It is interesting for the Archbishop to remark that the current state prospective law on discrimination goes beyond what an EU directive states on discrimination and imply that this could be an effort by the current government to impose a secularist agenda on Catholic schools (and hospitals – had they still existed).
Any perceived discrimination by a Church school against people whose value system went against the very values the Catholic school programme proposed could mean that that particular school could be held accountable at law. Catholic schools should remain just that – and please take your hands off them! Schools that provide an education inculcating Catholic values in their students should keep this as their priority, and any interference by the state in that respect is most uncalled for and unappreciated.
Can you imagine a law where Super One News or TV was found to be discriminating against people because they refused to employ a Nationalist Party supporter, or vice versa, because they wished a person to transmit the same political values on their station as the political party which they promote? Would that not also be discrimination? Why is it only the Church that cannot do this?
It is the great hypocrisy of secularism to criticise religion for forcing its beliefs on others when, in fact, many laws of the secular state and its secular religion can do just that against Christians in society and their Church. New laws are constantly being proposed that override Christian values and their respect for life in favour of pagan secular values, including the disposability of the most vulnerable lives in society. Accepting a personal relationship with God would mean making a commitment, or changing one’s behaviour, so some people would rather focus on the Church’s failures so that they have an excuse to dismiss the idea that they should belong. They conveniently forget that God never sanctioned this abuse and it is both self-serving and self-defeating to reject God because of the failures of some of God’s people.
When detractors criticise the Church, they can only do so on the basis of standards of behaviour that the Church itself gave the world. We know that those things are wrong only because of the influence of the Church. Before the Church came along, all these terrible sins – such as religious oppression, abuse of power, greed and sexual exploitation – were business as usual in the Greco-Roman world. Now again, atheism assumes a place of legitimacy, demanding the rights of a religion, at the same time that the historic religions are dismissed as unworthy of our modern age. It is the collaboration of the non-religious minority and the non-practicing Christians that now drives the factors that influence our culture, while the majority of practicing Christians have let the minority define what is culturally acceptable.
What can we all do to change this trend? First, we should reject isolationism and individualism and not be afraid to socialise with people outside our own group and comfort zone and involve ourselves in our parish or any lay religious group. God’s will is for us to be inclusive. Therefore, we should resist simplistic and naive forms of patriotism that closely associate Christianity singularly with our present culture and make it difficult for hardworking, law-abiding refugees to share in the benefits of citizenship.
Secondly, we should respect the value of every human life, including life in the mother’s womb or even in a glass test-tube. Every person is created in the image of God and that image is present from the moment of conception until natural death. Christians believe that those who are weaker should be protected. Anything that makes the human body a commodity is a form of slavery and a human sacrifice to the gods of commercialism, and Christians should resist this. Being pro-life does not only involve pushing an anti-abortion agenda but also means opposing the exploitation of women and children, brutal blood sports, euthanasia, assisted suicide, capital punishment and closed borders. We should reaffirm further the option of adoption, protest where necessary and elect those politicians who promote this ethic so that there will be someone to criticise our society when it falls short of respect for rights and freedom. To that end, Christians should involve themselves in politics and work for the greater good.
We should reject the culture of human humiliation – such as the pornography industry – as a form of entertainment and hold out for a life based on virtue. Although we should be tolerant of people’s problems and create different forms of support in society, marriage should be promoted singularly as being possible between a man and a woman, both real man and woman. The marriage between a man and a woman should be considered as the regular ideal in which to nurture children. People should consider everything they have as a gift from God and share it through almsgiving with those less fortunate without judging the life situation of any other person, giving everybody the benefit of the doubt where any may exist.
We should reject the creation of a secular religion of the state. Christianity has given the world freedom of religion and human rights and governments cannot provide this without religious faith. In fact, the Church has outlived every empire that has tried to suppress it. We should support the right of every religious organisation to define themselves and their mission and elect their leaders and be free from having to support things they consider morally wrong. We should make the care of creation and the environment an essential priority and vote out of office any politicians who use their position to serve themselves and the interests of their peers at the expense of the greater good. We should reject a defeatist attitude and speak up to defend justice and the Church in society. We should respect our neighbours and keep in mind that where differences exist, the real enemy is bad philosophy not bad people. This is the great paradox that we all face. In defending what we believe in, we should avoid hateful words or harsh speech and reaffirm that the religion of every faithful person is worthy of respect, as long as that religion promotes love of neighbour.
Christians have changed the world before, under the Greeks and Romans, by living their faith. Christianity can change the world again but only if Christians continue to live their faith. The Church has changed the world and can do it again. Only remember that we are the Church. In Malta, there is much that needs to be done and we should be bold enough to do it. In the New Year here it is illegal to smoke in a car carrying children or to drive a horse-sulky during the rush hour, but it is now fine and legal to vilify God and religion. Politicians responsible for the latter law should be ashamed of themselves as they take us back in time to pagan eras.
Incidentally, Dr Bruno Mozzanega and Dr Salvatore Gizzo will be visiting Malta in the second week of January at the invitation of the Life Network Foundation. Both are gynaecologists with extensive research and publications including on the effects of the morning-after pill. Just because MAPs have been licensed across the board by the government and the Medicines Authority and made available without a prescription, it does not make them right because they can still work as an abortifacient by destroying human life if used haphazardly and without care.