In this article I will be not be criticizing the Catholic church. I did when I felt so, but on the issues presented below this would be highly unfair. I’ve accused the Catholic church (as an institution) on many things, including for being oppressive such as when it comes to the attitude towards homosexuals. However something it does not deserve to be called is inconsistent.

This does not mean that a substantial number of so called Catholics are not inconsistent and hypocritical.

Lately two rights related things have been at the forefront of local news – the right to divorce and the right to seek asylum for refugees or potential refugees. The institution of the church is against the first but in favour of the second.

I think the church is consistent in the sense that in its interpretation of the Bible and the words of Christ it feels divorce should not be a right, and that the right to life (of asylum seekers in this case) is sacred.

However, as one can see on most local media, the right to life not being respected by many so called Catholics, the same ones who vehemently oppose divorce and the rights of homosexuals. The variety of these hypocrites is wide ranging – from high ranking politicians up to nauseating fanatics posting comments on online newspapers.

A couple of days ago 55 Somali nationals were saved by the armed forces. 28 were kept in Malta (a democratic country that has signed the 1951 Geneva convention) while another 27 were sent to Libya where human rights are anything but respected. However, when were told they left voluntarily this raised eyebrows to those who believe in human rights and organisations such as the UNHCR and JRS (the latter being a part of the Catholic institution itself). Rightly so. The lucky migrants who were on the same boat and made it to Malta denied their friends went voluntarily in Libya. A little knowledge about Libya as well as common sense, proves them right.

Apart from the extreme (and violent) racism many Libyans have against black people, immigrants are also denied their rights by the government and Libyan institutions. Many people were arrested without charge and tortured in Libyan prisons, which have nothing to do with our prisons. Neither do the Courts of Law. Getting out of prison hasn’t anything to do with being innocent. One can only get out by escaping or bribing officials. The amount of people rotting in Libyan jails, tortured or murdered will never be known. Libya is not accountable to anyone.
Yet, what do we get from most of the same Catholics who not only oppose divorce and rights towards homosexuals, but also go berserk if a Christian symbol such as the crucifix might not be visible in public spaces? Silence.

Where is Dr Adrian Vassallo who is ready to riot to save Catholic values? Is he only concerned with the evil of pornography? Isn’t the life of human beings on his agenda? Doesn’t allowing people to be kept in inhumane conditions come into conflict with his Catholic values?

Ok, let’s leave the freak alone. Where are the pseudo-Catholic politicians who are vehemently against divorce because of their faith? Those who solidly supported the Italian government’s appeal for the right to keep crucifixes in public places? Why are they silent on an issue that can be of life and death for some people?

Above all, why is the Prime Minister denying all claims by the UNHCR and JRS and stubbornly refusing to open an inquiry on what really happened at sea, so that maybe such abuses will not take place again?

Is this what Christianity has become in our country? Waving flags to the pope (who condemned such deportation of asylum seekers himself), flaunting the crucifix and hating homosexuals? Only to put it aside when it’s not convenient?

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I’m no art critic neither will I pretend to be one. I actually like the monument in Luqa that has become popular as well as notorious for the simple reason that it can resemble a dick. I don’t like it for that particular reason. My untrained eye sees a blend of my favourite colours as well as the curves. It’s the same reason why I like the design of most Mosques.

However, none of this is actually relevant. The reason why I don’t want that monument removed has nothing to do with its beauty or ugliness. At the risk of sounding arrogant and proud, the reason why I want that monument to stay there is dignity, my own dignity.

I’m agnostic and do not recognise the Pope as my leader by any means. He is just another human being who decided to visit our islands. Of course he is the leader of the Catholic church, and the majority of the Maltese are Catholic. But that makes absolutely no difference. I may be in a minority but that doesn’t make me a lesser human. The pope, my next door neighbor and myself are equal. No one deserves any preferential treatment.

Why should we remove something because it resembles a dick since it might offend the pope (though I seriously doubt whether he looks in a different direction when he pees, worse still if he gets an erection at the same time). If some people and the major of Luqa didn’t like the monument, they had ample time to remove it. Why now? All of this at the expense of making us look ridiculous in the eyes of the whole world.

A few months ago, an atheist woman in Italy won a case against the government because she stated crucifixes offend her and scare her son. This had repercussions in Malta even sending a couple of fanatics in hysteria. The woman who filed the case did have a point, however I still disagree with the decision of granting her money in compensation for having her son exposed to crucifixes in school. We can’t remove everything that might offend someone. What offended me about the whole story was the reaction by some Catholics, both in Italy and Malta. With what arrogance do they tell me and other people of a different belief or no belief to leave our country if we don’t like crucifixes?

In practice whether to remove the offending monument or crucifixes or not makes absolutely no difference to me. They can even replace the monument with a large crucifix. However, symbolically this has a meaning. Yes, to have people who believes this country belongs to them bullying myself and others around as if we got the plague is unacceptable. Removing a piece of art because a mortal like me decided to visit my country is unacceptable too.

The fact that I am a hardliner when it comes to secularism does not mean I’m anticlerical. Yes, the Catholic Church does anger me when it expresses itself in ways that can (and do) harm minorities especially, but not exclusively homosexuals. However I also appreciate that on many things the Catholic Church has a positive impact on Maltese society.

Some 10 years ago I had the opportunity to work with the Sisters of Mother Theresa. I was already agnostic back then, but it didn’t seem to bother them at all. These amazing women dedicate literally their whole lives to others (as well as to God), especially the poor and the most vulnerable. They help the people in every sense of the word – spiritually, emotionally and also practically. I’ve seen them carrying boxes of vegetables to distribute them to the most needy, preparing meals for the homeless, helping kids with homework. They did anything possible that could help these people, both by giving them the fish to eat, as well as teaching them how to fish.

Then came the sex scandals. Probably the heaviest blow the Catholic Church has had to deal with in the last century. Needless to say, all the cases that came to light as well as the fact that many had been covered up, is shocking to say the least. However, I believe there is another reason why this blow was so heavy. A reason the Church seems to ignore.

There are many reasons why the Catholic Church (and other religious movements) maintains respect and power. One of them is fear of hell. Thankfully this is losing its effect. Another reason, probably the most important, is the fact that the church was (in some aspects it still is) near to the people, and not only the faithful. The sisters of Mother Theresa are a case in point. I am sure that in the communities they are present there are many devout Catholics who wouldn’t be as such hadn’t it been for these sisters. Fear of hell and dogmas do not attract many people nowadays. Unconditional love does.

Fr. Mark Montebello is controversial and in many communities also popular. However, except for a couple of radicals, I don’t think Fr Mark’s popularity is due to the fact that he is controversial. In ways similar to the Sisters of Mother Theresa Fr Mark has always been there for those who are really in need in our society. Especially those whom parts of our society has refused, especially prisoners. Giving a voice to these people is sometimes considered controversial. I consider it Christian.

Fr Mark Montebello has been deemed controversial, and subsequently reported to Ecclesiastical Authorities, because he spoke our for paedophiles and migrants. All that he said is that these are human beings and their rights and dignity should be respected. That, in the case of paedophiles, there are more effective ways to deal with this crime than to keep a register of whoever committed such a crime. Or that, in the case of a Nigerian person, if this person claims he was unjustifiably arrested, it does not mean he is lying, just because he’s an African. Or maybe some took offence when he said that the crucifix, a reminder of the person whose path he tries to follow, should not be flaunted and used as a means of dividing people.

I have met people from the clergy that have beliefs similar to Fr Mark’s. They do not say them in public (I definitely don’t blame them) but live them. Those who refuse to put people into categories, judge others and go about throwing stones forgetting that they too have sinned.

Whether as outspoken as Fr Mark or not, these are the members of the clergy that attract people towards the Catholic Church. At the rsk of sounding controversial, I think that what makes such people different from others in the clergy is that they consider Christ at their true leader, rather than the Pope.

The way this is written I might have given the impression that such priests and nuns are a minority. In reality, I believe that they are actually the silent majority.