Sunday, 15 November 2009

Times: Editorial: Values cannot be taken for granted
Saturday, 14th November 2009

From time to time, the University carries out surveys among students in an attempt to try and give an indication of their views on faith and morals. Despite Malta's strong Catholic cultural roots, the inexorable trend over the recent years has shown a sustained move away from the relatively unchallenged traditional values of the past.

The increased acceptance of contraception, cohabitation, gay marriage, divorce, the morning-after pill and abortion are a reflection of the changing moral norms of society in general.

These changes are greeted by the progressives as a sign of emancipation, a sign that Malta is coming of age and joining the mainstream of society in the rest of the Western world. Alas, such simplification risks glossing over the implication of what such progress could lead to.
Look at the wider picture and you will notice that these so-called progressive changes have had a devastating impact on the integrity and stability of long-term relationships. As a result, the family institution is in crisis and the birth rate in Europe has plummeted to worryingly low levels that make the sustainability of European culture anything but secure.

President George Abela recently pointed out that: "The family was a universal and irreplaceable community rooted in human nature that was the basis for all societies at all times. As the cradle of life and love for each new generation, the family was the primary source of personal identity, self-esteem and support for children. This raises the question as to whether the strong family values of marriage and fidelity, child-bearing and rearing and the family value bond will continue to resist the daunting challenges ahead."

If the prevailing trend in the decline in traditional values advances unabated, the answer is obviously negative.

Not surprisingly, the University survey, despite its limitations, reveals the clear link between the upholding of traditional values and the Catholic faith, pointing out that belief in what the Church stands for has dropped dramatically, from 75 per cent in 2003 to 51 per cent just five years later.

It is definitely a positive sign that students today are more acutely aware of the desire to act freely without adopting or accepting values and lifestyles because of fear and coercion. Belief in the faith and values of our ancestors can no longer survive just out of habit and convention.
This explains the eagerness of the University Chaplaincy to engage more effectively with the students. The Chaplaincy plans to encourage University students to delve into the tenets of their faith through a series of discussions held on campus.

As the University Chaplain, Fr Michael Bugeja, rightly said: "If we accept our Catholic faith without true knowledge, it will eventually fizzle out. Students need to be directed towards an informed faith in which they discuss issues they may not be convinced of."

The survey reveals that an astonishingly high number of students yearn for religious guidance. While 91 per cent claim to want to deepen their religious awareness, only about 20 per cent ever avail themselves of the services offered by the Chaplaincy. This paradoxical and puzzling contradiction will definitely prove to be quite a challenge to tackle and reconcile.

Undoubtedly, we live in a culture where traditional values can no longer be taken for granted. They have to be fathomed, analysed and made our own if we want to foster a faith worthy of adults, especially those of our future professional class.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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