THE CHURCH AND STATE IN MALTA

A few days ago, I was casually perusing one of Malta’s most notorious newspapers, when suddenly, two articles seemed to suddenly jump at me from the pages and grab me by the throat… metaphorically speaking, of course.

The first one concerned two underage individuals who landed in court after having consensual sex. Once again, the issue here turned out to be Malta’s age of consent, but this wasn’t anything new, and it wasn’t what drew my eye. The reason I stopped cold was the article’s last sentence at the very end. This stated that the Archbishop of Malta had previously said that he “would agree to the measure” (The Sunday Times, 16/10/2016) of lowering the age of consent to sixteen instead of the current eighteen years of age. I honestly had to go back and re-read the sentence, seeing that it was so out of context, having been thrown in out of the blue as though, somehow, it clinched the argument. So, is the writer telling us that we actually need the Church’s approval for this legislation to be viable? Do we have permission to go on ahead with it now that the Church has given its blessing?

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Image credit: Mark G

 

Yes, Malta is primarily a Catholic country, yada, yada, yada, but honestly. Does the influence of the Catholic Church really extend to approving or denying State laws? Or was it was just a way of speech?

Moving on. The second article, which again, stopped me in my tracks, was to be found only a few pages later. This was a two-page spread dedicated to the memory of the late Fr Gabriel Amorth, a “soldier of the Lord”, so the title proclaimed. He claimed to have performed more than 70,000 exorcisms over thirty years, and was the founder of the International Association of Exorcists. He had also vicariously attacked yoga and Harry Potter, describing them as “a Satanic influence” over society. I do not presume to criticise Fr Amorth’s exorcism claims, but… really? Shall we exorcise J.K Rowling first, or just burn anyone in yoga pants? Does Pilates fit the bill as well?

padre-gabriele-amorth-esorcista

 

In this case, I don’t blame the journalists who wrote the articles. Contemporary writers are there to reflect society’s ideology and mentality after all. They act as a mirror of the general populace, showing back to us our own favourite trends and beliefs, no matter how strange or nonsensical these might be. But the fact that someone who felt threatened by children’s fiction and breathing exercises was dedicated a two-page obituary spread sure says a lot.

What such articles show in fact, is that although most of us do know that it is the State which has the power to make laws, and that it is the government we choose which has the ways and means of seeing them enacted, many still seem to pertain to – at least unconsciously – a certain medieval village mentality where they need to ask the nearest priest whether it’s OK for their cow to be milked on a Sunday, or whether their daughter is having seizures because she’s got the devil cavorting inside her stomach, instead of just going to the doctor’s.

 

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Image credit: thechurchinmalta

 

And this is what’s terrifying.

Where is the line between the State and the Church? Storm in a teacup? Am I reading too much into it? I really wish I was.