Sunday, 21 March 2010

Times: Gay saints and sinners

The 'proof' that San Ġorġ Preca was homosexual is very flimsy.

Every Friday, Xarabank starts with a soundbite of the Archbishop saying that for God there are no homosexuals or heterosexuals, only human persons. The Catholic Church has not always had this caring attitude towards homosexuals. They were often discriminated against and made to suffer by Church people.

During the March 12 edition of Xarabank, I described such discrimination as obscene. It is true that even today, not everyone in the Church shares Mgr Cremona's positive attitude. However, his attitude represents the official position of the Church, and the number of people sharing and internalising this attitude is, fortunately, on the increase.

This positive attitude was in sharp contrast to the negative attitude towards the Church taken by Joseph Chetcuti during the edition of the programme. Chetcuti is a Maltese-Australian and gay rights activist. From time to time he visits Malta to lobby the gay cause. This time he is here to promote his book entitled Queer Mediterranean Memories.

As I said during the pro-gramme, a book outlining the history of homosexuals in Malta and recording their tribulations should help us to confront and come to terms with the demon of collective discrimination and help us avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future. When it does that the book makes a valuable contribution; but it goes beyond such a presentation.

Chetcuti, for example, was unfair to claim that certain prominent dead people were gay, especially when the 'outing' is based on flimsy evidence. Unfortunately, the book pathetically tries to shore its arguments by naming saints among the list of homosexuals in Malta and abroad. A homosexual orientation, just as a heterosexual one, does not block the road to sainthood. A person can have either orientation and become a great saint.

One of my objections to the book is that the allegation about the presumed homosexual orientation of San Ġorġ Preca is not borne out by the 'facts' mentioned in the book. Chetcuti bases his case on very tenuous grounds: that San Ġorġ was a priest; that was not married; that he had a 'homosexual' voice; that he publicly kissed the feet of men while not doing the same to the feet of women; and that in his letters he addressed men with phrases such as "Dear Salvu", but women as "Dear daughter", for example.

Further 'proof' was found in the threats received by Fr Alexander Bonnici, the biographer of San Ġorġ. What was there to hide, asks Chetcuti. Intellectual honesty should have led Chetcuti to say Bonnici clearly states that he wrote all the facts he garnered during his investigations notwithstanding the threats he received. Nothing was hidden, so there is nothing to speculate about.

Chetcuti's urge to attack the Catholic Church led him to mistakenly put homosexuals in the same basket as child abusers. This is untrue and unfair. Paedophilia and homosexuality are different from each other.

However, Chetcuti thought he could score easy points by referring to the child abuse cases currently plaguing the German church and trying to closely link these allegations to the Pope. Similar attempts were made by the London Times and The New York Times.

All are factually mistaken. It is simply not true that the Pope, when he was Archbishop of Munich, permitted a known paedophile priest to exercise his pastoral ministry in a parish.

Gays, like heterosexuals, can be saints or sinners. We should look at everyone, first and foremost, as human people, and secondly - if we need to - as people with one kind of sexual orientation or another.

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

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