The Archbishop has proposed a solution to the provincial of the Dominican order to enable Fr Mark Montebello to continue writing in the media "in full respect for his commitment as a religious priest and in full loyalty to Church teaching," the Curia said on Monday.
The General Workers' Union Sunday weekly It-Torċa said on Sunday that Fr Montebello, a regular columnist, had been 'censored'. It carried an empty page instead of his usual contribution.
Following criticism made on the social media against the Archbishop, the Curia had clarified that Mgr Charles Scicluna had neither been informed nor consulted about any decision concerning Fr Montebello.
On Monday afternoon, the Curia said that while respecting the autonomy
of the religious order, the Archbishop had taken an initiative fully aware of the fact that a religious priest was answerable to his superior, who is the Provincial of the Order.
It also pointed out that "every priest is bound to respect his priestly commitment and to faithfully represent and follow Church teachings. Within these parameters, every priest, whether religious or diocesan, has the freedom to engage in mature and healthy debate on current issues."
It is understood that the Dominican provincial asked Fr Montebello to stop writing on the media after comments he made on the IVF Bill currently before parliament.
This is not the first controversy of its type for Fr Montebello.
In March 2011, he was summoned to Rome for a meeting with the head of the Dominican Order, Fr Carlos Aspiroz Costa, in the wake of some comments he wrote in the newspapers. It was later decided that he should spend some time of reflection in Mexico. He returned to Malta at the beginning of December and said he was rethinking his strategy.
And earlier, in 2009, the Maltese Dominican Province said that it regretted any confusion and anger caused by the views aired in the media and elsewhere by Fr Montebello and dissociated itself from them when they were not in line with the official teachings of the Catholic Church or with any of its policies.
"Unfortunately, on various occasions, his views tend to offend the sentiments of many, particularly, but not only, of practising Catholics, either because the views expressed do not always conform to the official teaching of the Catholic Church or because of lack of sensitivity shown when dealing with certain issue," the Dominicans said.
Fr Montebello had said he was not happy, not angry over the Church decision.
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