If you declare war... be ready to fight your war

Openly antagonising roughly half the country, every single time you resort to social media, is not exactly a very good start

Or to put it another way: if you’re going to roundly dismiss Malta’s government as one of the most notoriously homicidal criminal organisations known to man – involved in anything from drug trafficking, to arms smuggling, to kidnapping, to extortion, to mass-murder, and beyond... you should: a) expect the supporters of the party in government to get, ooh, just a little cheesed off, and; b) arm yourself for all the inevitable recriminations of the Total War you yourself will have declared.

It seems both perfectly obvious and eminently reasonable to me... yet it appears that Archbishop Charles Scicluna – who heads an institution with an entire history of fighting wars with the Labour Party – needed to have it spelt out to him. More bizarrely still, he seems genuinely surprised that his ‘tweet’ caused such an uproar in the first place. Makes you wonder if the head of the Maltese Catholic Church is even living in the same ‘Malta’ as the rest of us...

Let’s take another look, shall we? These were the exact words: “What in Sicily is known as ‘Cosa Nostra’, what in Calabria is known as ‘Ndrangheta’, what in Naples is known as ‘Camorra’... in #Malta we call ‘il-gvern’ (the government)”. Signed, Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna.

What, he actually tweeted that... and didn’t expect the ensuing Internet excrement-storm? He was ‘surprised’ that people would assume those words were his own... and not the headline of an article written by someone else (which he shared because... um... he disagreed with it)?

Come on. Not buying it for one second.  It’s not as though he was ‘Mr Popular’ with the Labour Party’s grassroots to begin with. And it’s not as though the PL grassroots can realistically be expected to interpret that tweet in any other way, either.

Nor any other casual social media user, for that matter. I can attest to this from personal experience (as, no doubt, can Archbishop Scicluna): most people reacting to online ‘shares’ of my articles never read further than the headline and/or stand-first. They never follow the attached link; they never put the post into any form of broader context. They simply take the words they see at face-value, and base all their reactions accordingly.

I get this all the time... and I don’t mind admitting that it amuses me no end to be misunderstood this way. (I recently placed a bet with a friend that the first comment under this article would respond only to the implications of the headline: easiest 10 euro I ever won in my life...)

Makes you wonder if the head of the Maltese Catholic Church is even living in the same ‘Malta’ as the rest of us...

But then... I’m not the head of the Maltese Catholic Church, am I? I don’t regard the entire baptised Maltese population (as close to 100% as it is possible to be) as my ‘flock’. I don’t expect them to look up to me as their spiritual guide and mentor (which, let’s face it, is probably just as well); and I certainly don’t represent any millennial belief-system that aligns itself directly with the will of God, and claims to be the only path to Eternal Salvation.

Archbishop Scicluna, on the other hand, is all of those things... which is part of the reason why I’m beginning to suspect that he likewise did it on purpose. That he gets a kick out of baiting Labour supporters that way... provoking them into apoplectic howls of indignation and unbridled fury... only to turn around later and say: ‘Sorry, it’s not my fault they’re all too ignorant to understand what I actually meant... but hey, what do expect? They’re Labour supporters, aren’t they?’

If so, kudos to him. That’s precisely the kind of dark, twisted humour a tormented soul like mine can sink its fangs into. Maybe we should join forces, and make it our combined mission to push as many of our readers as possible into extreme acts of retaliatory violence. But then... don’t come crying to me afterwards, if more than just a statue of Kristu L-Irxoxt gets broken in the process...

Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? All this has to be placed into context. I wasn’t yet born at the time of the Interdett of 1960... but I was around 13 when the Curia was ransacked at the height of the Church Schools issues in 1984. I remember the front-page images of the Madonna statue lying in pieces on the Curia floor. But at the time I had no idea it was a remote aftershock of a much more violent upheaval that had happened quarter of a century earlier... which itself was but a tremor, compared to the Church-State conflagration of the late 1920s and early 1930s.

To me, it came completely out of the blue. Other people, however, would have seen it differently. They would have remembered their loved ones being buried in unconsecrated ground – a very big deal, in the early 1960s. They themselves might have been denied absolution, or forced to marry outside the Church (at a time when there was no other option to speak of) ... simply because they voted Labour, or read Labour-leaning newspapers.

As for me: I only got to watch Round Two of that unsightly boxing match... and by then, it was Labour’s thugs who were throwing all the hard punches. Those are the memories I came away with. But that was over 30 years ago... and – a strange time to be quoting Jimmy Cliff, I know – I can see a little more clearly now.

I can see, for instance, that there is an entire history behind all this... yes, even behind all this fuss about that tweet... and, more poignantly, I can also see that these things have a propensity to end in violence.

But let us hasten back to the present... where an online petition, calling on Pope Francis to remove Scicluna as Archbishop, precisely because of that tweet – is still in circulation.  Sigh. Because that’s the other thing again. Just as you can always rely on a divisive Archbishop to keep all that horrible history alive for as long as possible... you can, with equal certainty, always expect all those Labour hotheads to go completely overboard as usual.

So tell you what: seeing as neither Church nor Labour Party has ever managed to bury this particular hatchet – at least, not without digging it up again every few years – I may as well give it a shot myself. Not, mind you, because I particularly care about the precise feelings of two institutions for one another; only because... like I said... I remember the 1980s well enough to know that I never want to go back there again.

I’ll start with the Labour hotheads (though the same applies to pretty much all of you out there). Damn it, when are you all going to learn that an article has to be read first, before an opinion can be formed about it? Follow the link in that tweet, and you will find the attached article doesn’t even mention Labour once. Everything it contains can just as easily refer to Malta under Gonzi, Fenech Adami, Borg Olivier, etc.... all the way back to Joseph Howard.

Now: I understand that you’ve developed something of a persecution complex in all these years of gratuitous Labour-bashing. And yes, I know it hurts more when it comes from the Catholic Church... to which (for some obscure reason) you all insist on clinging, no matter how many Archbishops keep trying to kick you all away. But – and I am truly sorry to have to spell this out – the Church doesn’t want you. The Church doesn’t like you.  The Church literally sent you all to Hell just a few decades ago, in case you never noticed. And just look at you all now: moaning and whining that it’s ‘not fair’...

Well, guess what? You’re right. It’s not fair. The Universe is not fair, either. Just get over it, once and for all.

Now for Archbishop Scicluna. It wouldn’t hurt, you know, to occasionally remember that you’re supposed to be a ‘unifying figure’ in this country. It’s not as though there’s a surplus of people who can actually call themselves that. And it might help to also remember that the ‘unifying’ factor doesn’t emanate from the office itself. You’re the Archbishop of Malta... not Gandalf the Grey. Your staff is just a piece of wood. It doesn’t have magical unifying powers of its own.

So if you want to live up to the role you are privileged to occupy... you have to actually make an occasional effort. And I’ll even throw in a free clue: openly antagonising roughly half the country, every single time you resort to social media, is not exactly a very good start.

There. Been meaning to get that off my chest for three decades. Now just shake hands, both of you, and promise to never start fighting again...

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