In my commentary of August 11 I noted that this summer would be very busy for Pope Francis, who has taken strong actions against clerical sexual abuse of minors. Last Monday he published a letter addressed to the People of God promising that no effort will be spared to create a culture able to effectively prevent such sex abuse crimes from happening.
The Pope referred to the scandalous and criminal acts and cover-ups in six dioceses of Pennsylvania over a period of 70 years. The Pennsylvania report noted that there were hardly any cases after 2002. That positive development is largely thanks to Archbishop Charles Scicluna who helped the Church in the United States to come up with legal and other structures which could control and punish abuse. Archbishop Scicluna will surely have a more pronounced role in Pope Francis’s strategy against abuse.
Before Mario Grech became Bishop of Gozo, a Curial inquiry cleared the members of a particular religious congregation accused of physical abuse of minors. Bishop Grech was courageous enough to set up a new inquiry and published its harsh conclusion about the same congregation. This is definitively not the behaviour of someone who drags his feet to fight abuse. In 1999, the Church in Malta was one of the first local churches to adopt a clear policy against abuse, a policy which on the whole left positive results. It is essential, as Bishop Grech said earlier this week, that all abuse should be reported to the police.
The owners of James Caterers and db group are loyal, blue eyed boys of the regime. Loyalty is a virtue greatly esteemed in this “republic of darkness”, as John Vassallo aptly described “this Motherland so dear whose name we bear!”
So plums galore keep falling on the lap of these two big-moneyed bullies who own these companies. The most recent juicy plum kindly delivered by the powers that be has a price tag of €274 million attached to it.
Archbishop Scicluna will surely have a more pronounced role in Pope Francis’s strategy against abuse
A tender for providing food to the residents of St Vincent de Paul willy-nilly morphed into a mega-development project with a little help from their friends.
The Times has assiduously reported this scandal, showing that the government’s reaction is characteristic of someone having a lot to hide. The Government Gazette described this plum as a direct order. The Finance Minister said that he was not aware of it. The Parliamentary Secretary for Active Ageing, Anthony Agius Decelis, said that the publishers of the Government Gazette made a mistake. The Department of Information – which is the publisher – said that this was simply not true.
These contortions are worthy of the Trump-like attitude to the truth. But on second thoughts, a €274 million plum is worth a few contortions, isn’t it? It seems that the segment of the economy that is most thriving is the economy with the truth.
One hopes that the Nationalist Opposition will not be content with token protests against this outrage but will insist that the matter be investigated by the Auditor General and discussed by the Public Accounts Committee. What the Opposition has done so far is definitely not enough.
Ordinary priests like me are becoming a rare species these days. This is not because vocations to the priesthood are scarce but because vocations for the ordinary priesthood are scarce.
Today the in-thing or fad (if not a fetish) is for an ‘upgrade’ to the status of a canon (a reverend one, not those that guard our bastions). This is the ecclesiastical version of the Club Class seat in an airplane. One can even make it to the Senator Class, Lufthansa style, by becoming a monsignor.
These upgrades bring with them the distinct privilege of going around dressed in colourful (not to say fanciful) clothes on several occasions during the year. I begrudge no one’s sartorial preferences. After all, this is a free country and pluralism is part of the DNA of the Church. I am happy with my Economy Class status even though my uncle got special permission from the Curia to have me baptized in St Helen’s Basilica, Birkirkara, to be able to claim a ‘Borg’ right to be a canon.
The relevant question is: Should this be the way forward for the Church in Malta?
It is not easy to answer that question. Last October or November it was announced that the way forward for the Church in Malta would be mapped in a Pastoral Plan covering January 2018 till December 2019. The Plan, which by now should have been almost in its ninth month, has not even been published. So where the Church has planned to be going is anybody’s guess.
What’s worse is that many in the Church simply do not care and the delay in the publication (let alone actualisation) of the Pastoral Plan is just octane fuel to their cynicism.
How sad, how very sad.
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