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Here we go again - Fr David Muscat

A new policy issued by the Curia risks turning parish priests into village cowards

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

On May 5 the Archbishop’s Curia issued a circular letter reminding parish priests of a pre-existing policy prohibiting letting off fireworks from any church property.

This sudden harking back to an obsolete policy that many a parish priest has ignored merits consideration. Not for its logic – for it has none – but because it probably indicates a volte-face for Archbishop Charles Scicluna.

Recently, civil law concerning this matter was updated by Legal Notice 205 of 2014, which simplified procedures for the issuing of permits and stipulated what can be let off or not in inhabited areas.

Regulation 14 section B sub-paragraphs a, b, c and d state that small paper bombs (musketterija), Bengala candles, coloured smoke canisters and stoppini, including Chinese Cakes, can be let off from a distance ranging from seven to two metres from inside the facade.

These aren’t the sort of fireworks – usually petards – which readers complain about each summer for scaring their pets. These fireworks are so harmless that they are being let off during weddings, hotel galas, the Isle of MTV concert and parties all over the islands.

Considering that Maltese parish churches are huge in length and width, it is obvious that parish priests are in no way infringing upon the law if they commission fireworks, including those items mentioned above.

Is there a concern about the potential damage to scheduled property? Hardly, because the prohibition extends to all church buildings, including the hideous parish halls built during the 1960s.

Or is there a parish where the law is being broken and its parish priest, suffering from a leadership crisis, needs the help of his superiors to discipline a maverick parishioner? But if this is the case, an ad hoc solution would suffice.

By submitting to this policy, the parish priest will basically be labelled the village coward or, in Maltese, ġaħan.

In the coming festa season we will attend processions organised by that priest where everybody in the village square is letting off stoppini from the rooftops of band clubs and other places while the church and the parish home are eerily silent.

Will parish priests put on a brave face and quote Pope Francis’s latest exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad), to persuade the faithful that glum faces bear witness to the resurrection?

Idolatry is nicely wrapped in lofty words posing as family planning, equality, reproductive rights and so on

Let it be thus very clear that the ultimate reason behind this policy is theological and it is spiritual snobbery. The authors fail to understand that the Christian religion is essentially made of joy, celebrating God made flesh and the holiness of communal life in the flesh.

The spiritual elites hold that religious feasts are truly pious only if they cultivate interiority, and therefore “the loud”, “the pyrotechnic enthusiasts”, the “festa fanatics, the “band marches” and so forth must be banned.

Despite all the talk about being “close to the flock” and being “a bishop for the people”, they deem no policy too harsh to sunder themselves from this noisy crowd.

Last year, huge fireworks displays were let off from Castille’s rooftop to celebrate with another boisterous crowd in the Gay Pride procession, which is held during the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, now renamed Pride Month.

Semi-naked, six-packed male torsos and other, less dazzling, corpulent bodies wearing lavish headdresses studded with semi-precious stones will flow through Kingsway, where a few decades ago the real body – that of Jesus’s real presence – was paraded in a gem-studded monstrance during Corpus Christi processions.

If any our political leadership doesn’t turn up to this event, the mainstream media will inquisitorially harass them.

The revellers are unaware of how the Evil One, whose core is rotted by jealousy, has steered them into this subliminal mimicry of the sacred. They have a chance to enter the Kingdom of Heaven before the clerics, for God is full of mercy.

Since the Wicked One is not just a murderer but also a liar (John 8: 44), idolatry is nicely wrapped in lofty words posing as family planning, equality, reproductive rights and so on.

We want to persevere in debauchery and simultaneously increase prosperity. This is reminiscent of the ancient Carthaginians sacrificing infants to Moloch so that he might grant them his favours.

Isn’t pride the ultimate vice, dragging man into every kind of dissoluteness? A superbia initium sumpsit omnis perditio (from pride starts all kinds of perdition)?

It is depressing that high-ranking clerics in the Curia categorise the Maltese festa pyrotechnics enthusiasts to be godless heathens, particularly while some of us clerics are so fond of the tradition baroque pomposity of internal liturgical feasts.

Perhaps Federico Fellini was dead right in depicting ecclesiastical snobbery in his film Roma (1972), screening an extravagant clerical fashion parade – analogous to the recent New York Metropolitan Museum fashion gala featuring Rihanna wearing a bishop’s mitre and Madonna wearing a crown studded with crosses.

This is why in my heart I sense that it is only a matter of time before this conflict erupts during the bishopric of Charles Scicluna. Will this renewed clash be His Grace’s Achilles heel?

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