A number of local priests have distanced themselves from the Vatican’s same-sex declaration and have shown solidarity with the LGBTIQ community.
“We have received an outpour of solidarity from representatives of the Church, and a number of priests have reached out to the community, which gives us hope,” a spokesperson for the Malta Gay Rights Movement told Times of Malta.
Last week, the Vatican decreed that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions since God “cannot bless sin”.
Pope Francis signed off a decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that reaffirmed old Church teachings that stopped priests blessing same-sex unions.
The news came as a shock to the LGBTIQ community, especially after Pope Francis called for greater inclusion.
Apart from the LGBTIQ community, a number of local priests have also distanced themselves from the Vatican’s statement.
In a letter to the editor, published on Monday, Fr Rene Camilleri distanced himself from the Vatican’s statement, saying that the document had taken the Church "years back".
“The language of the document is one that hurts. It is a childish way of playing with words, as if giving us a catechism class, ignoring that what is really at stake are not points of doctrine but whether God’s blessing can be reserved for some and denied to others on the basis of sexual orientation,” he said.
“It gives mixed messages about a Church projecting itself with doors wide open to everyone but halting some on the doorstep.”
He ended the letter saying that today people learn and continue their spiritually journey, "not thanks to the Church but in spite of it".
'Stay inside the Church'
Fr Josef Briffa is another Maltese priest who expressed his disappointment with the Vatican’s declaration.
In a lengthy social media post, Briffa said he made a life choice to lead a celibate life, which falls as part of a vocation. He made a distinction between the fact that celibacy is a life choice for him, but that sexual orientation on the other hand is not.
He said it is important to listen to the LGBTQ+ community within the church to understand them.
“Perhaps, one day, the LGBTQ+ community will slowly start to feel welcome. I’m afraid it’s not today.”
At the end of the post, he gave a word of advice to his LGBTQ+ Catholic friends.
“Remember that your best act of protest on days like this, is not to leave, but to stay inside the Church. Stay, and be a prophetic voice.”
In a Facebook post, MGRM praised Fr Camilleri’s letter, saying it "beautifully captures the LGBTIQ community’s thoughts”.
“If this declaration came out five years ago, we would have had a completely different reaction, but now we are seeing priests supporting us,” the spokesperson said.
MGRM pointed out that no support came from the Archbishop or the Curia itself.
“Blessing the life of a couple, regardless of their gender or sexuality, is not the same as carrying out a marriage,” he said.
“Looking at the reactions of these priests, we are seeing that locally, the situation is very different to what the Vatican has directed priests to do.”
He said that MGRM and the LGBTIQ community are quietly hopeful.
“Even the fact that we see priests writing and speaking about the matter, is encouraging, showing us that the church is more democratic and more open to discussion.”
'Church should start this dialogue'
Drachma LGBT coordinator Christopher Vella said the reaction against the Vatican's position is a positive one, and shows that the "grassoots" of the Catholic faith have a deeper understanding of the reality of same-sex relationships.
“For me it’s a reaffirmation that same-sex relationships have a place in the Church context,” he said.
“I believe that the Church too has to start this dialogue even more on these issues.”
He said the fact the Vatican took the decision to reuse old catechism teachings, without taking into consideration how society’s socio-cultural and religious context has changed.
“I believe the Vatican Church is overwhelmed by the response of its own members and that this is an important message that the Church should take note of."