Saturday 19 May 2012 - 14:21 by Miriam Dalli
Divorce bill promoter and government MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando says Gozo Bishop 'has absolutely no right to encourage discrimination'.
Backbencher Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando has hit out at Gozo's Bishop Mgr Mario Grech over statements made in a pastoral letter over what constitutes a family.
An irate Pullicino Orlando said it was "shameful" if government was "dragging its feet" on the regularisation of gay unions because of the Church's beliefs.
"Bishop Grech has absolutely no right to encourage discrimination against those families he deems as being 'flawed' by the State," Pullicino Orlando, who was on the forefront calling for divorce legislation, said.
"If this is why we seem to be dragging our feet in relation to the promised regularisation of gay unions ... shame!"
Pullicino Orlando added that it is up to government to legislate in such a way as to protect the rights of all families. "Once again it seems that the sensibilities of the Curia come before basic civil rights," he said.
According to Grech and chancellor Salv Debrincat, "families are built on a relationship based on marriage between a man and a woman, where there is lifelong commitment with the aim to love and procreate, raise and educate children".
The two added, "No other relationship could be equalled to a family."
"It was true that there were those within political, economic and media institutions that wanted to call a family any experience of people who decided to live together because they loved one another," the pastoral letter goes on to say.
"But while these people, who were not a family, had the right for the state to respect their individual rights, it was also the duty of the state to recognise real families and develop a policy in their favour."
Grech said that the family was "a sanctuary where human life was conceived and brought up".
"The respect to the dignity of life required that not just abortion and euthanasia were not permitted but also that methods of procreation would not be a threat to human life," the pastoral letter read.
Grech goes on to suggest that low birth rate could be the result of the social environment: "Financial burdens, precarious work and buying a home could be some of the reasons leading young couples to take a long time to get married and start their family."