Saturday, 21 May 2011

Humiliating and shameful

I have come about to write this article after much thought and prayer, and not without spiritual and psychological anguish, even at this very instant that I write. During the last few months leading to the referendum, as an official minister of the Catholic Church I have been involuntarily made part of things which, in conscience, I do not, can not and will not endorse. Various people have considered my forced uncharacteristic silence to be a sign of approval, and told me as such. This cannot be farther from the truth.

I do not write this letter out of piety or to be melodramatic. Nor do I write it to state on which side of the wall I stand. I do it due to a deep sense of shame. For during the last few months I have been humiliated over and over again by the injudicious behaviour of the local Catholic Church in general and of some Catholics in particular. Their faults are also mine.

By officially declaring that it would not take part in the campaign debates, the Catholic Church placed itself in a position of being able to inflict damage on its adversaries without the possibility of rebuttal. In a political and pragmatic sense this is worse than what happened in the ’60s. Alas, despite this stand, stealthily the Church wrought immense pressure on many people’s consciences. A few examples will suffice.

Children were frequently used for emotional impact. Religious celebrations, including weddings, were routinely exploited for political propagandistic purposes. The alleged Virgin Mary of Borg in-Nadur was made to campaign with anathemas and threats of her own (with flyers saying as much placed at church entrances). All sorts of printed material were sent to households through parish structures to influence the electorate. People were consistently told that divorce would open the door to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriages, and would moreover increase poverty. Some were scared into believing that the referendum is part of a sinister ploy to ultimately destroy the Church in Malta and Gozo. Pseudo-religious emails were sent with words and pictures verging on hate-messages. Many simple and vulnerable Catholics was repeatedly told (in door-to-door visits, in private conversations or in confession) that voting ‘yes’ or not voting at all would be a grave offence to God. Pressure groups were set up presenting those in favour of the ‘yes’ vote as antichrists or false Christians. People were denied Holy Communion or absolution of sins for declaring their ‘yes’ vote. Unusual prayer meetings and live-ins by religious groups were organised to insist on the ‘no’ vote. The head of the pro-divorce main lobby group was banned from practicing at the ecclesiastical tribunals. Members of religious lay groups were told by their spiritual directors that they would have to leave if they voted ‘yes’ or not at all. Posters similar to those of the 1960s were put up at church doors. Partisan politicians were left to make religious arguments without impunity.

I am deeply humiliated and ashamed by all of this. This is not the Catholic Church I believe in and love.

My fellow citizens, I am truly mortified by such disrespect and insolence shown to your intelligence and rights as human beings. If you consider me part of this, as I truly am, then I genuinely think and feel that it is my moral duty to implore your forgiveness. For this I will be most grateful.

(Published in The Times of Malta, Saturday, May 21, 2011, page 13)


  1. Mark you are an inspiration to us all!
    You shouldn't ask for forgiveness because you chose to do the right thing contrary to others as you described very well.
    In my life I chose not believe in any God and not to follow any religion but you are one of the few people from the Catholic Church that I choose to respect, not only because I agree with your line of thought but also because you always say things as they really are.
    Never stop being yourself, you are not alone!
    Thanks for everything you do

  2. Fr Mark ... your article reflects a lot of my feelings right now as well. I do not belong to the Clergy, although I am part of some church committees. However I still cannot reconcile myself with the expectation of the church to impose on all citizens (whether Catholic or non-Catholic) its beliefs, with the excuse that the Church has got the one and only path to salvation! I am really lost between doing what I feel is right and what the Church says!

  3. Father Mark you idolize the 21st saviour

  4. Mark
    this post is beautiful and well-written. I wish you wrote for where you would find a similar and equally hurt and frustrated readership.
    My wonder has always been: why do you stay there with this huge corporation, albeit religious, who constantly grinds you down and shuts you up at every opportunity? Why?

  5. or rather 'which' grinds you down...that could have been a Freudian slip :)

  6. Fr. Mark, you deserve a STANDING OVATION!This has been a very courageous move and I am sure you will be made to pay the consequences... however please know that many are behind you. Some said that young people are now apathetic and have no interest in what is going on around them. Of course they are disgusted with the empasse in politics, in the Church & in Malta on the whole. You are an ispiration. This is what young people should see: courage to speak your mind and stand up for your convictions NO MATTER ON WHICH SIDE OF THE FENCE YOU ARE. You are in our prayers. THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU.

  7. You are a man of great courage.
    However, I have one question, how do you still form part of such an organisation?

  8. Prosit Mark, ftit hawn qassissin bhalek. Xorta nemmen li temmen f'xi hadd (alla) imaginarju. Imma ghallinqas tirrispetta dak li jahseb haddiehor.

  9. Dear Fr. Mark

    Let's not let the branches sizzle a different tune than that of the tree. The Church has indeed made mistakes, sometimes even through individuals, and sometimes through various non associated so called catholics. The Church also does a lot of respectable and loving work... and you know that.

    You are a member of the Church... and in saying that, I'd suggest you act like one. If you have problems with the institution discuss it in house and let not your troubles stir your heart away from what is ultimately God's institution. By stating your thoughts above.... I believe you know you are actively speaking out publicly, against to whom you should be accountable to!

    I say this with a lot of respect for you priests.

  10. jon lukas woodenman says ... good words showing it as it is ... i regret not knowing of this person before and think the curia should be proud of priests of such calibre and accumen as father Mark and Mgr. Charles Vella.
    In link below please find my sad words on broken marriages ... player/player.php?play_file= 49431_529544

    May 21, 2011 3:53 AM

  11. Fr. Mark, thank you for what you have said. This really is an exact reflection of my thoughts and feelings over this ugly circus. True to my faith as a Catholic, and true to my conscience and convictions, I will be voting yes next Saturday. we cannot sit idle and be indifferent to the plight of others, even if our needs are not the same. This is not the Church I pray for and dream of. I feel ashamed to be associated with those members of the Church who are resorting to unchristian tactics to pursue their own agendas. Thank you Fr. Mark. You give a lot of hope to a lot of people.

  12. Fr. Mark, I understand your feelings and I believe you are right on all acounts except for one; The asking for forgiveness. All the baptised (including me) are members of the Catholic church as you said, the behaviour of some Catholics recently has been deplorable. I strongly disagree for feeling guilty and apologetic for the behaviour of such individuals. They do not represent all Catholics I am sure. With their mistakes they are pushing away people from the Catholic church not bringing them closer; they are making people even feel ashamed of the Church they belong to but this is not an individual's sin. Like John Paul II there should be another pope asking forgiveness for the Church's trespasses of the past and this should be listed as one for the next Pope's apology. I feel that the Catholic church is forgetting it has to deal with the realm of the spiritual and not meddle in Civil issues. Your message is beyond the scope of choosing a side between the yes and no, but I will be voting yes not only because I believe that a legal civil divorce should be available to those stigmatized by long term problems due to their separation, but also because I believe there should be a clear division between the secular and religious and I strongly believe the Church will benefit from this division as it will be able to concentrate more on the things that really matter to the soul and not on politics.

  13. The Gospels present Christ as "homeless, propertyless, peripatetic, socially marginal, disdainful of kinfolk, without a trade or occupation, a friend of outcasts and pariahs, averse to material possessions, without fear for his own safety, a thorn in the side of the establishment and a scourge of the rich and powerful, the Movement against divorce are protraying him as a symbol of fear and coercion .... what a shame!

  14. Thank you for your is inspirational and consoling...if anything, this debate has made me a stronger Christian because I simply cannot believe that God is as judgmental as some who claim to represent him...however, I'm not sure whether I want to consider myself Catholic anymore if it means being judgmental and condemning towards others for some misfortune that befell them...what a shame and pity!

  15. Mark ............. i swear .... I take my hat off to you. There was a time I thought that you spoke just for the sake of always wanting a reaction to your 'ideas' ...... however after reading this article I have just (and just now) realised that if there is one true Christian in this Church ....... that Christian is certainly you. I really and truly respect and admire you. This is a stand I would have certainly been never able to take. And I too ask for forigveness ...... for not understanding you all these years. Peace !!!

  16. Din hija l-Knisja li dejjem xtaqt nara jien li titkellem u tgħid il-verita' u ma tibżax li titlef in-nies... Prosti lil dawk l-Insara veru li jfittxu li jħarsu l-verita' u jibżgħu għas-soċjeta' Maltija.

  17. Thanks for this article! It is really a breath of fresh air to hear your views!

    You're an inspiration!

  18. once again Mark ................ i take my hat off to you !!! I have finally understood that you are a True Catholic !!! Very Chris-like in many ways !!!

  19. Dear Mark,

    Christ ended up on the Cross because he loved humanity. The definition of love is that at times you have to suffer for the benefit of someone else. That is a true religion - based on sacrifice and giving yourself to others.

    The strange thing is that people hanged Jesus up on the Cross after he fed a crowd of more than 5,000 men (+women + children + sheep and other animals that accompanied the crowd). They nailed him after he stopped the strong winds, he filled the fishermens' nest with fish, cured the sick, woke up people from death.... People ran after him all the time. The disciples had to intervene to stop people from going to Him when He felt tired. Yet Jesus wanted to be near the people even though He was tired.

    This is Jesus that I know. The government of Jesus' days became jealous as Jesus was becoming very famous. He still provides food for us. Not only the food we eat, but mental peace to help you take the right decisions at the right time.

    It is very difficult to find Him but if you cannot find Him ask Him to show you that He really exists.

    I cannot believe how much He helps throughout my life. It is true that if you give a few money as charity to Church, God provides more than 100 times. It is true that at times we feel lost becuase He wants us to go through narrow pathways. He will be using us to help others to reach Him.

    I really wish that you spend 20 minutes per day to attend mass regularly and I assure you that if you ask Him to show you that He really exists He will show you very very very clearly. You need a few days to get to know Him, but as soon as you do, you will understand what I am saying.

    I will pray to you all!

    God be with you!

    Mind you I am a very big sinner too! But today I know that if I do not attend mass every day I feel that something in my life is missing. I prefer to sleep 30 minutes later at night, but have my mind at rest that I have received Holy Communion and that Jesus is with me. He helps me solve my daily difficulties.


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