Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Times: Dropping clangers

Tuesday, 3rd February 2009 by Kenneth Zammit Tabona

Who remembers that utterly ridiculous hoo-hah cooked up by the press about Prince Harry's latest clanger? Apparently His Nibs happened to be using his mobile phone as a video camera and shot his mates as, bored stiff, he and they were waiting to be picked up. As he focused from one sleeping soldier to another, among other things, he jokingly called one a Pakki and another, a Raghead.

While men, women and children were dying in their hundreds in Gaza, all Sky News thought was newsworthy was a nauseating repeat after repeat of the "offending" video and silly discussion after sillier discussion about it to the extent that were I Prince Harry, which, thankfully, I am not, I would have sued the station for emotional harassment and invasion of privacy.

The government, heavens above, was gravely concerned, and contrite statements of apology had to be issued from Buck and Clarence Houses. While the stock markets crashed to yet another all-time low and the sterling spiralled down to being at par with the euro, all Her Majesty's government was concerned about was making a scapegoat out of an exuberant and normal young man in his 20s who happens to have the misfortune of being third in line to the throne.

The cult of being politically correct in England has reached such absurd proportions that one wonders what one must say and when to say it. In blessed, blessed Malta we have no such qualms and scruples. Had Malta been the UK, I wonder how the press and the government would have reacted and dealt with the Bishop of Gozo's latest reactionary statement and more saliently with the Deputy Prime Minister's anti-gay clanger that ironically comes hot on the heels of his own government MEPs endorsing an EU resolution to condemn just such an attitude as politically incorrect, to say the least.

Dr Borg's remarks about cohabitating couples vis-a-vis the proposed reforms to the superannuated rent laws focused on same-sex couples in order to rubbish and disparage the PL proposals. Had Gordon Brown's sidekick done the same, the uproar would have been so great that he would have had to resign or grovel, as Prince Harry was forced to do, for forgiveness.

Now I am not sure what Dr Borg wished to achieve by his antediluvian rhetoric. Did he wish to put forward his own ideas about same-sex partnership or was he merely using an ill-chosen example to attempt to steal a march on the opposition? In all truth, Dr Borg should have apologised to all those whom he may have hurt just as Prince Harry was made to. Not that I can compare Dr Borg with Prince Harry, of course, as I know precisely who he is and where he is coming from, having spent seven years in the same form at college.

I am not as familiar with the Bishop of Gozo who was recently quoted as saying that whosoever did not agree with the precepts of the Catholic Church may as well excommunicate himself or herself from it. Just like the recent rainforest kafuffle from His Holiness, this was taken to be a direct reference to the recent self-excommunication by Patrick Attard. Contrary, however, to the vague and obscure terms in which the papal missile was launched, Mgr. Grech was as direct as one would wish him to be with the exception that I am quite sure that he did not have only the gay world in mind but all those transgressors of all Ten Commandments and their derivatives. Ergo all those who wish to have a baby through in vitro fertilisation should excommunicate themselves. All those who use any form of contraception and who indulge in extramarital sex in any form, gay or straight, should likewise sever themselves from the Mater Ecclesia without delay. In fact, as we are all sinners, we may as well excommunicate ourselves en masse to make it easier.

No mother I know of acts like that. Just imagine a mother asking her children to sever all relations because they disagreed with her. Has Mgr. Grech forgotten all about the Prodigal Son?

I do not agree with this excommunication business in whatever form it takes. Although still a child at the time, I remember the consternation caused when Archbishop Michael Gonzi issued the interdict in the 1960s. Excommunication was used by the Church as a last resort like when Pius IX excommunicated Victor Emmanuel II and his descendants for imprisoning him in the Vatican. He then declared the dogma of papal infallibility at the same time. In Malta, the consequences of that interdict are measured in bitterness and resentment and are still being felt today. I did not agree with the act of auto-excommunication and agree still less with Bishop Grech's follow-up to it.

Excommunication is a dirty word, whoever puts it into effect. Instead of hurling insults and anathemas at each other wouldn't it be better to sit round a table over a soothing cup of tea to trash things out?

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