The Malta Independent 3 March 2024, Sunday
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Mgr Grech labelled ‘pro-gay’, backer of relaxed communion rules by Catholic websites

Rebekah Cilia Sunday, 6 October 2019, 09:30 Last update: about 5 years ago

Bishop Mario Grech, the recently appointed general pro-secretary of the Synod of Bishops, has been labelled ‘pro-gay’ and a ‘backer of relaxed communion rules’ by a number of international Catholic newspapers and websites.

Grech recently gave up his stewardship of the Gozo diocese to take up a new position at the Holy See.

The National Catholic Register, a conservative US newspaper, said that the bishop was the principal author of Malta’s guidelines endorsing reception of communion by divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. They also noted that Grech has been accused of strong-arm tactics against critics.

The same news outlet reports that Grech is a ‘controversial figure’ in Malta, “gaining a reputation as an enforcer both of Pope Francis’ magisterium and his wishes.”

Catholic website Church Militant says that the Maltese bishop has a “history of pro-gay messaging.” In a speech to the 2014 Synod on the Family, Grech had claimed that the catechism’s language on homosexuality was hurtful to homosexuals, the website reported. This was also reported by the National Catholic Register, as well as Catholic blog Whispers in the Loggia.

They also added that during a televised interview in March 2018, Grech said he welcomed gay unions ‘with satisfaction’, arguing that homosexual partners “have the right not to be judged.”

The National Catholic Register noted that before this pontificate, he was reputed to be unyielding in matters of doctrine, warning ahead of a referendum on divorce in 2011, that those who do not follow religious teachings should not receive communion. He has also continued to take a strong stand against abortion, they add.

The report continues to say, however, that when Pope Francis was elected and “a new, left-leaning Maltese government came to power,” Grech’s approach changed ‘dramatically’. The website was informed by a source that “overnight, Grech performed the most spectacular volte-face.”

It continued to report that it was in 2017, however, when his preferences began to show more clearly. Sources said that he was determined that Malta be the first to issue a set of guidelines for implementing the controversial papal document Amoris Laetitia.

The guidelines stated: “If ... a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages ... to acknowledge and believe that he or she is at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.”

This chapter has become known for its ambiguity on whether or not to allow remarried divorcees living in an objective state of adultery to receive communion, the National Catholic Register reports.

Grech is understood to have written most, if not all, of the document and its guidelines, with the dean of the theology faculty at the University of Malta, Father Emmanuel Agius, acting as an adviser. Archbishop of Malta Charles Scicluna added his signature as the other half of the country’s two-member bishops’ conference, the report continued.

Responding to widespread criticism that the pastoral guidelines contradicted previous papal teaching, Grech and Scicluna insisted they followed the magisterium of the Catholic Church.

At the time of the guidelines’ release, Grech was accused of threatening to suspend a priest who refused to allow divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive communion — an accusation he denied, both websites reported.

The Church Militant also reported that an anonymous Maltese source had confirmed that Grech had threatened to punish a priest who voiced concern about the guidelines regarding communion for the civilly remarried.

Both websites also reported from local newspapers which said that there had been complaints that Grech is a ‘bully’ and ‘aggressive’ towards clergy in his diocese.

The National Catholic Registry also noted that he threatened legal action against a UK blogger who had commented on reports of alleged abuse cover-up.

The blog, Whispers in the Loggia, also said that more recently, Grech took on the tone of anti-immigration rhetoric in Europe, declaring last year that those who ‘harbour resentment’ toward migrants are ‘not Christian’ and created misperceptions of the Catholic Church as “tarnished by ‘the stench of racial prejudice.’”

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