from a medical complication which may put her life at risk, or her health in grave jeopardy?”

Oh, OK, I know what you’re all thinking: this simply takes us back, in a circular argument, to the Church’s specific grounds for objecting to Bill 28 - i.e, its inclusion of ‘health conditions’, as justification to terminate a pregnancy…

… which also implies that, even if this survey proves that ‘80% agree with abortion, to save a mother’s life’… it doesn’t necessarily follow that the same percentage would also support a bill that aims to protect only the HEALTH of a mother [etc., etc.]

And all that’s perfectly true, you know (in fact, it’s a pity that the Church-commissioned survey didn’t actually include the all-important question: ‘Do you agree with abortion when a mother’s health is in grave danger? It would have just ‘cut right to the chase’, so to speak…)

Nonetheless: something tells me these results are not exactly what the Catholic Church was expecting, when it commissioned the Misco survey. Not only does it reveal that a staggering 80% of the Maltese public now agree, that pregnancies which directly threaten a woman’s life should be medically terminated… but that the same 80%, in turn, is an average of all the percentages, across all age-groups (and other denominations) which answered that question.

In the 24-35 age-bracket, for instance, it was 86%. Among those 65 and older… it was 71%. (And just to illustrate what an extraordinary - seismic, almost - shift in public opinion this truly represents: in our 2018 survey, the exact same question returned a nation-wide answer of just 47.5%.)

That’s not all: the Misco survey also sets new records for approval of abortion in ALL circumstances (or as the question somewhat ambiguously puts it: ‘in cases where the mother’s life is not at risk’). Here, an unprecedented 53.8% of 16-24 year-olds answered: ‘Yes, actually. We do agree…’

Now: put it altogether – and yes, why not? Also throw in the footnote detail, that ‘70% oppose abortion-on-demand’ – and what emerges is (in the Curia’s own words): “the picture of a nation that agrees with abortion to save the mother’s life but where the majority disagree with terminating a pregnancy for other reasons”; and that ‘the survey also shows a generational gap in attitudes towards abortion.”

And while I’ll admit that this may not be identical to, say, “the picture of a nation in which 80% actually DOES agree with the fundamental aims of Bill 28”… I reckon that even the Archdiocese of Malta may by now have realised, that their own survey serves much the same purpose as that ‘fiery hand’, that once left a ‘private message’ for Belshazzar on his palace wall…

There has, in a word, been a major shift in this country’s cultural attitudes towards abortion: all that remains to be seen, is whether the vast majority that (only now) approves of ‘terminating unviable pregnancies, in order to save a pregnant woman’s life’… can also take the next logical step, and finally understand that a ‘pregnant woman’s life’ cannot realistically ever be ‘at risk’… unless her ‘health’ is also in ‘grave jeopardy’.

I mean, come on. It’s not THAT big a step, is it?