The Malta Independent 7 December 2022, Wednesday
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Archbishop issues formal warning to priest who said being gay is worse than being possessed by devil

Thursday, 6 January 2022, 10:25 Last update: about 12 months ago

Archbishop Charles Scicluna has issued a formal warning to controversial priest David Muscat, referred to in Canon Law as a penal precept, instructing the priest to cease making inflammatory and hurtful comments in public forums or face prohibition from exercising his ministry in public. 

Muscat raised ire yesterday after he said that if the person who is a suspect in the murder of a Polish woman last Sunday turns out to be gay or bisexual, this would be worse than him being possessed by the devil. The assertion was based on a picture showing the suspect, Abner Aquilina, wearing a shirt with a rainbow on it.

The Archbishop instructed Fr David Muscat to delete the Facebook post, in which the priest claimed that being gay was worse than being possessed, and not to use insulting or hurtful language against any group or individual. The Archbishop also reminded Fr David Muscat that in accordance with Catholic teaching members of the clergy are required to display respect, compassion and sensitivity to people from all walks of life

Earlier in the day Archbishop Charles Scicluna expressed his shock at the comments that had been made by controversial priest David Muscat.

During his homily in a mass transmitted daily on national television, the archbishop insisted that these are not words of love, but was “a stone thrown from a heart which needs to learn how to love God.”

Scicluna asked for forgiveness from the gay community and from others, such as their parents, who felt hurt by the comments, and said that he will be taking action so that such comments are not made again.

“Whoever says that they love God, but then hate their brother, is lying,” he said.

“God loves you, whoever you are, however you are,” he added.

In a statement on Facebook, Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) accepted the apology, noting that they are “satisfied that the sentiment of the community is shared by the Archbishop.”

“We will have to remark however that Fr Muscat has over the past several years hurt most minorities, including migrants, through regular Facebook posts, YouTube videos and any opportunity he has to spread hate speech. It is important now that concrete action is taken. This applies not just to the church, but also to the police,” they said.

“We repeat our wish to meet the Archbishop in order to have the opportunity to discuss ways in which the Catholic Church in Malta can remain faithful to its beliefs without alienating or worse, hurting, the LGBTIQ community in Malta,” MGRM added.

Drachma LGBTI meanwhile noted the controversy recently raised by comments made by “a so-called Catholic ‘priest’.”

“We are appalled by the demeaning comments full of hate that equate being gay or bisexual to ‘a disorder over and above schizophrenia and the effect of evil,” even insisting that it was worse than demonic possession’. Such comments go against Christian charity and the fundamental true spirit of the Gospel and are morally wrong and unacceptable,” the group said.

Drachma welcomed the strong stand taken by Archbishop Scicluna who reminded the faithful that such comments ‘were not words of love but stones thrown by a heart that has to learn to love more, as Jesus did’.

“By speaking out publicly against these comments, the archbishop and other courageous priests have taken up the moral responsibility to speak up for social justice and to stand out for the weak and vulnerable,” the group said.

Drachma expressed its hope that this dreadful episode can remind our pastors that the only genuine true pastoral way is to take care of all the sheep. Let the Archbishop, and other leaders go one step further and ensure that such comments cannot be tolerated, and all steps are taken to unmask and stop the wolves who dress up as sheep, or worse still as shepherds.

“We conclude by reminding each other that we are all mothers, fathers, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, colour, religious convictions or whatever other difference God has gifted us with,” it said.

Inclusion minister Julia Farrugia Portelli has filed a police report against Muscat over his comments, describing them as hate speech.

The Department for Inclusion and Access to Learning within the University of Malta's Faculty of Education has condemned "the deplorable homophobic remarks expressed by Fr David Muscat."

"These hostile comments incite hatred and clearly promote an attitude of prejudice and contempt towards the LGBTIQ+ community. The Department for Inclusion and Access to Learning denounces such hate speech which, clearly, is motivated by attitudes of hostility towards human diversity and calls for responsible action towards such deplorable behaviour by religious and civil leaders alike."

"It is their responsibility to see that every individual human lives a safe and peaceful life without any discrimination and oppression. The competent authorities should take whatever action is necessary so as to ensure respect towards diversity in a society that is committed to the inclusion and wellbeing of all of its individuals. The Department for Inclusion and Access to Learning at the University of Malta emphasises the important role of education in engaging with a more radically inclusive approach that should see schools becoming a centre for visibility and inclusion of diversity."

Muscat is no stranger to controversy.

In November 2019 he was spoken to by Archbishop Charles Scicluna over anti-migrant speech.

At the time he had described the arrival of foreigners coming to work in Malta as an “invasion” and had said that foreigners would soon outnumber Maltese.

He had earlier been filmed praising Imperium Ewropa leader Norman Lowell, who has been convicted of inciting racial hatred.

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