Thursday, 7 July 2011

Independent: Not in our name – group seeks excommunication from the Church
Article published on 26 June 2011
by Elaine Attard

'Not in our name' is the name of a group of young people who have come together through Facebook to look into the possibility of seeking excommunication from the Catholic Church.

With the divorce issue fuelling the debate on the separation of state and church, the group is demanding excommunication.

At a press conference in front of the Curia in Floriana yesterday morning, in a bid to drum up interest in the excommunication issue, Andrew Galea, Reuben Zammit and Daniel Schembri addressed journalists.

Asked by The Malta Independent on Sunday if they are concerned that people will see their actions as being a form of rebellion that they would soon grow out of, Mr Galea replied that their initiative is a form of rebellion to an extent, because they want to change something that is taken for granted. "We are working towards changing something, and change is positive," he said.

When the three young men were asked if they are planning to organise an en masse excommunication, they said that there are another 100 people who have joined the Facebook group, but this figure is not necessarily representative of the number of people who intend to seek excommunication.

The group hopes to attract more support through media coverage. "We might be aiming for the moon and end up in the stars. We don't know what it entails exactly, but we will figure it out and inform our group accordingly," they explained.

"Most of us have been brought up in Catholic, conservative, Maltese families. We were baptised not out of choice, but out of tradition. We have now made an informed decision and have no doubt about what we want. We have been non-Catholic for a number of years and now we want to declare it," they explained.

"Although mentality is gradually changing, we cannot accept that the Catholic Church ideology is intertwined with politics. This is not a crusade against faith but a crusade for freedom.

"We are here to express the desire, shared by many, to no longer be affiliated in any way with the Catholic Church. We, who are submitted to baptism as children too young to understand the nature and consequences of it, now acknowledged that it meant our forced membership of an institution with a broad history of ill practice that characterises it as the very antithesis of a moral, progressive buttress to society," read out Mr Galea.

He referred to cases of ill practice such as abuse by members of the clergy, including child abuse, the Church's position on the use of condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDS and hostility towards people of a diverse sexual orientation, with the latest and most obvious example of misconduct being the behaviour of some members of the local church during the divorce referendum.

In the divorce referendum debate, Mr Galea said, the church turned on the weak and infirm and developed a web of guilt and terror in an attempt to bully its way into achieving the desired result. This bullying, he said, included accusing its members of being immoral if they voted yes to a civil right and threatening to deny them the sacraments considered essential to Catholics should they do so, and barring the yes to divorce movement chair Deborah Schembri from practicing in the Ecclesiastical Court in an attempt to gag her.

"We feel morally compelled to denounce this behaviour and wish to no longer be counted as part of the percentage of Catholic believers that is often quoted in order to support the church's political goals," he added.

"We also do not believe that the statistics that claim Malta has a 98 per cent Catholic population reflect the reality. We also contest the association of the Maltese national identity with the Catholic faith. As citizens, we assert our rights to be Maltese and non-Catholic and demand that non-Catholics no longer be made to feel discriminated against, under-represented or victimised because of social stigma," they said.

"Excommunication means we would be removed from the Catholic Church's register. We appeal to those who share our desire for a socially inclusive, secular state that recognises all religious and non-religious denominations as equal and separate from the state," he said.

The group called on all those who recognise the need for secularism and religious freedom to agitate for change and open the dialogue about changing Article 2 of the Constitution, which defines Malta as a Catholic country and thereby undermine the unjust Catholic privileges in education, law, politics and culture that have served to alienate so many who do not subscribe to the Catholic dogma.

They invited all those who feel the same way to no longer hide who they really are and what they believe in. "Fear and apathy are our greatest enemies. As long as we remain in hiding and do nothing about it, we too are complicit in the repression of our universal civil rights and the imposition of Catholic ideology on everyone," Mr Galea continued.

Declaring that there is no shame in not being Catholic and in calling for our government to respect people's rights as equal citizens of the republic, he finished.

They also announced that a meeting at which people who are seriously considering excommunication can contribute to the discussion will be held at 4pm on Sunday, 10 July at 60a, Strait Street, Valletta.

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