The small island nation of Malta continues to be an outsized force for the Catholic LGBTQ movement. Two recent stories illustrate how Malta is advancing the conversation on LGBTQ people in the church.
LGBTQ Advocates with Top Bishops
Representatives of LGBTQ organizations met with Malta’s Catholic leaders in January to share their experiences and to discuss the future of LGBTQ ministry.
Allied Rainbow Community, Drachma LGBTI, Drachma Parents Group, LGBTI+ Gozo, and the Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement (MGRM) had a “positive and flowing conversation” with Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Galea-Curmi, reported Drachma. The group continued:
“The representatives of these organizations were able to share aspects of their life as well as their work. They talked about the challenges they encounter but also the positive changes they have seen in these last few years. One of the things that they spoke about was Pride.”
The groups described “the invaluable work they conduct with Malta’s LGBTQ+ community, the support that is given, the awareness that is raised, and the rights that they have worked for.” The organizations’ leaders also addressed the need to help LGBTQ Catholics “feel more at home with the Church.”
One topic of great importance is the need for the church to learn from human psychology, sociology, biology, and other sciences. These areas of research can influence a theological approach to these topics. Renewing our theology “in light of evidence-based research” on the lived reality of LGBTQ persons is “necessary for the Church to deepen its reflection and pastoral attitudes,” the Drachma statement said.
The representatives of LGBTI+ Gozo and MGRM shared two surveys they conducted independently which the bishops “gladly appreciated.” Archbishop Sciculuna expressed that church leaders must think before they speak and “move away from the language of ideology.” He stressed the dignity of the human person and emphasized that the “only way to show the love of Christ” is to treat everyone with respect.
“The Bishops showed great sensitivity to the needs of the LGBTIQ+ Catholics and pledged to continue supporting a welcoming space for all. This two-hour meeting held at the Archbishop’s Curia in Floriana had a profound sense of synodality that was clearly felt and expressed by all those present. One activist was so moved that the meeting was described as a truly comforting and healing experience.”
Bondings 2.0 reported previously that Scicluna may be in line to take over the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he presently serves as an adjunct secretary. His previous record on LGBTQ issues is quite good.
Priest Pleads Not Guilty to Hate Speech Charges
A priest in Malta has pleaded not guilty after being charged with hate speech.
According to The Times of Malta, Muscat “faces charges of incitement to hatred or violence” over his homophobic comments made in January on social media. The priest contested the charges though he “did not contest ownership of the posts or responsibility for the remarks.”
In January, Fr. David Muscat posted homophobic comments in regards to a murder suspect, Abner Aquilina, who is accused of murdering a Polish student, Paulina Dembska. Aquilina claims demonic possession for his crime. Muscat targeted Aquilina with the following comment, reported by PinkNews:
“If [Aquillina] is gay or bisexual, then this must be added to his list of disorders which include schizophrenia and malice. He has a recipe of disorders all at once. Poor guy. Abner needs help, it’s even worse than being possessed. Being gay is worse.”
Archbishop Scicluna quickly rebuked Muscat. Bondings 2.0 previously reported that Scicluna’s instruction to the priest followed a televised homily in which the archbishop condemned Muscat’s anti-gay comments and sought forgiveness from LGBTQ people and their families. The archbishop said the comments were “a stone thrown from a heart which needs to learn how to love God.” He added, “God loves you, whoever you are, however you are.”
The Archdiocese of Malta also issued a statement ordering Muscat to “cease making inflammatory and hurtful comments in public forums or face prohibition from exercising his ministry in public.”
Muscat’s civil case continues in March.
—Elise Dubravec (she/her), New Ways Ministry, February 12, 2022