Thursday, 14 October 2010

Times: The horses have evidently bolted
Tuesday, 12th October 2010 by Kenneth Zammit Tabona

One of the more horrendous modes of execution devised by man was to be sewn in a sack with a rabid dog and a snake and thrown into the sea. In a country like ours, where dogs are found hanged and burnt alive, such unspeakable tortures are but one step away. We are not the faithful law-abiding and, above all, God-fearing island nation we like to think we are. In us lies this sadistic streak that forms vicious gangs in Paceville that harass the unwary, sick minds that wantonly destroy public and private property and which are supported by an omertà that fosters and protects institutionalised corruption eating away at the core of Maltese society as we speak. We are not the people that welcomed St Paul in 60AD, described in the Acts of the Apostles as warm and kind.

We suffer from a deep rooted xenophobia that allows us to look the other way while immigrants drown.

We joined the EU and, yet, when, last week in Parliament, Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici was questioned about civil partnerships for same sex couples by Evarist Bartolo, the issue was curtly dismissed by Dr Mifsud Bonnici who said that what went on in Europe and, hence, the rest of the world, was of no relevance to Malta, which underlines the fact we live in an isolated hiatus where even the mere discussion of civil liberties is destined to be stillborn.

I am sure many will agree that being trapped in a marriage that has failed, irretrievably and irrevocably, is tantamount to being sewn up in a sack with a rabid dog and a snake.

This is why people simply separate and have been doing so for decades. We are so used to it that nobody bats an eyelid anymore. We have been cohabiting openly for decades and having babies out of wedlock too without much fuss.

People of the same sex have been living together for years. In fact, a close examination of our society reveals that, contrary to what one thinks, we are pretty tolerant and open. What then, one may ask, is causing all the hoohah about divorce? What is bringing all the reactionaries out of the closet?

The divorce issue is but the thin end of the wedge. Once it becomes part of our legal system it will pave the way for other issues, the lack of which relegates a great many of us to the rank of second-class citizens, to become law. Divorce, once enacted, will break the deadlock that keeps us in thrall to the moral diktats of one particular religion that, despite its protestations to the contrary, is constitutionally allowed to call the shots by those in whose interest it is to do so.

Malta is run by a very powerful elite, the membership requirements of which are to be white, openly Catholic, in a stable marriage with a woman with two to four children and, possibly, owning a dog too and maybe a lover hidden in the wings. Legally but not socially, all other variations and combinations on this blueprint are regarded with a jaundiced eye.

As time passes, this elite becomes smaller, more exclusive and fiercely defensive as are the big shots within the Curia like the Pro Vicar and the Judicial Vicar, both of whom have issued fatwas to all and sundry not to support divorce in any way under pain of mortal sin.

Mgr Arthur Said Pullicino's homily during Mass marking the start of the forensic year reads more like a diatribe warning that anyone who in any way advocates or supports the introduction of divorce in Malta is committing a grave sin.

The Judicial Vicar went one step further by exhorting the Maltese judiciary to be conscientious objectors and desist from taking part in divorce proceedings should divorce legislation be enacted, which is a direct challenge to what will then be civil law, which our judiciary is constitutionally bound to uphold.

What the Judicial Vicar wants is for the law courts and, hence, Parliament to be an extension of the Curia rendering the President to the role of chief fund-raiser for a Church that has now openly declared itself to be in financial difficulties. What's next? A Church tax?

The fundamental freedoms of a secular society are simply not there to defend. They have not been conceived, let alone born. In a country that does not allow condoms to be sold on campus, presumably because students are strictly chaste, enactment of these laws is deemed to be unnecessary and the occasion of sin. Therefore, like the proverbial ostrich, the government argues that it is against divorce because it wants to strengthen the institution of marriage, which is rather like closing the stable door after the horses have bolted. The same government feels it can keep people happy by implementing cohabitation laws, which, in all truth, engender legal loopholes the size of Etna's crater.

Cohabitation, in my opinion, is a far greater social evil than divorce and yet, unsurprisingly, the elite have kept mum about it, which convinces me all the more that the objection to divorce has nothing to do with morality, Christian or otherwise, but is all about the retention of power at all costs and nothing else.

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

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