There is very little which I personally find shocking. But I am shocked beyond words. I have just had the dubious pleasure of watching the latest vlog published by True Light Catholic Media titled ‘Junk food sesswali’ (Junk food sexuality) wherein Dominican priest Fr Ivan Attard, outlines the extraordinary dangers of using contraceptives and their ill-effects on our sexuality and wholesome way of life. Unbelievable!
As expected, the message conveyed by Fr Attard caused a furore, which prompted even the Minister for European Affairs and Equality to comment on her Facebook page that ‘Women and girls are not rabbits’. But going beyond the laughable comparison of sexuality to a penchant for pizza, what was it about Fr Attard’s message that was so irksome and disturbing?
Once upon a time, not so long ago, the fear of hell and damnation as expounded every day from so many Catholic pulpits, kept whole generations of Maltese women in check, spending most of their fertile life pregnant with yet another and another and another mouth to feed. With most families living a hand to mouth existence, with many barely able to feed their children, let alone educate them properly, illiteracy and ignorance was rife. What Fr Attard fails to mention in his heartfelt rant, is that a dirt poor, ignorant, gullible flock suited the Catholic Church to a tee. We all know the horror stories, they have become part of the Church’s lore; the sale of indulgences to expropriate land, manipulating the faithful into parting with their hard-earned money and gold in exchange of eternal salvation, excommunication if one so much as diverged, even insignificantly from its teachings.
And yet, in 2018, Fr Attard harps on about how unchecked sexuality, when not driven by the sole purpose of procreation and with the aid of contraceptives will lead to the exploitation and abuse of those who indulge. Well, the Church knows a thing or two about exploitation and abuse, doesn’t it, Fr Attard? If we must call a spade a spade, then there is no other organisation on this Earth, whose history is as tainted with despicable episodes of exploitation and abuse as the Catholic Church throughout the past two millennia. Let us forget for a moment about the vile circus that was the Inquisition, because that, as they say, is old hat. Let us focus for a moment on more recent happenings…
Let us cast our attention well beyond our shores, not because looking closer to home would make the local Church come up smelling of roses, but as our brand of omerta is well alive and kicking, any whiff of abuse perpetrated on our home turf is soon buried, never to be heard of again. Quoting the BBC, ‘A five-year Australian inquiry in 2017 found that “tens of thousands of children” were sexually abused in Australian institutions over decades, including churches, schools and sports clubs.’ How many of those tens of thousands were of Maltese descent? How many were sent by the local Church in pursuit of a new life, only to find that they were at the mercy of perverts masquerading as priests, all in the name of the Father? How about the secret graveyards of babies born to unwed mothers still languishing in Ireland to this day? The molestation and rape of innocent children by evil members of the same clergy you are part of, in far-flung locations, all over the globe? And yet, you dare speak of exploitation and abuse, Fr Attard?
But I digress. Back to the ‘junk food sex’ saga. In what dimension may I humbly ask, can a priest, who for all intents and purposes has taken the vow of celibacy, is such a knowledgeable expert on the joy of sex between a man and a woman? At a time when global experts in the field of sexuality extoll the benefits of a fulfilling, healthy sex life, and how this features high on the list of contributing factors which determine a human’s overall wellbeing, out comes Fr Attard warning us about the sins of the flesh. Going as far as likening sex as a pleasurable pursuit to indulging in pizza on a daily basis and the kind of havoc that would wreak on a person’s digestive system. If it wasn’t so utterly sad, this would be laughable. But it is not.
The message of this particular vlog is loud and clear and is symptomatic of all that is wrong with the Catholic Church today (and probably always). The ancient Greeks called it ‘hybris’, though we spell it ‘hubris’ nowadays. It describes the haughty overconfidence, the unapologetic disdain by those blighted by a sense of entitlement and superiority, without any regard for basic human empathy that often leads to a monumental downfall and retribution. Pride, even if dressed up in sacred robes, especially in those who time and again have shown such contempt for the little people and the challenges, spiritual or otherwise they face every day, still comes as inevitably as ever before a fall. Though, in the case of the Catholic Church, it is more of a slowly simmering decline than an all-out crash.
But it’s the patent arrogance of believing that one can turn the clock back to a time when the teachings of the Church were full of dire warnings of fire and brimstone, when an abysmal quality of life was the norm for Malta and its people… it is this blatant disregard for the consequences such sermonising would bring about, is what is truly shocking beyond belief!