Thursday, October 24, 2013, 00:01 by Ivan Fenech
What in heaven’s name did our bishops say about civil unions? They offered a “reflection”, they said, on a “novelty” in a bill that introduces “new elements in reference to marriage and family”. Then, in the most apologetic tone, our bishops tell us that they will not repeat the teaching of the Church on this issue because it “is clear”. There is actually a footnote in the bishops’ statement should anyone wish to find where this clarity lies. Wherever it is, it was certainly not in what they said.
In the UK, only a few months ago, the Catholic Church launched a campaign to lobby MPs to vote against government plans for gay marriage. In a letter on behalf of bishops, the Archbishop of Southwark, Mgr Peter Smith, simply said: “The time to act is now.”
Our bishops instead tell us to reflect as Parliament debates what will fundamentally change our concept of family and marriage. The Catholic Church does not favour gay marriage. What is the problem with saying that? This obsession with political correctness, with not wanting to offend or upset anyone about anything, has clearly infested the local Church too. In other European countries, the Church is more vociferous when faced by an increasingly liberal society. It does not weaken.
As France was debating same-sex marriage, which is what Malta will be effectively getting, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin warned that gay marriage would herald a complete “breakdown of society”. He said: “This could have innumerable consequences. Afterward they will want to create couples with three or four members. And after that, perhaps one day the taboo of incest will fall.”
Instead, our bishops tell us that children should “preferably” be brought up by their parents, a man and a woman. As for the adoption of children by gay couples, they say the issue is a “very delicate matter”. Really?
German Cardinal Joachim Meisner describes marriage between man and woman as the nucleus and guarantor of society and that it was in the very interest of the State that the family is preserved. Existentially meaningful terms like “father”, “mother” and “family”, he said, are increasingly being defined as something purely functional and, consequently, deprived of any inherent content.
He added: “If same-sex partnership is only a form of sexual cohabitation, as opposed to marriage, which is an irreplaceable nucleus of the State, then the lawmaker is treating two unequals as equals.” What is stopping our bishops from saying the glaringly obvious but instead hide behind the Pope’s recent comments that the Church has been emphasising too much issues related to birth control and gay marriage?
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, had no similar qualms when, a few days ago, he criticised efforts to expand the concept of marriage to same-sex partnership in his country.
People expect sound and clear moral principles from our bishops
Just as our society increasingly shifts towards an amoral liberalism promoted by an equally amoral government that is shorn of any values or principles, the last thing this country needs is calls for “reflection”. People expect sound and clear moral principles from our bishops, now more than ever before. Unfortunately, they are not getting them.
When Archbishop Paul Cremona last month called for the setting up of a government entity to hone the country’s “moral fibre”, it was a bold move considering we have a government that has lost its moral compass, as Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil rightly put it.
What the Archbishop received in return was an onslaught from the increasingly vociferous liberals that mocked him for suggesting a morality police
But that is not what I meant, the Archbishop apologetically told Times of Malta.
The moral fibre, he explained, is about an individual’s inner strength to stand up for what he believes is right, even in the face of adversity. Pity our Archbishop did not follow his own advice for the next thing he said was that he was taking a step back from the issue, content that his words had “fuelled a debate”.
There are many good, strong, conservative families out there and the very institution of marriage is about to be undermined. They do not need debates or reflections but sound moral principles.
If our bishops have something to say, they should say it clearly and follow it through, no matter the adversity. That is what they are there for.