The Malta Independent 23 June 2018, Saturday

Updated: Archbishop ‘willing to find solution’ by which Fr Mark Montebello can continue writing

Monday, 21 May 2018, 18:47 Last update: about 2 months ago

Archbishop Charles Scicluna has stepped in to find a solution that would allow Fr Mark Montebello to resume writing opinion pieces with full respect towards his commitment as a priest, the Curia said this evening.

On Sunday, GWU paper it-Torca said it was not publishing Fr Montebello’s regular column because he had been threatened with defrocking. The newspaper also reported that the warning was made after Fr Montebello criticized the Church’s position against the proposed changes to IVF treatment.

Many were quick to turn their guns against the Archbishop, accusing him of censoring the outspoken priest, but the Curia said on Sunday that Scicluna was unaware of the development and had “certainly not” censored Montebello.

In comments to this newspaper on Monday, Fr Montebello said it would have been “illegal” for the Curia to censure him because that is not how the relevant structures work.

He said only his superior, Dominican Provincial, can issue such a caution.

He stressed that, officially, there was no communication between the Curia and Dominican Provincial Fr Frans Micallef. Montebello said he had no idea whether there was any form of unofficial conversation or communication between the two entities before he had received his warning about writing.

But in a statement on Monday afternoon the Curia reiterated that “the Archbishop had neither been informed nor consulted about any decision concerning Fr Montebello.”

The Curia said the archbishop has approached the Provincial of the Dominican Order to inform him that “he is more than willing to facilitate a resolution where Fr Mark Montebello may continue with his writing in full respect for his commitment as a religious priest and in full loyalty to Church teaching.”

“Whilst respecting the autonomy of the Religious Order, the Archbishop has taken this initiative fully aware of the fact that a religious priest is answerable to his superior, who is the Provincial of the Order. Every priest is bound to respect his priestly commitment and to faithfully represent and follow Church teachings. Within these parameters, every priest, whether religious or diocesan, has the freedom to engage in mature and healthy debate on current issues.”

In a column penned for the Times of Malta late last April, Montebello had let known his views that the Church was “strategically depositing itself in its opposition to the proposed amendments”.

“Each and every time, repeatedly, the campaign strategy of the Church ended up giving the impression that it stood against minority rights. This time around, we are already witnessing the soaring of hysterics, the simplistic arguments, the scare tactics, the crusading, the apocalyptic scenarios and the banal catchphrases,” he had written.

Montebello, who is known for his outspoken views, had also told Labour’s TV station ONE that the Church was deploying itself against the interest of the minority when it came to its opposition to the IVF law changes.

In 2015, this newsroom revealed that Fr Montebello had blessed the wedding rings of a gay couple, going against Church rules.

 

He was later summoned by Archbishop Scicluna and he Curia had issued a statement encouraging him to carry out his pastoral duties with homosexual people but to abide by the Church’s rules and discipline.

 

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