Sometimes it seems that, when things are too quiet around here, the Gozitan bishop Mario Grech decides to stir things up a little.
Last weekend he decided to take a swipe at the family. Not just any family of course - the one consisting of one man married to one woman, with children is perfectly ok. In fact it's the only one that is a family at all according to Grech. No other relationship is a family. If the couple are unmarried, they and their children do not form a family. They're just a group of people who live in the same house - a household. Same with all single parents, all widows and widowers, all same-sex couples (with or without children), all couples who were previously married. In fact, since a critical feature of all families is "procreation" between the man and woman, and since Mary supposedly remained a virgin all her life, I suppose the "Holy Family" must now be renamed to the Holy Household, because they do not meet the bishop's qualifications for a family.
Keep in mind that this is a pastoral letter, which - if my memory serves me correctly - is read out during mass at all churches that fall under his clutches. Imagine a child hearing this declaration from the bishop that he/she and his/her parents are not a real family because mummy and daddy are not married, or a single mother who performs almost superhuman feats to feed and clothe and care for her children getting this verbal slap on the face as she is told that hers is not a family. They're just people who happen to share the same address.
However this is not merely quibbling about the definition of the word "family". Grech also insists that the state should not give equal legal/civil rights to any type of "household" that does not match his personal definition. He describes as blind those political, economical and media institutions that give equal recognition to these other "households".
Is it possible that the bishop does not have someone to go over these letters before he sends them out from his reliquary? Oh wait he does - the letter was jointly written with the chancellor, one Salv Debrincat. Nicely done chancellor.
This attempt to redefine the family to this supposedly ideal mold is an attack on every other family - and these are not a few. It is hurtful, it is wrong, and I'm sure the bishop and chancellor know this perfectly well.
In fact many may have noticed that this was not the only attack on the family carried in the same Sunday paper. On the same paper we've got other attacks from two other priests, Paul Chetcuti and Joe Borg. All are out with guns blazing, attacking the idea that a family can consist of anything other than one man and one woman with children. Coincidence? I think not. I think they are either setting the stage to undermine the cohabitation law that the government promised to table soon, or are trying to turn society against same-sex couples in order to reduce the chances of gay marriage or civil unions being introduced to Malta. In either case, this is a case of attacking and hurting and harming people - and to what avail? Will married heterosexual couples with children be happier knowing that elsewhere, a childless couple will be denied state recognition as a family? Will their marriage be stronger in the knowledge that two women or two men will never be granted the same legal and civil rights as they are? No. So why these diatribes? Could it be that the only thing they are protecting is the church's collective ego? Let these people suffer as long as the church doesn't have to admit to a mistake until it's unavoidable. Maybe after 350 years, like Galileo.
Our constitution says that the church has the duty to teach what is right and what is wrong. This pastoral letter shows that the church is either incapable or unwilling to perform this duty. Somewhere along the way, the church has lost track of what is right and what is wrong - if they ever knew - and the time has come to get rid of this article from our constitution and establish a proper wall of separation between church and state.