Monday, February 22, 2016, 06:39
Updated with Prime Minister's/ PN comments - Archbishop Charles Scicluna has moved to quell a growing controversy over a church committee's report on gay conversion therapy, saying that such therapy was a “no go” when it went against people's wishes, but also urging critics of the report to read it properly.
Mgr Scicluna told Times of Malta that conversion therapy, a practice aimed at turning homosexuals straight, did not respect human dignity.
“Any conversion therapy which forces people to go against their decisions or their life choices is just a no go and I want this to be absolutely clear,” he said.
A Church committee on Saturday published a paper on the proposed legislation criminalising the controversial therapy. The paper, drafted by a team of experts including former European Human Rights Court judge Giovanni Bonello and Law Faculty dean Kevin Aquilina, concluded that the anti-gay-conversion Bill violated human rights because it afforded homosexuality superior status over heterosexuality.
The paper also argued that a ban on gay conversion therapy would violate a person’s right to receive treatment from a health professional. The team also included theology faculty dean Fr Emmanuel Agius, Fr Paul Galea and Fr George Grima.
The LGBT community and the Malta Gay Rights Movement labelled the paper “fundamentally flawed”. The prime minister said he was immensely disappointed. He said the Church paper equated homosexuality to sickness and also drew links to paedophilia.
But Mgr Scicluna urged the public to read the document in its entirety before drawing any conclusions and a Curia spokesman said the paper did not equate homosexuality with illness or paedophilia.
“To do so would be irresponsible or at best misinformed,” he said.
Mgr Scicluna said he would be meeting with the team behind the document in the coming days to discuss the reaction of the public.
[Click on the hyperlink above to watch the video.]
PRIME MINISTER COMMENTS AGAIN
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, commenting during an activity at Mtarfa this morning, reiterated that the Church position paper on gay conversion therapy was based on an underlying premise that homosexuality could be an illness or is linked to paedophilia.
Dr Muscat said it was important to note that the position paper was drawn up by a Church committee and did not necessarily reflect the Church’s position.
He reiterated the government would go ahead with the Bill that would criminalize “therapy” not religious practice.
When asked for his reaction to the fact that two of the people on the Church committee were eminent legal experts Kevin Aquilina, law faculty dean, and former human rights judge Giovanni Bonello, Dr Muscat said they probably looked at the law from a purely legalistic point of view.
“I am against the fundamental concept that equates homosexuality to illness or paedophilia,” he insisted.
FIRST PN REACTION - THERE IS POLITICAL CONSENSUS
Meanwhile, the PN's Equal Opportunities Forum reacted to Labour criticism that the party has not spoken up about the Bill currently before Parliament.
It said it regretted Labour's efforts to try to politicise a sector about which there is political consensus. It insisted that there is political agreement that homosexuality is not an illness.
As for the Bill, the PN's parliamentary group would discuss it in the same way it discussed any other legislation, and react accordingly.
And in another reaction, the youth forum of the PN expressed its solidarity with the LGBTIQ community, saying it strongly condemned any attempts to equate homosexuality to a sickness or illness that needs healing.
"MZPN feels that whilst dialogue is important to understand all stakeholders’ positions and opinions, the starting point must be a clear and valid rejection of any notion that the gay community requires medical remedy."