The Malta Independent 12 December 2018, Wednesday

A secular morality

Alfred Sant Thursday, 11 October 2018, 07:53 Last update: about 2 months ago

When Europe was united in one Christian space during the Middle Ages, the measure of what was morally acceptable or not in public and private life was (almost) the same all over. There existed one centre with the requisite moral and judicial weight which rightly or wrongly was accepted by one and all (or again almost). Europe was not so different from today’s Iran.

Which does not mean that abuses and revolts of all kind by the many did not happen, but standards for public and private behaviour were clearly a stable affair.

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The new ideas that emerged in the century of the Enlightenment and the upheavals generated by the French Revolution brought into application a rule that can be found in the New Testament after all: what is God’s, give to God – what is Caesar’s, to Caesar.

However this triggered the need for a secular morality in public affairs and the conduct of private lives. Over the last two centuries, these have changed a number of times. There is still no consensus about how far they should be taken. I doubt whether such a consensus is feasible.

Perhaps it is better like so. Human life cannot be bound withinthe confines of rules that should never change.

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Covered bonds

We do not employ them in Malta. In leading European Union countries they are very important components of the financial scene, labelled “covered bonds”.

Banks and financial institutions issue them as loans that are fully guaranteed by pools of high quality projects while over and above, if problems arise, the bond purchaser still has recourse to the bank or whichever credit insititution is issuing them.

Bonds of this sort are so solid that during the 2008 recession, they were among the financial instruments that retained the highest trust.

Up to now, issues have been launched on a national basis. Presently, as part of the efforts to create a capital markets union in Europe, an exercise is being undertaken to establish covered bonds on a European level.

On this matter, I’m acting as rapporteur for the S&D group in the European Parliament. As I see it, a main aim is to ensure that what is working well on a national basis does not end up being constrained by some strait jacket designed in “Europe”.             

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Gio. Nicolo Muscat

Not so long ago, I took part in the launch of “Church-State Relations in late eighteenth-century Malta”, a book by the historian Frans Ciappara. It deals with Giov Nicolo Muscat, a figure about which previously, I hardly knew anything. He served as “advocate general” to Grand Master de Rohan and laboured greatly to defend the autonomy of the Order of St John in the management of matters relating to the application of civil law in Malta.

Muscat turns out to be quite an interesting personality but many elements of his personal and professional biography are still missing. Frans Ciappara did a very valuable job for he discovered, put together and analysed with admirable acumen information about his activities.

I would strongly recommend this book to all readers with an interest in the country’s historical developments, not least those which impinged on how public policy came to be directed.

 

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