The Malta Independent 17 October 2019, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Dismissed parish priest - Let’s not blame the entire clergy

Saturday, 21 September 2019, 09:12 Last update: about 25 days ago

The recent suspension of a Valletta parish priest who is expected to be arraigned in connection with the theft of religious items and artworks has drawn widespread condemnation which, unfortunately, has spread over to the clergy in general.

Fr Deo Debono was made to step down from the role of parish priest of the St Augustine parish and has also been suspended from his priestly duties pending the investigation and arraignment. The allegations have also seen the external feast cancelled.

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The social media is currently awash with theories about the priest and his alleged wrongdoings.

Some have pointed out that the parish feast has been growing in terms of activities and decorations every year, and suggested that money possibly made from selling stolen items could have contributed to this.

We will not entertain such speculation and will instead wait until Monday to see what information emerges in the courts. We firmly believe in the principle that people are innocent until found guilty.

But we also hope that the priest is treated in the courts like any other citizen, meaning the case should be heard publicly, and not behind closed doors. People have a right to know the facts of the case, just like in all other cases.

Having said all this, it is understandable that cases like this one get more public attention than those involving ordinary citizens. We cannot blame people for feeling shocked by serious allegations of misconduct concerning a priest - a parish priest no less.

Alleged crimes committed by people holding roles that carry certain responsibilities - like police officers and politicians - will always carry that extra shock factor.

Similarly, priests have certain responsibilities towards society and their actions should be a model for others to follow. So it goes without saying that people will not take kindly to claims that a clergyman broke the seventh commandment.

But it is wrong for people to blame the Church as a whole over the alleged actions of a single individual.

It is wrong to say that all priests are paedophiles because some of them abused children. And it is also wrong to say that they are all rotten apples because one of them will be arraigned on theft charges.

There are so many priests, friars and sisters in Malta who give so much to society but do it in silence. They work with the elderly, the sick, orphans. They perform other tasks in community and try to lead their communities in the right direction.

Not everyone will agree with the Church and the stances it takes on some issues, especially in a society that is growing ever more secular. But the fact remains that the Church still performs an invaluable service to society, a service that many times goes unnoticed and unthanked.

Yes, people have a right to feel angry when a member of the clergy goes astray, but we cannot generalize and blame the entire Church, whose work in society far outweighs the transgressions of a few. 


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