Catholics once again played a central role in Malta’s Pride celebrations which took place last weekend, including the participation of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) for the first time, but also a protest by anti-gay Catholics.
Members of Drachma, the island nation’s Catholic LGBT group, and Drachma Parents, an associated group, marched behind the GNRC banner, representing not only their national group, but the commitment of some 35 partner organizations from around the world. The two Drachma groups are founding organizations of the GNRC. Malta Today reported about events that took place in Valetta, the nation’s main city:
“For the first time, the banner of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics formed part of the parade. Local organisation Drachma is a member of the GNRC, and in a statement it called on the Vatican to start a dialogue about changing the language used to describe LGBTIQ in Catholic catechism.
“‘We urge the Church to be more inclusive and embracing towards LGBTIQ youth, especially in the upcoming Youth Synod, where they should be visible and represented,’ Drachma said.
“It noted that gay priests and other LGBTIQ members of religious orders were forced to live ‘closeted lives in a shame and anxiety’.
“‘Church officials should be seeking to address these issues and GNRC (and Drachma) is offering a safe space where this may happen together in trust and a spirit of collaboration,’ it said.”
Drachma’s statement also called for LGBTIQ youth to be “visible and represented” at October’s upcoming Synod on Youth.
However, on the eve of Malta Pride’s parade, members of Pro Malta Christiana, a right-wing Catholic grou,p held a “rosary rally for reparation against Malta Pride and the LGBT agenda,” according to Gay Star News. That group adheres to the tenets of a deceased Catholic activist who once referred to homosexuality as “the number one enemy of the family.” Church officials distanced themselves from the protest, reported The Third Eye:
“Communications Officer at Curia, Christina Aquilina, emphasized that Pro Malta Christiana ‘must bear the responsibility for their actions,’ for spreading hate, rather than love. She continued, ‘The Church respects people of all sexual orientations and recognises the dignity of each and every one.’ The Maltese Church also officially confirmed that the group never had any ties with the Church in Malta, since ‘for the Church each person is precious.'”
GNRC’s participation in the event is a great sign of support for Malta, which has fairly swiftly and broadly expanded LGBT equality, especially given the nation’s conservative Catholic history. So, too, is the decision by church officials to criticize Catholics protesting the Pride celebrations. Maltese church leaders have been fairly inclusive of LGBT people. Earlier this year, ILGA-Europe ranked Malta as first among 49 European countries when it comes to LGBT rights. In recent years, Malta has banned conversion therapy, passed marriage equality, and been the “gold standard” on transgender rights.
Each step forward in Malta, where the Catholic faith remains socially important, is further proof that Catholics support LGBT equality because of their deep faith, not in spite of it. Pride 2018 was a moment, once again, for this this small island nation to be a beacon and a model for Catholics worldwide.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 19, 2018