Missing: Archbishop to lead the church

If the Labour Party can be convinced to vote in favour of civil unions, then surely they can be convinced that shooting birds is not on, and that solidarity with African migrants crossing the Sahara and then the Mediterranean in search for a new life is indeed worth fighting for.

Archbishop Paul Cremona
Archbishop Paul Cremona

No one seems to have asked a very pertinent question. Where was the Maltese Catholic Church during these past few weeks, as the whole civil union debate was unfolding?

I’m sure most liberal folk will probably welcome the complete absence of the clergy and the Church from the scene, but it does worry me that the Maltese Church have not even engaged in this debate, simply because Archbishop Paul Cremona has been out of action. If there was ever a time when the Maltese Church lacked leadership, it is now.  Never before in its long history has it been so meek and weak.

It appears to be a taboo subject to even suggest that Archbishop Cremona has been out of the public eye and is absent from public debate due to – it is said – problems related to his health. It is unthinkable to even say that Cremona is not fit for purpose. But we all know that he isn't. Indeed, media requests for interviews with the Archbishop are usually met with lame excuses.

In short, the Maltese Church has been like a headless chicken without a voice and a direction, and many Maltese Catholics have been asking the question: where is our Church? Ours is not a liberal society. It is a conservative society, which is very close to its Church. In normal circumstances – where civil union between gays was introduced – the Roman Catholic Church would be up in arms, as was the case in France and Spain.

Then again, there are those who will argue that they are happy with this defunct and ailing Church. Though I am not a practising Catholic myself, I wonder what is best: a society without a Church or one with. I have to admit that I do feel bad that the whole debate was no debate at all, and that there was no one to voice opposition or to promote a counter argument. Only Joe Borg, the priest-cum-media personality, stood up to say something.

It was as if the country suddenly assimilated liberal politics, with the Church suddenly exterminated. We all know that this is not the case.
I would have hoped that the same zeal for embracing change would come about when treating other radical subjects such as environmental topics and integrating African migrants into Maltese society.

Muscat has been undoubtedly courageous and taken a very clear stand on gay issues. Yet, one doesn’t have to venture very far back to realise that this wasn’t always the case. His early interviews clearly show that he wasn’t always so friendly to the gay cause. He was always cautious and sounded very unconvinced. Somewhere along the line, he fell from his horse and like Paul of Tarsus, started to see the light.
He has yet to be convinced (if ever) about other matters such as hunting and a zero tolerance to development in outside development zones and to fighting xenophobia and accepting migrants into Maltese society.  (And please note: all of these considerations would fall under the remit of a social democratic party manifesto.)

In accepting civil union among gays, the issue of majority and minority have been sidelined. It is bizarre that there was no real campaign for civil unions in this country.  Hardly a vociferous one anyway, save for some echoes from the press. Other campaigns and concerns have been going on for years and politicians and their peers have decided to ignore the arguments because they are scared of losing votes.
Muscat has obviously argued that he wants to be on the right side of history. But why can’t he be on the right side of history when it comes to other issues?

He said this as he was flanked by Cyrus Engerer: that very foolish, superficial, clichéd politician who only until some time ago was very keen on being a Nationalist, and who thought that the next best thing to living in Brussels with your partner was being a Nationalist councillor.
Engerer has tried to garner votes for his dream of living in Brussels by appeasing Maltese hunters and arguing that they are a minority which needs to be safeguarded. It was as if the Maltese hunters – led by Lino Farrugia – were an endangered Amazonian tribe.

What I cannot understand is why Muscat is willing to storm ahead with his gay issues against the bastion of conservatives within his party, but not on other issues. If the Labour Party – with its tradition of thinking that gays are essentially sub-human – could be convinced to vote in favour of civil unions, then surely they can be convinced that shooting birds is not on, and that solidarity with black people crossing the Sahara and then the Mediterranean in search for a new life is indeed worth fighting for.

But Muscat is not easily convinced, and perhaps it takes more than a single opinion from yours truly to change the man’s views. As Muscat relished the jubilation of Monday’s decision, Simon Busuttil languished in the fear of taking a decision that would unsettle his fragile leadership.

It is not the party that is weak and fragmented, but his hold over the same party.  If the PN were led by a forceful leader, who would make bold decisions every now and then, the party folk would probably simply look the other way, perhaps moan a bit, but then let things go.
Busuttil still has to prove himself, though the European parliamentary elections may not present him with this grand opportunity. The PN is suffering from a financial calamity brought about by (former PN secretary general) Joe Saliba’s irresponsible spending spree and the administrative deficiencies of Lawrence Gonzi as former head of the Nationalist Party.

Things may change in May if something crops up. But I find that to be unlikely. In the meantime, the political parties will be launching their campaign. Many will argue that these elections are very important. Are they, really? Most people I meet are struggling to find a good enough reason to vote next May. I’m waiting for some answers.

Many will vote on local issues. And there, again, are we happy? Well, yes, on some things we are happy but on many others we are not. I am not, and the list I believe reads like this.
Is my future MEP in favour of curbing spring hunting?
Is my future MEP willing to support ‘sexual reproductive’ health programmes in the third world?
Is my future MEP conscious of not aligning with the far right?
What is my MEP offering to do in the parliament?
Is my future MEP supporting integration of migrants in Malta?
What will be the level of participation of my MEP in Brussels?
Will my MEP be donating part of his inflated salary to his party, or a worthwhile cause?

Needless to say, these questions already eliminate four of the numerous candidates: Norman Lowell and his entourage; the two loonies from the anti-European list; Norman Vella (the PN candidate who once posed as an independent journalist at PBS); David Casa (the great poseur); Cyrus Engerer (for reasons repeated ad nauseum); and of course Joseph Cuschieri (the man who was had backed out but is now suddenly back again).

A happy Easter to all!