Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Times: I am and, therefore, I know
Tuesday, October 9, 2012 by Kenneth Zammit Tabona

Cogito, ergo sum, I think, therefore I am. It was, in fact, Emeritus Presi­dent Eddie Fenech Adami who quoted this extremely salient adage at the Times To Debate held last Tuesday, themed Is The Church 200 Years Behind The Times?

Had Cardinal Martini died 10 years ago I very much doubt whether a debate like this could have been organised for the simple reason that there would have been very little public interest. Never in the history of the world has the man in the street been better informed. Cogito, ergo sum encapsulates the gist of the last interview given by the late Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, in which this visionary questions the validity and relevance of the Church today in a number of scenarios directly connected with us, the laity, whom, it seems, the Church has not yet fully accepted as made up of people who doubt and question the Church’s stand on issues like IVF, divorce and same sex marriage, which, in Malta, the gay lobby has accepted to call civil partnership.

I am not going to repeat the observations made at the debate here but merely pose the questions: where do we go from here? What can the Maltese Church do about the situation? What can we do to help?

It would be difficult for the Maltese Church to reform itself independently of the Vatican. That stands to reason. The Vatican itself is not in any fit state to introduce reforms, battered and bruised as it is with scandals of all kinds.

Despite my being a convinced Christian and a reluctant Catholic, my background, my education and my culture makes it impossible for me to be anything but upset by all this and makes me wonder how and when the Church can purify itself to the extent that it will remount the pedestal it once stood on if at all.

The Church has to come to terms with the fact that it is in no position to talk down to us anymore.

Already, as the Pro-Vicar general, Mgr Anton Gouder pointed out, the Church is a human organisation and, therefore, subject to error, which is all very well.

However, there are still those, even within the higher echelons of our own hierarchy, who insist on the fire and brimstone type of pronouncement that merely serves to put people’s backs up and put off even more people from attending Mass.

Sadly, should the Church not realise and remedy this, it will become a mere social nicety, little more than a beautiful setting for weddings and funerals!

As a gay person, I feel marginalised within a Church that, for the past 10 years, has singled out homosexuals as the whipping boys to deviate attention from transgressions of its own members.

I know that for most people it is very difficult to understand what it means to be gay. This is not a but a state of being. It is no picnic. We are discriminated against; we are mocked, sometimes behind our backs and sometimes to our faces too. So can you imagine what it is like when the media reports the Pontiff as having compared me to a pollutant and that the heterosexual world, like the rain forest, must be protected from us?

Can you imagine what it is like to be called “intrinsically evil”? What has gone wrong here?

Unpalatable though it may sound we have to re-examine the evolution of the gay person in the last half century before even attempting to understand the Church’s unrelenting ambivalence and lack of humanity in this regard.

In illo tempore gay men became priests; many of them very good and sensitive human beings; men of culture and knowledge who were the mainstays of their communities. The natural propensities of the gay psyche created the outward signs of inward grace, the mystiques and rituals of the Catholic Church not to mention the tasteful and knowledgeable accumulation of religious art treasures.

They did their work very well and their memory was revered.

What happened in the past 50 years was that there was no longer any need for the Church to be an oubliette. There was no longer any need for a gay person like myself to keep his sexuality a secret and immerse himself in a life wherein it was de rigueur to have no sexuality at all. This was not a one size fits all refuge. Temptations will always be temptations and there is nowhere to hide when the instinct that is integral to our very being raises its head.

This is why we have had all this scandal exposed. Who knows what went on in past centuries between people long dead and buried!

Today, despite the jibes and asides, a gay person can live openly. This is obviously not conducive to Church teaching, which implies but never states that one either must get married to perpetuate the human race or become a priest.

There is no place within the Church for two people of the same sex to live together in any other way than the most pure and most chaste. This is why there has been a mass exodus.

Gay people feel so rejected by the Church that they don’t want to know about it anymore. This is why I feel that in Malta today it is essential for the Maltese Church to rethink this.

With all this talk about Bills for cohabitation being bandied about, the Government’s totally blinkered attitude to the lack of choice that it is imposing on us is being put down to the influence of the Church.

We may be right and we may be wrong; however, I am sure that,one day, possibly not in five centuries’ time, like poor Galileo the Church will apologise to us too.

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