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Christopher Felix Bezzina

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This article was published during the introduction of Divorce Campaign in Malta. It first appeared on the Time of Malta on Wednesday, June 1, 2011.

“The battle is won, but the war is not over.” This is the sentiment that many, Christians and non-Christians, have as a result of the referendum. I do not blame them for feeling this way, even though I do not endorse destructive comments. Now that divorce has been acknowledged the gate of freedom has been opened. Generally, this is a lovely moment for Malta.

However, as a Catholic I am offended, not much by the result, but with the manner how the local Church dealt with this referendum. When theologians urged us to use our conscience when voting I felt a fresh breeze of maturity from the local Church. All of a sudden everything turned into a thunderstorm! We heard homilies which do not offer food for thought but claims based on prejudice and myths. Most of all, we were dismayed with the patronising approach adopted. Many young Catholics are in distress at the local Church’s attitude. Now that the referendum is over we won’t forget what has happened! We pose questions to the local Church, somewhat angrily: “What has happened to the Church?”; “Where is it leading us?”; “Why does she act like this?” These are some of the questions that I and many ask, and no arrogant response from any priest will quench our emotional and spiritual motive.

The outcome of the referendum is an accomplishment for all the minorities in Malta. This success should not transform into a violent attitude towards the Church, but it should be kept aflame to serve as a clear message to the local hierarchy. As minorities, we cannot tolerate that the local Church treats us as second-class citizens.

We cannot continue to be viewed as sinful and dishonoured creatures, just because we cannot conform to all its teachings, and as a consequence, we do not fit perfectly in its “ideal” understanding of life. We have continuously asked it for bread, some did receive it from genuine priests at grassroots levels, but many have received scorpions.

Many young Catholics have had a genuine experience of God in their life. This spiritual experience cannot be proven by logical means as it is very personal and subjective; however, just because we believe in Jesus we won’t simply accept all the teachings of the Church without employing our critical thinking and logic. Haven’t the Church not learned from her past that we do not need readymade answers for all the difficult and different situations in the world? Haven’t the Church not learned from the past that she was called to safeguard all sheep especially the minorities? Unfortunately, the local Church did not learn from her history, and I would say that she falls short in reaching the true goals of the Vatican Council II.
If the Church really had at heart the common good she would not be so aggressive and hateful in her discourse.

On the contrary, she would do her best to protect those minority groups which need more support and not fuel judgmental attitudes and make a scapegoat of us. Not all laity fit quite comfortably in the stereotypical images that the Church envisaged as “ideal”. Many have asked for her help to widen her margins and be included in the flock, yet many receive ignorance or haughty looks.

What I have written is not prompted by hatred towards the Church, but because many are hurt and wounded by her failure to show compassion and justice. It is the time that the local Church reviews her mission given by Christ in this world. There needs to be a reappraisal of the attitude fostered.

Many members need genuine spiritual guidance, especially those who always were judged. These people, more than ever, need the Church’s pastoral care. The Church needs to accept our difference, re-assess her theologies and embrace a wider and fuller perspective of God’s love.

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